TikTok’s hold over the Gen Z population is undeniable. While understandably in the past Google might have seen it as a hot contender for its YouTube offering given the similarity in offering, now it is also seeing it as a contender to its core services such as search and maps.
According to an article on Tech Crunch, senior vice president Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google’s Knowledge & Information organisation, said that almost 40% of young people, when for example they’re looking for a place for lunch, no longer go to Google Maps or Search. Instead they go to TikTok or Instagram.
This might be hard to understand for those of us accustomed to the Search era. Nonetheless, even in Asia, more and more youths are now using the social video app to find a restaurants or places of interest, shared industry players MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to. In the long run, the trend can impact Google’s core offering of search and discover and the commercial potentials it holds.
Weighing in on the conversation, Joseph Chua, CEO of Aiken Digital, shared that in many markets in Asia, TikTok is the main app on people's phones for downtime, and the content is tagged by location and topic. As such, people are using it as a search engine for products and experiences.
"For the young, Google is often being used to find specific addresses and official sites. For example, you might look up a building on Google for your holiday, but if you are looking for travel guidance, you will be on TikTok looking for places to visit,” he explained. In Malaysia, the trend is extremely prevalent especially when it comes to dining and travel recommendation, said Serm Teck Choon, co-founder and CEO of martech company Antsomi.
Serm added that while the short video format emerged as the leading media consumption among Gen Z, TikTok naturally became the ‘default’ app to look for information, especially lifestyle-related content such as restaurant, travel, and recipe.
What’s causing the shift?
Currently the amount of time being spent on TikTok has reached an average 95 minutes per day, according to SensorTower, and has been steadily increasing per year. The average time spent on TikTok was at 91 minutes per day in 2021, and was at 82 minutes per day in 2020. With so much time being spent on the platform, naturally more behavioural changes are bound to emerge. Moreover, Gen Z youths generally prefer quick and fast content, especially short videos and do not like to read through traditional search results with words, explained Serm.
"They want to see the graphical presentation of a restaurant, food reviews and travel tips. That is how they navigate in this world, and hence other social tools such as Facebook and Instagram are also following suit and make short videos to be more prominent than ever,” he said.
Agreeing with this, Sienna Tsang, digital solutions specialist of Digisalad, added that one of the reasons for this behavioural change could be due to the format and way of displaying information. Search results are typically displayed in text format while content on TikTok is more video-driven. It also has user-friendly features that serve as search engine, such as hashtags, tags and places. As frequent users of social media platforms, young adults and Gen Z may be more reliant to search content on social media, added Tsang.
“For example, we can search a hashtag of ‘#foodieHK’ on Instagram to see related post contents about good food recommendations in Hong Kong. When more users use the same hashtag for their content, it would become a database and more valuable content can be found which will attract more users to use it for searching information,” Tsang added.
How will the shift to TikTok impact brands?
With Gen Zs’ preference to graphic content, Sonic Kwok, managing director of Rabbit Studio, said that younger people use platforms with multimedia unless they want to seek technical advice such as credit cards or discounts. This then opens up an opportunity for brands who have long built their social media engagement. “The change in user habits can bring multiple positive effects to the brand without spending plenty of budgets on filming large-scale video ads and campaigns,” he said.
Kenneth Wong, CEO of Adminer and Trapper Interactive added that in the eyes of today’s youth Google and Facebook have become the 'yellow pages' for brands and businesses.
“TikTok and Instagram satiated Gen Z’s shorter patience, need for content and reviews. The 2021 iKala SEA survey in Malaysia also reported 74% of shoppers are influenced by reviews and ratings in social media. Meaning, just like how LinkedIn ultimately became the de facto platform for jobs and recruitment for Gen X and Y; the vast amount of influencers, brands and interesting content on TikTok will drive Gen Z’s fact-finding, buying and dining choices,” Wong added.