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Is TikTok the new Google?

Is TikTok possibly the search engine of the future that will outrun Google? By the end of 2022, young people, from Generation Z in particular, will be using TikTok more frequently than Google to ask everyday and unusual questions. What are the consequences of the trend from Google to TikTok? And what does it mean for influencer marketers?

Magnifying glass placed on a computer keyboard
Magnifying glass placed on a computer keyboard

Key Takeaways

  • Social networks have long been competing with Google as search engines.
  • For a long time, YouTube has been the second most popular search engine on the internet; by the end of 2022, TikTok will take the lead among members of Generation Z.
  • 40% of young people no longer search on Google but on Instagram or TikTok for a restaurant, for example.
  • TikTok as a search engine has advantages over Google; the interactive and useful advice, after all, comes from local influencers* who “aren’t as biased [as] Google.”

Of course, there are many other search engines besides Google, including Mozilla Firefox, Bing, Yahoo, and Ecosia. But nonetheless, Google has dominated for 20 years and has even become a word in our vocabulary: we don’t search in a search engine, we quickly Google for the answer to our question. But among young people, it looks like Google is no longer their first port of call for questions on any topic. Instead, people are looking for the right restaurants, guides or recommendations, etc. on TikTok.

TikTok is a threat to Google

TechCrunch reported back in July 2022 that Google’s core business, the Shum engine and Google Maps, was threatened by recent moves toward social networking and the growing preference for video.

Senior Vice President and Head of Google’s Knowledge and Information organization, Prabhakar Raghavan, explained at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference that according to Google’s internal studies, “about 40% of young people when they’re looking for a place to have lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or search, they go to TikTok or Instagram.”

The company confirmed to the online publication Business Insider, “We face strong competition from a number of sources, including general and specialized search engines, as well as dedicated apps.”

As you probably know, Google formed  the parent company  Alphabet, to which YouTube belongs. Industry experts have long predicted, for example, that TikTok’s advertising revenue will surpass that of the YouTube video platform in 2024.

Back to the topic of search engines: Journalists from the New York Times interviewed Internet users about their online habits. The American newspaper concludes that GenZers use TikTok for many things while  Boomers or Millennials tend to turn to Google.

The Social Networks as Search Engines

One can certainly agree that this trend, i.e. from Google to social media, is not a big surprise. Text is no more, instead, we consume visually. What used to be illustrated with pictures or communicated through images is now in video format. Instead of reading and watching, people want to see  how something works and have it explained  as simply as possible. It’s no wonder that YouTube has long been the second-most popular search engine on the Internet.

Kolsquare-Insight: At first glance, it may seem surprising that Google so cavalierly shares a figure that is rather negative for the company. That’s because the company certainly has an interest in apparently reducing its monopoly position (- keep in mind that Google and YouTube are both owned by Alphabet) so the tech company’s position vis-a-vis regulators looks less tragic.

Verge writer David Pierce tried  the “TikTok search engine” in a self-test. So,  he searched for restaurants on the Chinese app because that’s what TikTok would be particularly good for. Some creators would present  themselves as local influencers while others would simply show where they last feasted. Pierce writes, “I don’t know if I trust every single one of them, and the information density here is pretty low.” To get an impression of a specific place, he would have had to do a lot of wiping and watch a lot of videos.

When searching for recipes, things would look better . Search “chocolate chip cookies” on the app and you’d find “all kinds and variations of recipes,” Pierce said.  Since TikTok classically shares very short videos, bakers of chocolate chip cookies would need a lot of patience and a notepad since  they have to take notes –  and will have to “watch the recipe video over and over”.

It becomes more difficult with “meaty” content. That is, when users ask for medical advice and historical data, for example, the problem of misinformation arises. A Wall Street Journal reporter gives the example of an avocado in a water glass.  Trending videos on TikTok showed  users who claimed the following: If you put half an avocado in a glass of water in the refrigerator, the fruit will stay fresh longer. Experts disagreed, stating that this could lead to the formation of dangerous and harmful bacteria.

Moreover, you have to keep in mind that the most popular search queries on Google are words like “Facebook” and “Amazon”. This is the next problem with using TikTok as a search engine. The app doesn’t give quick access to other social networks, of course, and searching Amazon would only bring up an “endless series of videos showing people who bought weird junk on Amazon.” In theory, however, many shortcomings could be improved by optimizing the algorithm.

Why Are so Many Users Using TikTok Instead of Google Today?

As mentioned earlier, New York Times tech writer Kalley Huang spoke with four female TikTok users between the ages of 15 and 25. The youngest of the interviewees said she was looking for advice on how to ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation. TikTok provided her with a detailed answer: first, it explained in video format how to approach a teacher, then it also showed what such a letter of recommendation would look like.

The other interviewees use TikTok as a search engine in a variety of ways: they ask for recipes to recook, movies to watch, happy hours or restaurants nearby, interviews with famous people, conspiracy theories, and eyewitness accounts. After all, they say, TikTok is less biased because influencers on the app share their unfiltered, honest opinions.

The TikTok algorithm is already extremely powerful and shows users content that is tailored to their interests on the one hand, and keeps them successfully on the platform on the other. The app’s Chinese parent company, Byte Dance, declined to comment on speculation regarding the testing phase of search features and products. The New York Times quoted: the company would “always [think] about new ways to add value to the community and enrich the TikTok experience.”

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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