Using Social Media as a Search Engine [Including TikTok]

The world shook with the announcement that TikTok took the number one spot as the most visited domain in the world. It pushed the titan Google to second place for the first time in fifteen years. 

Even more shocking was when the senior vice president in charge of Google’s Knowledge and Information organization said: “In our studies, something like almost 40 percent 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.”

Keep reading to learn more about why people use social media as a search engine and how it’s changing the virtual marketing and advertising world.

3 Examples of Using Social Media as a Search Engine

The idea of people using social media as a search engine isn’t new. But as pointed out above, Gen Z is developing new search habits not seen before. 

  1. YouTube

YouTube was one of the earliest and most popular examples of a social media platform used as a search engine. It gained a reputation for providing solutions to everyday problems and helping people learn new things. Many people went to YouTube instead of Google to develop new skills, learn how to fix something, or discover the right way to cook a meal.

Even today, people use it for: 

  • News
  • Tutorials
  • In-depth learning of new skills
  • Entertainment

Like TikTok and Instagram, YouTube has introduced “Shorts” that feature short videos by its content creators, although they haven’t seen the same level of popularity experienced by other platforms. 

  1. TikTok

TikTok has taken over the social media space, becoming the fastest-growing social network. As mentioned above, TikTok passed Google as the most popular domain in the first quarter of 2022. 

Over a decade after YouTube’s creation, TikTok has skyrocketed in popularity for reasons similar to the ones that first launched YouTube’s success. The platform revolves around the content of real people who film themselves doing various activities for entertainment and educational purposes.

People search on TikTok for:

  • Recipes
  • Fashion ideas
  • Educational content
  • Beauty tips

The platform recently added “Collections,” which users use to save and organize their favorite videos like a Pinterest board.

  1. Instagram

Instagram has become so much more than a place to post vacation photos and your best selfies. Many people, including Gen Z, use it to find authentic opinions on a variety of subjects. 

People search on Instagram for:

  • Recipes
  • Local attractions 
  • Fashion ideas
  • Interior decorating ideas 

Like TikTok, the platform has “Folders” that let users organize and save their favorite images and videos.

Why Is Everything Changing?

In some ways, what’s happening right now is an evolution of what’s happened before, like YouTube surpassing cable. 

The big factor here is Gen Z. 

Gen Z prefers to use social media as a search engine because they find Google results tiresome to search through. They feel the results aren’t accurate and want more authentic information for opinion-related subjects. 

Gen Z also likes that TikTok and Instagram offer more up-to-date information than Google, which they find particularly useful for restaurant- or travel-related searches. If a restaurant goes out of business, for example, social media will likely show a status update long before the website or Google Map’s listing is updated. 

TikTok and Instagram are popular because their videos are easier to digest. They offer short content, which works well with society’s increasingly short attention spans. 

What Does This Mean for the Future of Marketing?

The future of marketing and advertising is human and authentic. That’s what younger people who use TikTok and Instagram want. They like using these platforms to find local attractions and ideas on fashion, food, and interior design from actual people. 

Your content also has to be short and interesting. It’s not a coincidence that TikTok passed Google thanks to its short-form content. For example, many people say they like getting to recipes quickly versus having to scroll through an entire article to locate the recipe. 

Jump on the Short-Form Video Trend

Now is the time to focus marketing around short videos. Channel Factory can help you find the right videos and content creators to showcase your ads.

Our ViewIQ program finds videos that suit your brand using: 

  • Creator data
  • Performance data
  • Human reviews
  • Audio transcripts

Contact us to learn how to maximize your marketing efforts and get in front of the right audience.