The TikTok Evolution: From Dance Videos to Gen Z’s Personalised Search Engine

TikTok isn’t just about viral dance videos and catchy pop music anymore. It has become a search engine for Generation Z.

The younger generation is tapping into TikTok’s powerful algorithm, which tailors the videos they see based on their interests and interactions. It’s like having a personalised search engine that understands their tastes. What sets TikTok apart is the human touch. It feels like real people are sharing and curating the information, rather than faceless websites.

This shift in using TikTok as a discovery tool is part of a larger trend in digital search. While Google still reigns as the dominant search engine worldwide, people are turning to platforms like Amazon for product searches, Instagram for staying updated on trends, and Snapchat’s Snap Maps for finding local businesses. As the digital landscape expands, so do the ways we find information within it.

What does Google think?

Even Google has taken notice of TikTok’s encroachment on its territory. While the tech giant denies that young people are replacing its search engine with TikTok, during a discussion about Google’s products and the role of AI at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference, Prabhakar Raghavan, the Senior Vice President in charge of Google’s Knowledge & Information organisation, touched upon the popularity of social apps. Raghavan acknowledged that younger users now often gravitate towards apps like Instagram and TikTok when it comes to discovering new information, rather than relying on Google Search or Maps.

Gen Z’s search preferences

So, why do Gen Zers love TikTok so much as a search engine? Searching on TikTok is an interactive experience, unlike typing queries into Google. Instead of sifting through endless blocks of text, young people rely on TikTok’s videos to crowdsource recommendations, helping them find what they’re looking for. They watch video after video, curating the content along the way. They also gauge the reliability of suggestions by checking the comments section. It’s a search method rooted in how they use TikTok not only for products and businesses but also for seeking guidance and understanding. With videos typically under a minute long, TikTok provides quick and seemingly more relevant answers.

TikTok as an information hub

Recognising this trend, TikTok is actively embracing its role as an information hub. The platform is testing a feature that identifies keywords in comments and links them to search results. Additionally, in Southeast Asia, TikTok is experimenting with a feed that showcases local content, making it easier for people to discover businesses and events in their area.

TikTok’s transformation into a search engine is reshaping how Gen Z accesses information. With its personalised approach and human touch, it’s no wonder that young people are flocking to TikTok to search for answers, recommendations, and explanations. The world of search is evolving, and TikTok is at the forefront of this exciting shift.

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