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TikTok Search is the app's own search engine that is starting to become a serious competitor to Google.

TikTok Search: what it’s good for (brands included)

TikTok Search is the app’s own search engine that is starting to become a serious competitor to Google. Last year, TikTok Search’s Gen Z usage rate reached 40% – according to Google’s own data. What makes TikTok Search more appealing to young people and how can this be an advantage for your brand?

TikTok is primarily a content platform. It’s not a search engine, yet it’s already the first choice for Generation Z information seekers. One possible explanation is offered by Adrienne Sheares, Social Media Consultant: Gen Z are not happy with the quality of Google searches. This is largely because the search engine has forced them to scroll through ads, which are often the first results in their searches. Sheares said TikTok, in contrast, offers more ways to quickly discover just the content young people are looking for. What content we’re talking about and what kind of needs it solves, below:

1. Shopping (mostly clothing/accessories)

Fashion brands have often been criticised for using non-inclusive designs on their websites, especially for plus-size people and those with disabilities. TikTok Search goes some way to solving this problem for younger audiences, who have started typing in the SKU code of an item directly from the search bar. This way, TikTok users can discover exactly what the product they are looking for looks like in TikTok videos, through content created by plus-size or slim fashion tiktokers.

@heensie

A plus size @Anthropologie try-on for Spring/Summer! I am a US Size 22 and most of this video features items in a 2XL or 22. Also a little random appearance of some @Good American jeans! #plussizestyle #plussizetryon #anthropologietryonhaul #anthropologieplussizetryon

♬ original sound – Heensie | Wardrobe Stylist

2. TikTok Search: Social / pop culture news

One of TikTok’s biggest selling points is that the platform is so responsive. The time gap between when a user sees something. Shoots a few short videos and posts it all to a potentially huge audience is minuscule.

Because TikTok’s algorithm is just as reactive, videos containing the latest bombshell/barf/novelty go trending quickly. It only takes a fraction of the time for the same information to be indexed at the top of Google search results.

So when something shocking / unexpected happens, trending searches on TikTok reflect the influx of newly posted content. Top trending videos reflect fresh information. This led to another specific social phenomenon. People complain about learning about newsworthy events for the first time through reactive posts on TT.

Shopping and news, basically the top 2 reasons to search on Google, reframed for TikTok. What distinguishes TikTok Search from Google are the specific features of this channel. And it’s these features that are of interest to brands and marketers.

3. Algorithm suggests searches and answers to them

It’s getting easier: TikTok Search can now also be accessed via the suggestions at the bottom of the screen. They are shown in the comments section when watching videos. Users just need to tap the search button to see the suggested videos.

This cyclical structure means that users can easily switch between topics. It also gives marketers the chance to multiply the reach of their own content. Each video posted no longer just goes to a specific niche, it can also reach related communities with common interests.

The way the algorithm picks up popular content means that a trending video is pushed further down users’ For You pages. This in turn inspires more searches and creates a cyclical search-inspiration-search effect that boosts content creation.

TikTok Search: Inspires Google searches

Yes, the two search engines are complementary. For Gen Z and Alpha, TikTok is ground zero. Currently, it is the first place where young audiences get in touch with a topic. Many of these searches migrate off-platform to Google and other search engines.

Moreover, while 68% of young people expressed an interest in buying directly from their social feeds. It’s nontrivial number still choose to browse elsewhere after being inspired on a social platform.

The popular hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt (which now has over 81 billion views) is full of evidence of this behaviour. Users talk openly about how, after seeing an item promoted or reviewed on TikTok, they end up buying it themselves.

GenZ person searching the internet about shopping on TikTok.
TikTok Search is the app’s own search engine that is starting to become a serious competitor to Google.

And the bottom line is…

The general idea would be that TikTok Search is the surest way for your brand to access the interests of young audiences. That’s because it changes everything we know about how young people browse online, not just because they stick to their social feeds.

Therefore, marketers should expand their understanding of the role of TikTok overall. It affects searches inside as well as outside the platform. It operates on many different levels and not only responds to searches, but inspires them.

Not to mention the fact that there is cause for celebration. Brands can finally have quantified results from influencer campaigns off-platform too.

If past updates from TikTok are any indication, marketers should expect to hear more in the new year about the TikTok Search feature. It pays to optimize your pages early. That way, you’ll be first in line to take advantage of any UI updates.

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