Two things have happened recently that are going to have a seismic impact on search, and it’s arguably going to be the biggest change in the area in 20 years: the rise of social search, specifically on Tiktok, and the rapid emergence of AI tools like Chat-GPT which are redefining how we search for information.
These are both big topics so we’re going to make this a two parter and today focus on the rise of Tiktok and, more specifically, how Gen Z are using it to replace Google.
Social search is increasingly important, but should it be your focus? Google has had the search space to itself for so long that it’s difficult not to think of it first, especially when allocating marketing budget. Its presence is so ubiquitous that the phrase “I’ll Google it” has essentially replaced “i’ll look that up”. It stands to reason that when customers are searching for something – where to have lunch, where to buy limited sneakers, who to vote for – it’s the Google search bar they hit … Isn’t it? Not necessarily.
For many in your audience, especially younger people, there really are better options, and they’re not Bing, Yahoo,or DuckDuckGo. Social media apps are rapidly becoming the search engine of choice. In July of 2022, a Google Senior Vice President, Prabhakar Raghavan, revealed that internal research had found around 40% of 18-24 year olds will use TikTok or Instagram first when trying to find somewhere to have lunch. Not GoogleMaps, or a traditional search engine, but social networks based around visual content. It’s a huge shift.
While that trend is strongest among Gen Z, it’s more widespread than you’d think. A trends report by HubSpot published in January found that social platforms were the most common discovery method for new products among all groups below the age of 55. Gen Z led the field with over half (52%) of their discovery coming from social, but their older siblings and parents weren’t far behind – 45% of the 25-34 year old group leaned most heavily on social media, and 46% of 35-54 year olds. In fact the over 55s were the only group that said they were more likely to discover products and services through a traditional online search than any other method. Both Gen Z and Gen X, meanwhile, put search engines in third place behind social – they were more likely to discover their lunch spot or a new pair of shades by browsing retail stores than through a Google search (though internet searches were still more common with Millennials.)
55% of all under 55s regularly use social platforms to search for information and services, and nearly a quarter of that age group (24%) will use social media as their first port of call to search for anything. Admittedly, when you break it down to individual platforms and sites Google is still a more popular search method than any one single social network, but the second most common way of searching online, among all age groups, is YouTube. After two decades of dominance, we’re finally seeing the decline of the traditional search engine. Much like the shift from desktop to mobile search, the change in habits is going to mean a rethink of strategy.
What does this mean for your digital marketing budget? Right now that depends a lot on who your audience is and where the market for your services sits. Some industries are still more reliant on traditional Google searches, while others exist almost entirely through social (and that number is increasing fast). Different combinations of audience demographics, calls to action and products require a different focus, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, both in terms of splitting spend between traditional and social search and knowing which individual platforms to focus on. We can absolutely help you with this – understanding audiences is the entire point of Buzz Radar, and we can supply the hard data needed to make informed decisions.
That said, there are very few industries and audiences that don’t owe some of their discovery to social now, and that’s only going to increase. If this is an area you haven’t yet explored, or haven’t given real focus or budget to, 2023 is the year to start taking it seriously, and at the very least paying for some low-budget experimental campaigns to test the water – it’s likely you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Tune in for our thoughts next week on how Chat-gpt is the other big threat to current SEO and Google.
Drop us a line here if you’d like to speak to us about your audience.