Gen Z’s Google: TikTok’s Growing Role as a Search Engine
The common phrase “Just Google it” may become a thing of the past for the newer generation as a new trend emerges of Gen Z utilising social media platforms as their preferred search engine over Google.
Almost 40% of Gen Z are using TikTok and Instagram as a search engine over Google according to their own internal data. Studies are showing Gen Z’s preference for more personalised searches and curated content with TikTok leading the way, which shockingly overtook Google’s dominance as the most popular web domain last year. With these numbers expected to grow, it’s vital for marketers to leverage the reach of this platform and fully tap into its potential as the “Gen Z Google”.
Gen Z’s diminished attention span has carved the way for their changing consumer needs
Gen Z’s changing consumer needs are driven by their diminished attention span. Unlike previous generations, Gen Z has grown up amidst a constant influx of information and media from various sources, including phones, televisions, iPads, and emails. With such vast amounts of information at their disposal, they are becoming more selective about what they consume. They are seeking out platforms that work to curate all of this available information to their own personal interests and needs.
TikTok has become an industry leader in this regard, thanks to their incredible algorithm working to provide each and every user with targeted content to suit their personal interests.
Another result of this constant exposure to information may be Gen Z’s shortened attention span, with the average individual attention span now believed to be 8 seconds. This means it is now crucial that an information source now works to deliver key messages as quickly as possible. TikTok again caters perfectly for this, with an average video duration of a mere 36.4 seconds.
TikTok perfectly caters to Gen Z’s needs through their algorithm
The visual, video-led, and scrollable nature of TikTok’s content perfectly caters to Gen Z’s needs for engaging, succinct content to provide the information they want. This appeal can explain the platform’s growing popularity, with Australians averaging 23.4 hours per month on the app this year. This increased usership is particularly apparent amongst Gen Zs, who are on TikTok for an average of 12.4 hours a week. TikTok's rising popularity as an information hub has led to its emergence as an increasingly utilized search engine as well.
The key factor setting TikTok apart is its successful algorithm. It’s what’s giving faster and more inclusive results for young people that Google doesn’t provide. The ‘For You’ page is the home of the app, consisting of a scrolling feed of video’s that the algorithm believes you’ll be interested in. This algorithm functions by analysing a user’s activity by seeing what content they engage with the most and how they interact with it through likes and comments. They then use this data to predict what they want to see next. This works to further keep them ahead of the curve, by bringing results to users before they’re even looking.
‘Face value’ may also be a driving force behind TikTok’s innovation as a search tool, distinguishing it from traditional sources. The ability to watch someone address and answer a specific question humanizes the search experience. Users can explore profiles, navigate through content, establish connections, and, most importantly, receive quick responses to their inquiries. This personalized approach demonstrates that, even in the digital age, younger generations are actively seeking a more humanized storytelling experience.
TikTok is actively responding to the growing demand by making significant investments not only in enhancing the 'For You' page algorithm but also by introducing improvements to the search function, such as the inclusion of a new predictive text and AI recommendation system. This increased emphasis on the search feature has the potential to transform TikTok from being solely a social media platform to establishing itself as a refined and established search engine.
So how is Google responding to this tumultuous change? Generation Z is definitely making Google refigure themselves as a common search engine in order to keep them tangible and on trend. Their primary response to these new challenges is through the recent introduction of ‘Google Perspectives’. This new feature has introduced a separate feed curated and full of human-first content from TikTok, YouTube, review sites and highly rated blog posts. Learning from the primary features that are drawing Gen Z to TikTok, Google is attempting to harness their huge search database in order to organise this information in a more individualised format. Only time will tell whether these attempts are successful for Google in reclaiming its lost market share.
Top Tips on how to harness the power of TikTok:
Despite the huge potential reach of the platform, it’s estimated that only 5% of organisations are currently using it to reach consumers. The rapidly growing influence of TikTok means it is crucial that organisations begin taking steps towards taking advantage of the platform’s potential reach as a search engine if they want to continue to stay relevant with Gen Z. Here are Hunter’s top tips for utilising the platform to reach Gen Z:
Focus on trying to capture viewer’s attention in the first 2 seconds: The average watch time per video view is 3.33 seconds, meaning if you fail to immediately capture their attention, your key messages may be ignored.
Take advantage of TikTok slideshows: By using the new slideshow feature, brands can create content faster than ever, helping them to save precious time. Most notably, as they swipe across on the last photo, they will be taken straight to your page, helping to further your reach. (This Melbourne agency has some good examples of how this can work.
Focus on lighter topics: Gen Z tends to search for lighter topics on TikTok, such as recipes, fashion tips and bar recommendations. Meanwhile, they leave heavier topics like those related to COVID to Google.
Capitalise on the human aspect: It’s vital to create authentic humanised content in order to maximise your reach. One way to do this is through face videos, with a person talking directly to the viewer in a more casual manner. The Guardian and The Daily have done a good job converting traditional media to suit TikTok in this way.
Ensure your brand profile is maintained to portray your brand’s personality and key messages you want to portray for when people search and find your profile. This means trying to post consistently and create purpose-based content.
Researched and written by Hunter's wonderful interns Ella Giles and Sarah Harris