Karen Herrera
PR and Editorial Manager
Expert Contributor

Is TikTok the New Google?

By Karen Herrera | Tue, 11/22/2022 - 15:00

It is no secret that the TikTok app  revolutionized the way users interact on networks, consume and create content, which led it to take a primary and necessary place in the marketing strategies of companies. But what few saw coming is that this app generates an authentic audiovisual immersion and would become a pedagogical or search tool, managing to compete with the giant Google.

TikTok ended 2021 with 655.9 million total users, and, according to parent company Bytedance, they now have 1 billion monthly active users because of their more text-based information and their high audiovisual and immersive engagement. It looks like users now prefer watching a brief video of under 30 seconds to reading a lengthy blog piece.

For nearly two decades, Google has dominated consumer search behavior. We are used to using the expression “google it.” It has been well documented that TikTok is the go-to social app for Gen Z for everything from recipes to life hacks. However, a surprising statistic came out recently, showing nearly 40 percent of Gen Z members prefer TikTok for online searches over Google, according to internal data from Google. “In our studies, something like almost 40 percent of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram,” said Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan at an industry event, according to TechCrunch.

In Q1 2022, TikTok was the most downloaded app worldwide across all categories. That sounds a bit shocking, we have to admit. Google also confirmed to TechCrunch that the comments were based on internal research that involved a survey of US users, ages 18 to 24. The data has not yet been made public, but may later be added to Google’s competition site, alongside other stats — like how 55 percent of product searches now begin on Amazon, for example.

Gen Z tends to search for lighter topics on TikTok — things like recipes, fashion tips, and bar recommendations. Meanwhile, they leave heavier topics — like those related to COVID or election information — to Google. If they do see something on TikTok, they will use other methods to verify, which generally looks like going to Google or a news source to back it up. One thing is true, younger people are demanding more visual content and that will change Google as we know it.  In some countries, voice now drives 30 percent of all queries, as new internet users don’t even bother with typing.

A Statista chart (based on Priori Data insights) shows that the TikTok app is predominant in India, where it boasts 119.3 million downloads. Other countries such as the US, Turkey, Russia, and Mexico, with more than 19 million downloads, are also racking up users on the app, boosting its popularity.

Cloudflare’s Radar project publishes information on website traffic metrics and other up-to-date internet trends. By the end of 2021, the company’s data showed TikTok.com was the No. 1 most popular domain. Google.com came in second, followed by Facebook.com, Microsoft.com and Apple.com. 

Google is now making an effort to compete with the success of TikTok and Instagram by utilizing improved AI optimization and more immersive marketing and it has now announced some new features. In order to get the attention of younger people, it displays search results in a continuous scroll of tiles showing photos and videos that more closely resembles a social media feed than a list of links. Exploration, as they called it, will include Instagram and TikTok videos as well as YouTube Shorts, the 60-second video app Google created in 2020. Google Vice President Cathy Edwards described it as intended to help people searching for inspiration rather than a fact or specific answer to a question.

“We know there is a class of user who really likes the results that they see on TikTok, and I think part of that is because TikTok reduced the barrier to entry for content creation, so there's some really good content there,” Edwards said. “We are looking at more ways to bring that into our search results.”

This trend is also generating some concerns. A new study by NewsGuard has found that 1 in 5 TikTok videos contains some sort of misinformation and as the content in the app is largely from individual users, the information is unlikely to be objective. Moreover, the study also found an abundance of potentially dangerous videos going unchecked on the platform. 

It will be interesting to see how TikTok progresses in this area and if older audiences will adopt this method of searching. In the history of social media platforms, young people were the precursors – the older people came after them. 

Photo by:   Karen Herrera