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TikTok Beats Google as the Top Search Engine for Gen Z

If you ever searched which generation type you belong to on Google, I think it is fair to say you are obviously not a Gen Zer. While Google is the world’s top search engine and is undeniably followed by YouTube, right now, we know that TikTok is not only an entertainment platform but also a search engine for Gen Zers.

For those still a few steps away from understanding the appeal of TikTok and willing to learn how this social media platform actually works and, again, HOW Gen Z is literally becoming the “TikTok generation,” let’s begin with the content strategy and algorithm behind it.

Key Takeaways

  • Gen Z will be the ones who will reshape social media, and right now, they are loving TikTok.
  • Other popular platforms – such as Instagram and Google – release updates by trying to copy TikTok’s features to win back Gen Z.
  • The experience on your feed and the experience when you search go hand in hand for Gen Z.Brands need to be up-to-date to benefit from the current dynamics of social media, especially on TikTok, if they believe that Gen Z is their top audience. And, of course, they should avoid plastic smiles and catch the soul of the app.

This is the trillion-dollar question that needs to be answered to truly understand how TikTok beats out other social media platforms among Gen Z. 

Let’s summarise why TikTok is so popular with Gen Z:

  • Need for a community: It’s no secret that Gen Z struggles to find a sense of community. Their own generation has been growing up in an age where smartphones and social media have become ubiquitous. Still, the bond that Gen Zers are looking for has been elusive. TikTok is providing them with a platform to develop that bond.
  • Entertainment is important: Gen Z is willing to listen to music they like, dance with a virtual stranger or record a video of themselves just to make someone laugh. These examples confirm that Gen Z is a highly entertaining generation.
  • Simple and sincere: Gen Z does not want forced content. TikTok is about sharing, catching trends, being authentic, enjoying where you are and showing what you want to show. And Gen Z simply loves that. 

Gen Z will be the ones who will reshape the social media world we are used to—and we’ll let TikTok be the emblematic case study that will show us how.

TikTok’s Algorithm

TikTok is a social platform where video content is the queen and creators are the gold mine. But more importantly, among this non-stop content production and consumption, TikTok has a powerful algorithm that personalises your For You feed in a very successful way. And in today’s world, personalisation affects our perception, behaviour, and consumption more than ever. 

According to TikTok, we can list three factors to understand how it recommends videos on For You feed: User interaction, video information and device & account settings. 

  • User interaction includes accounts you follow, your comments, likes and shares, videos you add to your favourites, creators you’ve hidden or videos you mark as “Not Interested”, videos you watch to the end, content you create, your every interaction with ads as well as organic posts.
  • Video information focuses on the content you create and how you define it with captions and hashtags, which sounds, effects & filters you use. 
  • Device & Account settings are mostly one-time decisions and less effective than the ones above. It includes the app language, device type, country setting and content categories users choose in the first place.  

According to Chris Stokel-Walker, author of TikTok Boom, TikTok just does not sit back and wait for users to interact with the content they see to improve the experience. It also “pushes boundaries and seed in new videos” that it thinks may be entertaining, testing its own predictions and gauging the response.

We are not the only ones saying that TikTok’s algorithm is unlike other social media platforms. AI researcher Dinesh Raman told The New Yorker, “It’s data being transmitted at a scale I’ve never seen before. The system is doing billions of calculations per second.”

While the trends change really fast, at a place where all the creators are also consumers and all the consumers are potential creators, there is no stopping. 

Content on TikTok

On the one hand, people are creating their own personal brands on TikTok. On the other hand, brands are trying to be a part of this Gen Z world by playing along. At this point, TikTok’s way of content production is also shaping the dynamics of content marketing

TikTok runs short-form video content which is simple, authentic, and organic. Contrary to Instagram, users are not trying to look perfect with high-quality visuals or excessive production effort. 

It is not always about giving useful information; you may just want to catch a trend when creating content on TikTok. However, there are great accounts that focus on sharing tips and tricks on specific topics, which’s why Gen Z searches on TikTok. They know what they want and how they want it: short, funny and in video format. 

When a new Gen Z joins TikTok, that user is building an online experience based on what they see in their news feed and through their interactions with friends. Therefore, brands must learn how to effectively promote their products or services to Gen Zers on TikTok.

What Does This Mean for Google? 

Let’s start with a few facts about the current situation. 

According to Cloudflare’s Top Domains Ranking 2021 list, TikTok was the most visited site in 2021, jumping to the top from the 7th place in 2020 when Google was in first place.  

Prabhakar Raghavan, a senior vice president in charge of Google Search, said that their studies (based in the USA) show that young people, 40% to be precise, are using TikTok or Instagram when they are looking for somewhere for lunch. It is not Google maps or Google Search, as most of us expected.

A social media strategist also conducted a small research and shared the results on Twitter. According to this mini-survey, here are the results:

  • TikTok shows Gen Z relevant content faster than Google. 
  • Gen Z is not concerned about misinformation on TikTok. They know it exists and will avoid content on the platform that can easily be false.
  • Gen Z doesn’t want to read to find information. They will if they have to. But if they can get a quick video with the answer, that’s what they prefer.

This situation not only affects Google but also forces the world’s most popular search engine to make changes and improvements to meet Gen Z’s needs and interests. 

So, what has Google been working on? 

  • Google is adapting its search and maps to feature more images and video in search results, including from TikTok.
  • Announced at the Search On’22 event, Google will add multi-search to 70 new languages in the near future. This feature allows users to search using both images and text combined.
  • The Shoppable search experience is becoming more and more at the centre of new features. In the US, when you search for the word “shop”, and if it is followed by the item, Google will show you visuals of products, tools, and inventory. 
  • Google has added a new explore feature where users can view inspirational content beyond their original query.
  • Google will show if the search results are personalised according to your behaviour, also providing an option to turn off the settings. 

So, what Google is prioritising: Search that will provide more visuals, an experience which is personalised and, of course, more shopping features that affect both users’ and brands’ way of benefiting from Google.

What Does This Mean for Businesses? 

Where your audience spends time on social media is important. That is why brands should consider TikTok if they know there is potential for their branding and boosting sales. However, you may only know what outcome you can achieve by trying. 

We know that Gez Z is on TikTok. But also we must acknowledge that Gen Y and Gen X are also becoming crowded on the app. 

As a brand, you should consider being active on TikTok because:

  • Organic reach has massive potential on TikTok when it comes to branding. Consider that the average TikTok user spends 52 minutes daily on the app.
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) for TikTok is also an essential topic for brands and is based on understanding the app’s algorithm. When you do it right and relevant, your content ranking on TikTok will be higher, which means you reach the right audience you target.
  • You can try TikTok ads according to your budget. There are in-feed and To View placements, while TopView placements can be really expensive, especially on specific days, as Bloomberg reports. In-feed placements with small budgets can be a good starting point to test out.  
  • Influencer marketing is a huge industry right now, and we know Gen Z is taking their favourite social media accounts seriously – enough to follow what they follow and buy products they use. So, brands may consider working with popular creators on the platform. Savannah Sanchez, a paid social consultant and the founder of The Social Savannah, says that brands willing to work with a diverse group of content creators are definitely utilising the platform the best.

Wrapping Up

TikTok has been downloaded by over 3 billion people to date, and it has over 1.5 billion monthly active users in the third quarter of 2022 across 154 countries. In light of this information, using this app also as a search engine is not so surprising.

We cannot get tired of emphasising that Gen Z is taking its social media influence and using it as a tool to learn, buy, share, communicate and connect. And, Tiktok has plenty of room for brands to make their mark with Gen Z.

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