ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Young people are increasingly using TikTok as a search engine, utilizing the social media platform’s powerful algorithm to provide them with the personalized information they want, reports the New York Times. And Google has noticed.
“In our studies, something like almost 40% 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,” Prabhakar Raghavan, a Google senior vice president, said at a technology conference in July.
TikTok “is becoming a one-stop shop for content in a way that it wasn’t in its earlier days,” Lee Rainie, who directs internet and technology research at the Pew Research Center, told the Times.
Gen Z is not only using TikTok to find products and businesses but also to find how tos and learn about more about subjects. The social media platform gives its users answers to their questions in 60-second videos instead of scrolling through text search results on a webpage, and it allows users to crowdsource the information they seek. They can verify the accuracy of the information by scrolling through a video’s comments.
One 24-year-old TikTok user goes on the app to find recipes to cook, films to watch and nearby happy hours to try and believes the app’s search results aren’t as biased as Google’s can be. She told the Times she wants “a different opinion” from what ads and websites optimized for Google say.
However, Francesca Tripodi, an information and library science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the Times that TikTok could actually lead people to more misinformation and disinformation, which can then be amplified and spread further. Tripodi said the nature of the app can keep people on it, making it tougher for users to turn to other sources of information to fact check.
“You aren’t really clicking to anything that would lead you out of the app,” she told the Times. “That makes it even more challenging to double-check the information you’re getting is correct.”
A 22-year-old TikTok user told the Times that TikTok is more convenient to search than Google and Instagram. She compared her online search methods to her parents, saying they wade through pages of Google search results, while she only needs to look at a few 60-second videos to find what she’s looking for.
“You could have gotten that in seconds,” she told the Times.
Google is trying to keep up with TikTok and the like by incorporating images and videos into its search results in recent years, and in 2019, it added YouTube Shorts, which are vertical video less than a minute long. These shorts are included in search results.
Meanwhile, TikTok is testing an app feature that identifies keywords in comments and links to search results for them. In Southeast Asia, it’s also testing a local content feed, allowing users to find nearby events and businesses.
To learn more about search discovery and how c-stores can show up in results when someone searches for the nearest coffee shop, bakery or ATM, read “Search Me” in the February 2022 issue of NACS Magazine.
At the 2022 NACS Show, October 1-4, in Las Vegas, plan on attending the education session Future Proofing Convenience: Using Search, Social, Ratings and Reviews to Drive Visibility and Growth on Monday, October 3 at 9:15 a.m in Westgate Ballroom A. Hear how digital is changing the way shoppers search for solutions and learn how to leverage social platforms to turn discovery into demand. Speakers include Lori Stillman, NACS vice president of research; Darrin Samaha, vice president of marketing for Yesway; Stu Greer, director of sales—Americans East for SOCI Inc.; and Trent Moore, marketing manager for Yesway.