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Saw It On TikTok! How the Social Platform is Changing the Landscape for Digital.

TikTok Dances. TikTok Trends. TikTok Famous. Since 2016, the social platform has defined its own corner of subgenres in a way we hadn't seen since the phrase "Facebook me" entered public narrative. Even the prefix, "I read an article the other day…" is often code for, "I saw it on TikTok".

But nearly a decade on from its introduction to the market, the video-first channel is now redefining how we use digital. And more specifically, the way we use social platforms as search engines.

Here's how TikTok is impacting search, and how to determine whether the platform could be a viable tool for your brand.

Searching Socials

Viral content and influencers aside, TikTok is becoming increasingly significant in digital behaviour.

Software giant Adobe recently published a study suggesting that 41% of TikTok consumers have used the platform as a search engine, with TikTok ranking fourth "most helpful when searching for information".

The same study found that 1 in 10 Gen Z users said they're more likely to rely on TikTok than Google, and a UK-based survey found that TikTok is the fastest growing source of news amongst adults.

At time of writing, much of the channel's search power still hinges on lifestyle and consumer-based content: food, music, DIY and fashion. But with more and more businesses (B2B and B2C) successfully leveraging the platform, it's only a matter of time before this too evolves…

Unpacking the Appeal - and Impact

TikTok is popular for a reason. But it's only now becoming evident just how much it’s influenced online behaviours, particularly amongst younger generations. From activism to consumption, to even using the platform as a job hunting tool, TikTok has continually proven its ability to evolve alongside current market trends, and fundamental needs and wants.

This model - fast, visual, relatable - has already permeated across practically every digital channel. Social platforms favour video content, as does Google. Making it hugely beneficial for brands' SEO and SERP. User-generated content is steadily popular across B2B and B2C, as is influencer marketing.

We're already seeing a clear connection between powerful social performance and powerful SEO performance. All things considered, this ecosystem is more likely to accelerate than it is to decline. But if more and more users adopt TikTok - or other socials - as their primary search engine, will this shape how brands market?

Pros & Cons: TikTok as a Search Engine 

Pros:

Access a broad pool. At time of writing, the platform has around 1 billion active users monthly, and the app has been downloaded over 4.1 billion times. Giving you the ability to reach a broader market searching for your types of content or brand.

Sophisticated data points. TikTok enables marketeers to more easily target and retarget audience segments as well as track user behaviours - great for proving ROI, and understanding what’s working.

High levels of engagement. The average user spends 95 minutes per day on TikTok. The nature of the platform and 'scroll behaviour' makes it strong for generating engagement, even if you don't appear in search results right away.

Cons:

Misinformation. Some studies suggest that 20% of news-related videos and 40% of medical videos on TikTok contain misinformation. Meaning maintaining factual integrity could be a challenge, particularly if your content gets bundled up with videos from questionable creators.

Burgeoning regulations. Regulations are no new thing for marketeers, but if US lawmakers successfully ban the channel, it could limit your brand's reach on a global scale. 

Cost-heavy solution. Although effective when successful, distributing campaigns on TikTok can be costly for smaller brands. Their campaigns are run CPM, and if your content doesn't perform, it can be difficult to maintain.

Future Projections & Considerations 

In the world of search, Google is still king. And it'll probably remain that way for the foreseeable. But when it comes to digital, there's one constant: there is no constant. 

The market's rapidly and continually evolving to welcome new innovations, new users, new wants and needs into the fold all the time. Meaning that digital is regularly on the brink of a new era.

For new generations of digital users, it's easy to see how social media could soon usurp other owned and earned channels, but there are still a number of obstacles that need addressing.

Reputationally speaking, TikTok is a grey area for brands. For many, it's a platform that cultivates and celebrates creativity, helping smaller businesses establish their corner of the market. For others, it's another platform with little to no regulation or ethical policies, and a high risk arena for your brand's content to be taken out of context.

On that same vein, misinformation on the platform is rife and can quickly undermine even the most innocuous content. Not to mention that TikTok isn't the most universally accessible or accepted platform on the market.

Right now, brands and marketeers need to take a firm approach of "watch this space". And identify if and when TikTok could be introduced as a strategic touchpoint as part of a wider marketing plan. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction to something they saw on TikTok once.

At Hanson Search, we help secure top talent for businesses through our executive search practice and worldwide network. If you'd like us to find your next digital talent, or simply want to speak with a consultant about the market right now, get in touch.

Author: Daisy Hughes - Senior Consultant

Posted on 20.05.2024

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