June 2, 2023
Industry Insight
Georgia Robin

Beyond Viral Videos: TikTok as a Powerful Search Engine

In today's digital age, social media platforms are constantly evolving to keep up with the changing needs and expectations of users. TikTok, a popular app known for its short-form videos, is no exception. While it was initially seen as a platform for dancing and entertainment, it has since evolved into a powerful tool for businesses to reach their target audience, competing with the likes of Google. In this article, we'll explore how TikTok is changing the game with the help of artificial intelligence and what we can expect to see in the future.

From Dance Videos to Discovery: TikTok's Evolution as a Search Engine

Using the same old search engines to discover new content online can become monotonous, which is why some are now switching it up and turning to TikTok. That’s right, the popular short-form video app has become more than just a platform for viral dance videos — it’s now a fully-fledged search engine in its own right. 

TikTok’s algorithm-driven search allows tailored content for each user, offering personalised content depending on your interests and preferences, making the platform engaging and a now turned-to place for content discovery. But it’s not just users who are benefiting from search engine capabilities on the app — businesses are starting to realise its potential as a powerful tool. Here we’ll explore TikTok’s potential as a search engine, as well as how businesses are utilising it and leveraging it to increase brand visibility and reach their desired audience. 

During the Brainstorm Tech conference last summer, Prabhakar Raghavan, a senior vice president at Google, revealed that according to their research, nearly 40% of youngsters don't rely on Google Maps or Search when searching for a place to have lunch. Instead, they prefer to use TikTok or Instagram for their food-related queries. This indicates the shift in the way younger generations approach content discovery. TikTok’s search engine capabilities are gaining traction among Gen Z and are being seen as a viable alternative to established search engines like Google and Bing. 

Unlocking the Potential of TikTok as a Search Engine for Businesses

TikTok’s search engine capabilities have opened up a new avenue for businesses to reach younger audiences in highly engaging and interactive ways. By leveraging the platform’s algorithm-driven search capabilities, businesses can create unique and targeted campaigns that resonate with their desired demographics. 

With over 1 billion monthly active users1, TikTok presents an incredible opportunity for businesses to leverage its potential as a search engine. Creating content that aligns with their brand messaging and values is key - businesses can engage with their audience on a personal level, build brand loyalty, and ultimately increase sales. To help you make the most of this platform, we've compiled some top tips for unlocking its full potential:

  1. Get creative with your hashtags. Hashtags function as a way of categorising and organising content, making it easier for users to find what they’re looking for, whether that be specific topics or interests. Using hashtags can also help your content appear on the “For You” page, which is a highly sought-after feature that can help your business to gain visibility and reach. 
  2. Optimise your profile. Your profile is the first touchpoint for potential followers and customers; it’s the first thing people will see when they come across your content so making sure it’s optimised will have a huge impact on your success. An optimised TikTok profile has a compelling profile picture, a concise and engaging bio describing your business or brand and what you offer, along with a call-to-action to entice people to your company’s website or store, encouraging engagement.
  3. Influencer collaboration. Collaborating with other businesses and influencers on TikTok can be a great way to reach new audiences and boost your visibility on the platform. However, it's important to note that not all collaborations will be a good fit for every business. It's crucial to find partners that align with your brand values and goals to ensure that you maintain your authenticity and credibility on the platform.
  4. Understanding the algorithm. Understanding engagement — how the algorithm prioritises engaging content, meaning videos with more likes, comments, shares, saves, views and duets are likely to be shown to a wider audience. Also aspects such as video completion rate (how long users watch a video for - those who have high completion rates are more likely to be shown), trending topics including sounds, challenges and hashtags and user behaviour - TikTok will take into account past behaviours of those on the platform and promote similar videos to them.
  5. Experiment with different formats. Keep it engaging, upbeat and entertaining! No one likes to watch the same old video on repeat - switch it up every now and then and you might find the winning formula - something that works for you and your audience. 

The Future of TikTok: What’s Next?

The reputation of TikTok as a platform for trending dances and hilarious memes is rapidly evolving. Despite the rise and fall of search engines like Google over time, the need for information accessibility remains constant. Businesses will always require assistance in making their information visible to their intended audience.

In the near future, video formats will likely take centre stage on TikTok, with less focus on Google optimisation and greater reliance on AI. 

So what does this mean? 
Essentially, with AI, TikTok has the potential to become even smarter, more personalised, and more addictive than it already is. Thanks to digital innovations and advancements in AI technology, the future of TikTok is undoubtedly set to be revolutionised. We’ve already seen it with ChatGPT - AI will enhance video creation tools, allowing users to create professional-looking videos with minimal effort. It will also suggest editing techniques and trending sounds by analysing the video content. Additionally, the next generation of consumers will drive voice search to the forefront, replacing traditional search bars.

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  1. https://www.demandsage.com/tiktok-user-statistics

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