What Does TikTok Mean for the Future of Search-Related Content?

Author's avatar Marketing UPDATED Mar 15, 2024 PUBLISHED May 4, 2023 14 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    Is Google really the undefeated champion of search-related content? 

    The answer might just surprise you. 

    According to Google themselves, 40% of younger people refer to TikTok and Instagram when searching for content. TikTok, in particular, has given Google a run for its money as it dethroned the search engine giant to become the most popular domain worldwide in 2021. 

    But will TikTok eventually become the go-to place for people to search and discover content? 

    We sought to find this out by interviewing experienced marketers, so you can make the most of your marketing budget and reach your target audience on the platform they prefer. 

    Here’s what you can expect to learn when reading this article. 

    social-media-databoard-databox-template

    Are Companies Actively Using TikTok for Marketing? 

    People who think TikTok is a Gen Z fad are the same people claiming email marketing is dead. 

    There is no doubt that TikTok has become an effective marketing channel as more and more brands flock to create relevant, shorter pieces of content. 

    To back this up and determine how TikTok will shape the future of search-related content, we conducted a survey in which we interviewed 64 professionals. 

    Our respondents belong to the following; 

    • Agencies/consultants from marketing, digital, or media domains – 46.88% 
    • B2C services and products – 39.06% 
    • B2B services and products – 14.06%

    When asked about their experience with TikTok marketing, more than 70% of our respondents use it to reach their marketing goals. To put things into perspective, that’s 7 out of 10 marketers – pretty wild for an app that isn’t even a decade old yet. 

    Out of this 70%, 53% have been using TikTok for marketing for some time, and 17% have just started using it. 

    Interestingly, a quarter (25%) haven’t used it yet but plan to do so in the future, while almost 5% have no experience with using TikTok for marketing and don’t intend to use it in the future as well. 

    Are Companies Actively Using TikTok for Marketing?

    To understand further how actively engaged our survey respondents are with TikTok, we asked them about how frequently they use it on a personal level. 

    The majority of our respondents use TikTok personally, with 45.3% using it regularly and 45.3% accessing it occasionally. On the contrary, 9.4% of our respondents don’t use TikTok personally. 

    Are Companies Using TikTok for personally?

    Related: 12 TikTok Marketing Tips and Best Practices

    Who Companies Target with TikTok Ads? 

    One reason behind TikTok’s popularity is how authentic and trustworthy it is against its counterparts. 

    A study by TikTok and Nielsen revealed that 53% of TikTok users consider other users to be their true selves on the social app. 

    And what does trust mean in the world of marketing? 

    More and more people willing to sign up for your newsletter, book a demo, or purchase what you offer. 

    Naturally so, ads on TikTok sound like a wise business decision. 

    The same study stated that 68% of TikTok users believe advertising content on TikTok is unique and different from its competitors. Another study from Adweek revealed that nearly half of TikTok users had purchased a product/service after seeing it advertised/promoted/reviewed on the platform. 

    But which demographic is showing such impressive purchase behavior after viewing TikTok ads? 

    We asked our survey respondents who they can target with TikTok, and they stated that the best cohorts to target with TikTok now and in the future are Gen Z – born between 1997 and 2012 – and Millennials – born between 1981 and 1996. 

    Nearly a third of them believe that generations older than millennials – born before 1981 – would never be targetable with TikTok. 

    On the other hand, more than three-fourths of our respondents believe generations younger than Gen Z – born in 2013 and later – are a promising cohort when it comes to targeting via TikTok now and in the future. 

    Who Companies Target with TikTok Ads?

    Speaking of ads, one type of TikTok advertising getting a lot of traction is TikTok branded hashtag ads, whereby brands sponsor hashtag challenges. 

    Branded or not, using hashtags is a smart – and quick – way to reach your target audience and increase your visibility in For You feeds. 

    But how many hashtags are too many hashtags? 

    We asked our survey respondents about the number of hashtags they use on their TikTok videos, and the majority of companies use between 1 and 5 hashtags. 

    number of hashtags companies use on their TikTok videos

    What Do Younger Generations Search Habits Mean for the Future of Search and the Future of Content In General?

    Two things are certain. 

    1. TikTok is a widely used video-sharing app.  
    2. TikTok is not only used for just watching videos. 

    TikTok users, especially the younger generation, use it for finding local restaurants, comparing product reviews, and searching for DIY projects, among more. 

    In other words, the younger generation gravitates toward TikTok to search and discover content. 

    What does this mean for the future of search and content? Will TikTok replace Google as the preferred search engine is some specific areas? Will companies now create more content solely for TikTok? Will TikTok ads bring the highest return on investment? 

    We asked our survey respondents about this and have rounded the best answers for you. 

    Content Creation Tailored for Gen Z’s Search Preferences 

    Smartphones were created, and the internet was accessible well before the first Zoomer was born. 

    Gen Z and younger generations are accustomed to having heaps of information readily available at their fingertips. They are not used to waiting for a dial-up connection to work or skimming through multiple books at their local library to search for what they’re looking for. 

