Why TikTok is stealing Google’s crowd

Learning how to crochet? Trying out that trending, fusion chili oil ramen recipe? Your kids are probably using TikTok for directions, not Google.

Let’s face it. Attention spans are at an all-time low, and people are more than happy to turn to content that goes straight to the point these days. The quicker the better.

This shift toward succinct, visually captivating content has thrust TikTok into the limelight as the preferred platform for word-of-mouth information.

BuzzFeed said it best – looking for a café recommendation in Johor Bahru? TikTok will give you 5 different recommendations in under 30 seconds. In November last year, it was made official: TikTok is bypassing Google as a search engine for certain types of content.

Source: @justlukemorgan / TikTok

And Google has noticed.

Prabhakar Raghavan, the SVP of search at Google, said that, “something like almost 40 per cent of young people, when they are looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search, they go to TikTok or Instagram.” These days, users are seeking diverse perspectives, shifting away from SEO-optimised content on Google to something with more of a human touch. There’s something authentic about the experience of scrolling through TikTok, a sense of being on a FaceTime call with real people rather than faceless websites.

Gen Z’s approach to searching on TikTok outpaces Google in terms of interactivity. Rather than navigating heavy walls of text, TikTok allows them to crowdsource recommendations one video at a time. It’s an efficient and precise method to extract desired content. Searching on TikTok proves to be more engaging and interactive than traditional Google queries, as Gen Z embraces a dynamic approach, swiftly culling through video content to pinpoint exactly what they seek.

That’s not to say that TikTok has completely trumped Google as a search engine. Not in the least. Google is still on top when it comes to providing real-time insights and comprehensive information from credible sources (think academic papers and formal research). But TikTok is quickly catching up as it gets more saturated with swift “How- To’s” and recommended content. Long gone are the blogging days of beauty influencers – now is the era of makeup and skincare vloggers and their GRWM (“Get Ready With Me”) product recommendations.

Source: @kylieteo / TikTok

The might of word-of-mouth

Since the beginning of time, humans have always loved to tell stories, to spread good news. Recommendations, in particular, saturate the social media landscape. TikTok’s strength lies in being a platform rooted in discovery, powered by authentic voices. Users approach the app with an open mind, hoping to learn from fellow ordinary humans.

So goes the age-old adage: Nothing beats a personal recommendation. Would you rather take the word of blue hyperlinks and pop-up ads that lead to a restaurant boosted by Google services… or your office colleague who had a warm, hearty meal at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Japan?

What we’re getting here is that humans will always be humans, and would rather take the word of other humans who have had similar experiences, instead of carefully- worded content that was probably SEO-optimised for better search engine performance.

Why video marketing is inevitable

Video marketing is nothing new. It was only a matter of time before video content became the norm on social media. As TikTok solidifies its position as a dynamic search engine, brands who wish to reach a younger audience must adapt their communication strategies to effectively engage with them.

Video content provides a distinct set of advantages. They quickly convey information, maintain audience interest, excel on social platforms, enhance SEO, and yield high ROI, And with TikTok, brands can connect genuinely with younger audiences by embracing the platform’s authentic and user-focused approach. It’s a surefire way to capture attention within seconds.

Most importantly, video content enables brands to humanise their messages, adding a layer of relatability that resonates with users seeking real experiences and recommendations on TikTok. This presents a unique opportunity for brands to tap into the relatability factor and create shareable content. Social media operates as a word- of-mouth platform at scale, making it a potent arena for influencer marketing. Brands can strategically collaborate with influencers or harness user-generated content to amplify their reach and enhance credibility.

The ascendancy of TikTok as a search engine signifies a paradigm shift in online information discovery. Its distinctive combination of authenticity, relatability, and visual appeal positions TikTok as a formidable player in the digital landscape.

Brands aspiring to stay ahead of the curve should wholeheartedly embrace video marketing, leveraging its influential reach to actively connect with a discerning younger audience that increasingly turns to this unconventional search engine for swift and trustworthy information.

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