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is TikTok the new search engine for young people?

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TikTok is the world's most popular platform. Yes, even though Google is the internet giant, as early as2021 it managed to rank first on Cloudfare's list. It presented itself as a dangerous rival when, in the same year, it also overtook YouTube, bringing its average viewing time down by 56 minutes per user to TikTok's 91. This growth has continued until July 2022. It was at a technology think tank meeting that Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president at Google, stated that 40% of young people prefer to use TikTok for their searches. This data comes from a survey conducted in North America of users aged 18-24, also known as Generation Z. These results are alarming because, previously, the tech giant only faced competitors with similar platforms.

TikTok, the social network run by ByteDance and known for its viral dance videos, has become an attractive search engine for Generation Z. The app's powerful algorithm, based on the user's interests, finds the information they want by tailoring it to their tastes. In other words, depending on the interactions an individual has had during the week, more or less serious content, with a certain type of music and different animation effects, will be displayed at the top of the page.

why do they choose TikTok?

The tendency of generation Z to search for information through TikTok instead of Google reveals, among other things, the rejection of traditional media that are part of the digital world. As if that were not enough, a Reuters study carried out this year revealed a worldwide drop in news consumption. The main reason was the deterioration of their mood when they learn about sad events. So, what does TikTok have that Google does not have to achieve this active search for information? These are 6 reasons why TikTok triumphs:

  1. Disconnection with traditional media: Generation Z members are digital natives. It is interesting to take this into account to understand that they have no connection with traditional media. In general, they have only consumed them indirectly and do not feel identified with the content of their messages. This happens because most of them are not their target audience. Facebook was one of the first social networks to fall in front of TikTok as it usually promotes content from traditional media.

  2. Infinite possibilities: Generation Z is the most digitised generation of all time. They have grown up with working computers and it is even common to use them in the classroom. For this reason, they extend their use of the social network beyond entertainment. In TikTok they have a creative freedom and freedom of action that allows them to make the most of its capabilities. Thus, they have implemented the new use of searching for information on the social network, although it is not its main function.

  3. Immediacy: Twitter was already playing with brevity long before TikTok by using the user's capacity for synthesis. However, it was also overtaken by this social network because it took the practice of immediacy a step further. TikTok has the capacity to offer visual content, which is usually more attractive, in videos of just a few seconds. This tool is captivating for marketing campaigns because in a society like ours, short messages have greater communicative power. For example, the Uffizi Gallery attracts new visitors through this platform.

  4. Interaction: In this application, users can easily interact with each other. You can respond to videos with comments or videos. You can also make video reactions to the content you are consuming. This generates a power of influence on young people, who feel safe to ask questions about the content and close enough to the information to give their opinion on it.

  5. Up-to-date: TikTok is aware of its success and does not want to be left behind. It is the social network of choice and stays up-to-date on the latest internet trends; it does not miss a beat. Among its latest updates is the TikTok Now feature that mimics the growing BeReal. This dynamism makes it a "multi-purpose" application that pushes the competition.

  6. Personalisation: Based on user interaction, TikTok offers fully personalised content. It looks at various aspects such as likes, comments or time spent watching videos to determine the tastes of young people. Thus, if a person has shown interest in streamers' accounts and curiosities about video games, the platform is likely to place videos about technology companies, gaming news or study offers related to that branch of knowledge in its "For you".

what information does the TikTok algorithm use?

  • User account settings (geographic location, language, gender...).
  • Type of device (Tablet, smartphone, laptop...).
  • Music that appears in the video.
  • Use of hashtags.
  • Subtitles of the video.

datos internetThe B-side of TikTok

Searching for information on TikTok is not as advisable as it might seem. This powerful platform, besides having benefits, also has negative aspects that should be taken into account. When performing a search the user is faced with:

  • Disinformation: The fact that on TikTok anyone can be a content creator is positive because there is versatility, but negative because users can receive erroneous information. This can be dangerous because, as there is multiple content, we can find, for example, "internet doctors" offering advice about an illness that is probably not verified. Another case would be that of a "financial expert" who encourages us to invest in a fraudulent project. On the other hand, the constant renewal of content makes disinformation difficult to detect. This has happened during the Russian invasion of Ukraine: thousands of videos that misinformed users by giving false information have been denounced and withdrawn.

  • Risks for children and teenagers: The Alpha generation, which will succeed generation Z, is the ultimate exponent of digitalisation. Obviously, this group is also susceptible to the powerful TikTok. As well as those belonging to generation Z who have not yet come of age, there are numerous dangers that minors face on this application, including the possibility of receiving messages from any stranger, being cyber-bullied, overexposing their image and accessing inappropriate content that may not be detected by the security team.

Google's alternative

The struggle to be the most used search engine is a reality for the technological giant. Google faces a difficult challenge because, although it is still in first place against Mozilla Firefox or Safari, having fallen behind with the young population in its searches is a great loss. The Google team is already working on commercial strategies to recover the place it has been guarding for years.

Its first strategic move will be Youtube Shorts. This platform is presented as a clear competitor to TikTok as its functionality lies in the uploading of videos in vertical format composed of a maximum duration of one minute and live video broadcasting. It will be integrated into the Youtube application and will focus on expanding the Youtube Partner Programme (YPP). It will focus its monetisation on receiving revenue through subscriptions, advertising or tips.

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