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TikTok as a new search engine for Gen Z

There are a couple of reasons why marketing managers tend to consider TikTok as a new search engine for Gen Z.

Customer Success Team
February 12, 2024

The ongoing popularity of TikTok is easy to take for granted. What was once a fridge social media platform quickly boomed, especially among the younger crowd. Soon it was able to compete with giants like Facebook and Instagram with relative ease. Well, another platform that TikTok is starting to compete with is Google. Namely, while most of us are familiar with TikTok, not all are aware of all the different ways in which people use it. While some use it to simply pass the time, others are more active and use TikTok to inform themselves. In this aspect, it is arguably to consider TikTok as a new search engine for Gen Z.

Is TikTok as a search engine?

At first glance, it might seem strange to consider TikTok as a search engine. But, if we take a step back and examine more closely how people use it we'll soon find convincing reasons for why some consider it a search engine.

There are good reasons why marketing managers consider TikTok as a new search engine for Gen Z.

Now, of course, no one is going to go to TikTok to do research for an academic paper. But, if they need to find reviews for a certain brand, or they need to check out what the vibe is in a local coffee shop, TikTok can be of value. Once you learn the basics of how to use it, TikTok will provide you with valuable info in a short period. What would otherwise be a prolonged search on Google, TikTok would show and inform in a fraction of the time. Gen Z has long recognized this and is slowly turning to TikTok as a more casual alternative to Google. This is an important turn, especially for emerging brands as managing SEO in 2024 can be quite challenging.

Adobe study

There was a recent survey that Adobe did recently, and they've found some interesting stats regarding TikTok use. What they've found is that 49% of millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and 29% of Gen X (born between 1965 and 1981) use, or have used TikTok as a search engine. Meanwhile, 64% of GenZ tend to rely on TikTok for their online searches. 10% even report that they are more likely to use TikTok than Google if they need to find something out. The top things they search for on TikTok are:

  • Recipes
  • Music
  • DIY tips
  • Fashion advice

Meanwhile, the top content types they look for are:

  • Video tutorials
  • Product or service reviews
  • Personal stories or anecdotes
  • Trending challenges and memes
  • Influencer recommendations
  • Guides

What this study has clearly shown is that TikTok is slowly growing not just as a social media platform, but as a full-fledged search engine. It also clearly shows that videos are quite effective for user activation and that they can even be used for user retention.

Why the increased rise in popularity

As it is with most online trends, there are multiple reasons why TikTok can be seen as a new search engine for Gen Z. Modern social media trends, emerging technologies, and our response to those technologies have made TikTok what it is today. So, let's take a look at why TikTok is so popular.

Value of video content

Firstly, we need to consider the fact that we are slowly getting accustomed to video content. While before you could expect people to read about what interests them, this is simply no longer the case. Especially among Gen Z. Younger audiences have grown up watching video content. And, therefore, they've grown accustomed to getting their information from videos. So, instead of going to Google and looking for articles, they will opt for video content whenever possible. Mind you Gen Z still has reading habits. It is only that they are different from previous generations.

Young person reading.
Gen Z still read. It is just that their reading habits differ from the older generations.

Of course, even they understand that certain information is either too complex or too detailed to be presented in a video format. But, for the more mundane, everyday things, a video will be more than enough.

Storytelling approach

A big part of what makes video content so alluring is that it naturally employs a storytelling approach. Namely, if video content creators want to make their content interesting, they will likely have to frame it as a story. After all, that is essentially what they are doing. A simple still-faced recitation of facts, details, and conclusions won't feel engaging or interesting. And in the modern era where interesting content is always a click away, this is a big no-no. Content creators have long recognized this, as chose to make their content naturally interesting through storytelling. By speaking face-to-face to their camera as if it were their audience, they can create engaging content with minimal effort.


As a result of being able to create engaging content with relative ease, we were able to see a staggering increase in UGC (User Generated Content). Even before TikTok was available, people have created videos. But, these were mostly fun-based clips or professionally made videos for specific subjects. Even with social media, videos weren't exactly the highlight of Facebook and Instagram. But, as TikTok developed, so did the relevant technologies. Back in the days of Facebook and Instagram, both the devices and the internet speed weren't advanced enough to support mass video production. Meanwhile today, pretty much all devices can support videos.

A man creating a short video for a TikTok
It has never been easier to create and post high-quality videos to a broad audience.

Another important aspect to consider is that editing is a big part of video creation. In fact, the main reason why UGC was slow to develop in the case of videos is that editing and processing took a lot of time. Meanwhile, modern technologies make editing and processing quick and easy. With a click of a button or a swipe of a finger, people can try different filters, effects, and animations. This makes it far easier to create decent content that will look nice on various devices.

Now, why is all of this important? Well, because it is so easy to create quality UGC, TikTok is able to cover a wide variety of subjects. People from all walks of life can create videos and share their impressions, knowledge, and experience. Therefore, TikTok grew enough to be able to cover a wide array of interests. This extensive library that TikTok has accumulated made it possible to accommodate various searches and needs that users might have.

The attention span of modern users

The last thing to note is the ever-shrinking attention span of modern users. While before users could be expected to pay attention if they believe your content is interesting, this is no longer the case. Unless you hook the viewer right off the bat, you can hardly expect that they will view your content, even if they've looked for it. Why? Well, simply because there are alternatives. Unless your content is completely unique, which is rarely the case, users will look for something that is similar, but more interesting.

Now, it is by no means true that you only need to use short videos. Longer video formats have made something of a comeback in the past couple of years. And even users on TikTok sometimes opt to separate their videos into different parts in order to cover larger subjects. As long as your videos are interesting, people will view them.

How TikTok helps users

Besides the nature of the content, it is also important to note that TikTok took active steps to make searching easier. If it were a simple library of user-generated videos, TikTok wouldn't amount to much as a social media platform, let alone a search engine. But, because it has quite an advanced algorithm working behind the scenes, TikTok is able to provide the right info to the interested user.

Search bar

First and foremost, TikTok features a search bar at the top of the app interface. While seemingly a small thing, it does present the first step in making TikTok an actual search engine. Through it, users can input keywords, hashtags, or usernames to find specific content or accounts.

Content discovery

Content search on TikTok functions in a similar fashion to Google. After all, why fix what isn't broken? You type in keywords or hashtags related to your interests. Then, TikTok's algorithm presents a feed of videos based on relevance, popularity, and engagement. TikTok algorithm also keeps track of your previous views and uses that knowledge to further filter the videos it will show you. That way you always seem to get content that is perfectly suited for you.

Similar to other social media platforms, TikTok relies heavily on hashtags for content categorization and discovery. Users can search for specific hashtags to find related content or trends. This further eases the search process and gives TikTok another way to relate different videos. TikTok also showcases trending topics and challenges, allowing users to discover popular content and join in on viral trends.

Account Search

As we mentioned, the crux of TikTok is the UGC. People often choose to follow a specific user as they make the type of content that suits them. TikTok, of course, recognized this and made it easier to search for specific accounts or creators by typing their usernames directly into the search bar. This feature enables users to find and follow their favorite creators or explore content from new accounts.

TikTok user profile feed
TikTok is surprisingly good at finding users, even if you only have vague information about them.

Final thoughts on TikTok as a new search engine for Gen Z

To sum things up, it is fairly safe to consider TikTok as a new search engine for Gen Z. Now, will the be the dominant search engine? Highly unlikely. While TikTok does bring its own content flavor through engaging videos, it still cannot fully replace the written content. After all, some information simply must be written in order to be properly appreciated. So, while we feel that TikTok will only improve as time goes on we don't feel that it will replace Google anytime soon.

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