    When younger generations look up content on traditional search engines, they are greeted with multiple web pages featuring tons of fluff. This delays content consumption and prolongs decision-making as they now have to read and compare many web pages. 

    The same searches on TikTok result in short-form videos that contain answers to their queries in a to-the-point and simple way. Brands must adjust their marketing plans to make room for such content. 

    Oliver Caprile from Evolving Digital shares the same opinion, “The way in which Gen Z and younger audiences consume content is set to totally transform the way that businesses market online. Looking at the success of Mr. Beast’s restaurant (in LA) and the capital raise of Kim K’s new equity fund only highlight the transition towards content-driven decision-making factors.”

    “There are a number of prolific business minds that predict the end of the traditional business over the next 20 years as content becomes the dominant decision-making and research method for consumers. Direct-to-consumer brands that rely heavily on search-based methods of customer acquisition are going to see a gradual decline in keyword search volume as decision-making factors shift towards content platforms like TikTok & YouTube instead of Search Engines.”

    The younger generations also prefer using voice search instead of manually typing out their queries on their devices. Companies must create content optimized for voice search in hopes of appearing at the top of search results.  

    Evgenia Evseeva from SoundCampaign reinforces this, “The Gen Z’s and younger generations are the first to grow up with internet access and smartphones, so their search habits are drastically different than those of older generations. For example, they’re more likely to use voice search, which is powered by AI. This means that businesses need to start adapting their marketing strategies to include AI-powered voice search.”

    Lengthier Content Replaced by Consumable Content

    Try searching for a recipe on a traditional search engine. 

    Chances are the web page you opened first mentioned why this recipe is the GOAT (only fair if I use Gen Z slang in this article), where you can find the best ingredients, tips for getting the recipe right, and then after endless scrolling, you’ll see the actual recipe. 

    In contrast, the exact search on TikTok will show you a 60-second video that sticks to the actual recipe. No wonder the younger generations are flocking to TikTok to discover content. 

    Michael Daugherty from Borealis Digital Marketing shares how to truly win younger generations’ attention: 

    “Gen Z users have a high thirst for content but a lower attention span than any previous generation. This, therefore, means short, to the point and catchy content is key in order to attract and maintain their attention.”

    Michael Daugherty

    Michael Daugherty

    Creative Director at Borealis Digital Marketing

    Want to get highlighted in our next report? Become a contributor now

    Google, and other search engines, recommend those pages against a search query that it deems to be of the highest quality and relevancy. In most scenarios, to create a valuable piece, writers include additional sections which elaborate on a topic but, at the same time, slightly deviate from the main discussion point. 

    Youngsters may find this off-putting when looking for a quick answer to their query, which can be achieved through a short-form video. 

    Lotus Felix from Lotusbrains Studio adds, “Skyscraper content (and ‘Ultimate Guides’) could go extinct (as) Gen Z are notorious for their impatience. They would be yawning by the fifth minute of your content. That is why short videos win on Gen-Z-optimized platforms like TikTok and Instagram. It will be challenging to see a Gen Z audience patiently reading through a 2000+ word ultimate guide as typical of skyscraper content.” 

    Felix further says, “Examining the future of search from Gen Z habits, we could envisage encompassing and exhausting guides being replaced with highly socially engaged bite-sized videos that concisely cover just one point in a super-entertaining way. We expect to see more content pulverization.” 

    “So instead of having a 5000-word guide on everything about SEO, you may have a 300-word tip on keyword research garnished with some few seconds videos on that precise keyword tip.”

    Related: Best Short Video Apps: When to Choose TikTok, Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts

    Utilization of SEO at All Stages

    Companies have relied on effective SEO strategies to make it easier for searchers to find their content. SEO has always been important and will continue to be so in the future. 

    Changes may be seen in the way content is produced, but SEO strategies will be used to make it easier for algorithms to showcase this content irrespective of the platform. 

    With younger generations gravitating towards searching queries on TikTok, marketers must use relevant keywords, add hashtags, and leverage popular trends to increase their visibility.

    Beth Cooper from KNB Communications reinforces this, “Gen Z accepts algorithms and personalization of content; they expect they will be served content (including ads) that are relevant to their interests. This means that marketers have to keep SEO in mind at all stages and make it easy for algorithms to categorize their content.” 

    Cooper further adds, “Gen Z searchers also make use of voice search more so than other generations, so using keywords strings that consider that syntax will also be beneficial when creating content. Obviously, more time investment in creating social content, including video, is imperative, but currently, the production value does not have to be incredibly high, and in some cases, that corporate polish might actually turn off Gen Z.”

    Even though the search preferences of Gen Z and younger generations are different, it doesn’t automatically eliminate the importance of traditional search engines and the current consumption of content. 

    Peter Lee from Famlee Digital agrees, “I don’t see social media overtaking the use of search engines any time soon, after all, organic search still holds the most weight across all marketing channels.”

    Lee agrees with the importance of using SEO for traditional search engines and social channels as well. 

    “By utilizing the data from how Gen Z uses social media, combining that with a knowledge of social media SEO (which is now becoming more important, and more prominent to help users gain traction and target specific audiences), you can begin to find a space that your business can thrive in.”

