TikTok the new Google? Young people get results with new search engine

When Ashley Storino wants a new pair of black boots or book recommendations, she knows what gets results — and it’s not Google.

No blue links for this 22-year-old digital marketer. Rather than crawling through search results pages, it open TikTok instead, quickly analyzes video after video and checks comments to make sure she can trust the content. It’s only when she knows precisely what she’s looking for that she first turns to Google.

“Let’s say I want to find the best mascara. I used to search Google and those results had articles and blogs with top 10 lists or top lists. As someone who’s worked in marketing and PR, I know a lot of these listings are often, if not always, influenced by third parties or brands trying to get products into an article,” Storino said.

“Now I turn to TikTok to get honest reviews from real people. I can search for a brand of mascara or “best mascara” and there are all these people who have reviewed and can talk about the product. It’s much more relevant and you know who is giving you the information. And then you can go to the comments section and see if the same information is reinforced.

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Is Tiktok becoming the new Google?

A growing number of young people are using the short video app best known for his dance moves and viral hijinks the way others use Google, to find a new lunch spot or a movie to watch, plan a weekend getaway, or update their wardrobe.

They also rely on TikTok for questions that were once Google’s bread and butter, such as health tips or a skincare regimen.

“Consumers are turning to social media, especially TikTok, because it feels more authentic,” said Jenna Drenten, associate professor of marketing at Loyola University Chicago. “Google feels incredibly overwhelming in today’s internet economy. It’s just inundated with content.

In this file photo from September 28, 2020, a view of the TikTok app logo, in Tokyo.

TikTok takes Google as a search engine

A study commissioned by Google among American users aged 18 to 24 found that nearly 40% use TikTok or Instagram to search on line.

“We keep learning, over and over again, that new internet users don’t have the expectations and mindset that we’ve grown accustomed to,” said Prabhakar Raghavan, who leads the knowledge and development organization. information from Google, in July at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference. .

Google, under antitrust scrutiny in the United States and Europe, is urged to point to growing competition. “You know, none of us were talking about TikTok three years ago,” Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent Alphabet, said at Vox Media’s Code conference earlier this month.

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Google has more than 90% market share and is not at risk of being overthrown. While TikTok can be an inspiring place to find a Halloween costume or ideas for your fall wardrobe, Google is the fastest way to search for a news article or get directions to the office. job.

Google spokesperson Mallory De Leon said the company’s searches “did not reveal that they used TikTok instead of Google, but often additionally.”

Teens and young adults prefer TikTok because it’s more visual and authentic

These changing habits among teens and young adults signal a dramatic generational shift, says Natalie Penningtonassistant professor of communication at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

With many videos under a minute, “I can consume that information and quickly move on,” Pennington said.

“There’s a very visual component to it,” she added.

Natalie Rose Pennington, assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Department of Communication.

Pennington turned to TikTok when looking for a duffle bag that would fit the dimensions of Spirit Airlines’ personal items.

“It was fantastic,” she said. “(I could) see it and see people load the bag versus a Google search where someone would say, ‘this is the best bag.'”

Social media apps like TikTok and Instagram also allow users to interact with content creators with comments, questions, and likes.

“It’s quite a social process, which people can get a lot of satisfaction out of,” said Yini Zhang, an assistant professor at the State University of New York in the Department of Communication at Buffalo.

Karishma Jashani relies on the Internet for all sorts of questions: where should she go on a date? What will a certain mark of makeup look like on her complexion? What is a good salad recipe?

But instead of typing her queries into a traditional search engine, Jashani is turning to social media. The 26-year-old content creator said she goes to Google for less than 30% of her searches now, reserving it for “serious” matters like maps and news.

For almost everything else, she opens TikTok.

“It’s so much more efficient,” said Jashani, who is based in Singapore. “It’s just faster to get information than to browse through multiple sources” on Google.

Unlike Google, TikTok has a sense of immediacy, says Jashani.

“It’s so small,” she told USA TODAY. “With Google, it’s more static where you just have to scroll through a bunch of text.”

But should TikTok be trusted?

Zhang noted that apps like TikTok and Instagram have an advantage in sourcing from dozens of users — “average people from all corners of society” — instead of a few large websites or media outlets.

While this can help deliver more diverse voices, it can also lead to lower quality results. Zhang warned that turning to social media for information could be a hotbed of misinformation and misinformation.

TikTok increasingly presents itself as a place of learning. Last month, TikTok began testing a new feature that highlights keywords in the comments section that take users to search results for the term. Earlier this year, he launched an advertising campaign, #TikTokTaughtMe, which launched the slogan “there is no limit to the knowledge that can be discovered on TikTok”.

A September 16, 2022 screenshot of the TikTok app showing its new search feature, which highlights keywords.

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Yet users, mostly teens and young adults, routinely come across false or misleading claims when searching for information on TikTok, according to a researcher. NewsGuard study.

Nearly 20% of searches sampled by Newsguard on hot topics such as COVID vaccines and the Russian invasion of Ukraine contained misinformation, NewsGuard found.

“TikTok – whose library of user-generated videos can be easily searched by typing keywords into its search bar – has repeatedly shown videos containing false claims in the top 20 results, often in the top five. “says the NewsGuard report. “Google, by comparison, delivered higher quality and less polarizing results, with far less misinformation.”

Viral TikToks can be dangerous. The Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers that a hack to keep avocados fresh longer by putting them in an airtight container filled with water inside the refrigerator could make people seriously ill.

The TikTok social media app on an iPhone.

“I see a lot of downsides to this trend, especially with TikTok, which is such an algorithmic platform,” Zhang said. “It’s hard for people to spot misinformation and misinformation.”

While many internet users have been trained on how to spot trusted sources on Google — websites with a .edu or .gov tag, for example — the same rules don’t apply to social media.

“I think it’s more entertaining than informative,” Zhang said.

Amanda J. Marsh