The search is on: why Gen Z is ditching Google for TikTok and Instagram

It stands to reason that social app users accustomed to a particular platform will conduct their searches in the same space. So how can marketers ensure their message is reaching the right audience?

Charlotte Willmott, Senior Audience Intelligence Analyst at iCrossing UK, explains why it's important to understand the intent behind consumer searches in order to properly meet their needs

Nearly half of Gen Z is using TikTok and Instagram for search instead of Google, according to Google’s internal data announced last week. An intriguing fact, but when it comes to search platform preference, the focus should always be on user intent and expectations, over any interesting generational habits. Of course, it is extremely interesting and relevant that we are seeing new search behaviours emerge from the new generations, as they grow up with a more diverse range of search platforms to choose from and social channels to peruse, and the case with Gen Z and TikTok is the perfect example of this.  

We are living in a world where TikTok’s suggested searches are an option, and as such, users are taking advantage of social platforms that can inspire them, help them discover new things of interest and places to visit, using these social channel search functionalities. But when it comes to the question of search platform preference or dominance, the intent behind the search will still always dictate the selection of platform usage.  

When Gen Zs use search, using news stories as an example, they go so much further than just discovering the facts, they are additionally seeking opinions and commentary to gain a more holistic view of the world. Similarly, if users have a general interest in a topic but want to discover something new about it; receive quick-fire video content, gain a social consensus, recommendations, or an array of viewpoints, TikTok is most likely going to be their search destination, as this is the platform that can deliver on these new demands.

Equally, regardless of any untrustworthy ‘information’ or unverified content that might be consumed by Gen Zs, having grown up with and using the internet, they are an internet-savvy generation and are perhaps not given enough credit for this fact. As an example, they actively seek verified and reputable sources for certain topics, such as subjects connected with their own education and learning. It is safe to apply this to other more specific topics of interest for this generation. Such as if users are looking for a more established, verified and longer form answer, whether it be a specific question, looking for directions to a pre-selected destination, or are seeking to purchase something directly through a brand or reseller site, then Google will likely be the popular choice.

Here at iCrossing, we take a holistic look at user intent and expectation for any given subject matter across both search and social listening. Overlaying search data with social listening helps us to gain a more inclusive and granular view of users. We can achieve a deeper understanding of the intent behind their searches, uncover consumer needs and demands and discover what they are engaging with, regardless of their generational habits. Furthermore, as soon as we understand intent behind topics in search, we can uncover the content expectation a user wants to be served with off the back of the search. 

We regularly find nuances between what users want from a Google search, compared to that of a search within a social channel, and it is essential that brands are identifying these differences. This is important in ensuring that brands are focussing their visibility efforts on the search platforms that are going to be more valuable to their key audiences. Equally, it supports brands in having the ability to produce content that is fit for purpose across the different platforms and that will have optimal opportunity to rank in search results. 

By Charlotte Willmott

Senior Audience Intelligence Analyst

iCrossing UK