    “The digital space is ever-evolving, and if you aren’t evolving with it, it can become easy to get left behind. The investment in social media is important, as it plays a big part in the market, and is where people are.”

    Related: Social Media and SEO: How They Work Together to Boost Your Visibility

    Greater Focus on Product Quality Than Brand Loyalty

    “Gen Z’s are not as engaged in brand loyalty as previous generations,” says Ben Grindlow from ProXpn

    This is interesting to note since many companies employ loyalty-based programs to ensure their customers don’t switch to their competitors. 

    Gen Z and people younger than them focus on finding the best deal, which is also reflected in their search choices. 56.1% of Zoomers use the word “best” in their searchers as compared to Boomers (30.3%) and Gen X (32%). 

    With countless choices available today and access to comparison and review sites, the younger generation is more focused on finding the best products, quality, service, features, etc., instead of staying loyal to a certain brand. 

    Grindlow further adds, “This generation is more concerned with product and service quality as well as responsive customer service. This means that Gen Z’s are most likely to search for much better products than their previous searches. That’s what businesses and companies have to improve on; to capture Gen Z’s search habits to gain attention for their business. This means content should be relevant and well-suited to this generation’s interests and expectations. “

    Mobile-First Content Creation

    If there is one place where you can find the younger generation, it is on their smartphones. It only makes sense that content created for them displays ideally on smaller screens. If not, they’ll move on to the next creator or company in no time. 

    Ann McFerran from Glamnetic reinforces this, “Companies will need to focus on being mobile-first, which Google has noticed and has responded to by favoring mobile-first when indexing. It is in companies’ best interest to optimize their content for mobile if they hope to reach Gen Z consumers.”

    The rise of TikTok, and other video-sharing platforms, doesn’t mean the end of traditional search engines. In the times to come, both will work harmoniously to deliver the type of content being demanded by people. 

    Say a youngster learned about Notion after searching TikTok for the best productivity tools. They could then search on Google to read in-depth reviews and comparisons of Notion before making a decision. 

    Linda Shaffer from Checker supports this, “Gen Zers use search engines differently than other age groups. They are more likely to use multiple search engines, and they are more likely to click on the first result that they see. This means that content creators will need to make sure that their content is easily accessible and optimized for search engines.” 

    “The search habits of Gen Zers suggest that the future of search will be more fragmented. There will be more multiple search engines in use, and content creators will need to make sure that their content is optimized for each one.”

    Linda Shaffer

    Linda Shaffer

    Chief People and Operations Officer at Checkr

    Want to get highlighted in our next report? Become a contributor now

    Gen Z is well-informed. They know their way around the internet and can search for a content piece or company extensively yet easily. 

    Shakzod Khabibov from Natura Market agrees, “Generation Z members are naturals with contemporary technology and social media. Astute shoppers have exploited online behavior to get the most for their money, trying out various products before committing to one.” 

    “74% of Generation Z had made an online purchase, but they didn’t use a favorite site; instead, they browsed around using social networking, shopping apps, and traditional and digital media.”

    Key Insights: You can track how engaged your audience is with TikTok Ads Engagement Overview dashboard template. Based on the data shown, decide if you want to change your marketing strategy to be more engaging to Gen Zers.

    Repurposing Content at an All-Time High

    Content creation, in general, is a time-consuming activity. Be it a thorough guide or a 60-second video, a great deal of time is spent brainstorming, researching, writing/recording, and then editing. And with the pressure of being active on multiple channels, marketing budgets need to be generous, which in reality aren’t. 

    To satisfy people of all generations and their respective search preferences, your best bet is repurposing content. In other words, a single content piece can be recycled into different pieces to be used for different platforms. 

    An article comparing the 5 best email marketing tools on your website can be transformed into a YouTube video comparison, and the same can be made into 5 TikToks of each software’s reviews. 

    Kate Wojewoda of Spacelift shares the same narrative, “The best tip I could give for creating new content creation strategies would be to start learning to create shorter versions of the content you already have produced and try repurposing it for different platforms like Tiktok and Instagram. This trend and changes aren’t going away, and the faster you learn how to leverage them efficiently, it will be easier to adapt to a new reality for your brand.”

    Related: 11 Creative Ways to Repurpose Your Existing Content & Drive More Traffic

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    Stay on Top of Your TikTok Ad Campaigns with Databox 

    TikTok is the place to be if you want to maximize your reach and expand your audience. But just placing ads on TikTok doesn’t guarantee a high engagement and conversion rate. You need to monitor performance along the way and tweak your strategy to boost your success. 

    The best way to track the performance of your TikTok ads is through Databox. Here’s why: 

    • Monitor 400+ performance metrics, including reach, CTR, and CPC, in one single place. 
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    Just plug in the TikTok ads integration into your Databox account, choose your preferred metrics, and you’re all set. 

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    Author's avatar
    Article by
    Saffa Faisal

    Saffa is a freelance content writer for SaaS and B2B businesses. Besides writing, she enjoys indulging in the occasional Netflix binge, hanging out with friends, and cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

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