Is TikTok’s new search widget a threat to Google’s ad dollars?

With TikTok’s surreptitious addition of search widgets fuelling rumours that it’s reframing itself as a search engine, Google’s search algorithm may not be the only one brands need to worry about.

TikTok has continued its under-the-radar repositioning of its platform as more than just a social media app, adding widgets which better facilitate its search capabilities.

The popular video-sharing platform last week added search widgets for both iOS and Android devices. By adding TikTok’s search widget to their home screens, users can access the platform’s search functionalities more conveniently.

This is another example of the Chinese-owned company expanding the utility of its app, having previously run an ad in the UK featuring the tagline, “Search it with TikTok”. Some believe TikTok’s latest addition to its search functionality is in direct response to its would-be competitor Google adding a search widget of its own.

TikTok may have recognised an opportunity to emphasise the search aspect of its platform after Senior Vice President of Google Search, Prabhakar Raghavan, shared data from a study that found 40% of 18 to 24-year-olds in the US use TikTok or Instagram to search for lunch spots instead of Google Search.

In the UK, Ofcom recently posited that TikTok is the fastest-growing source of news among U.K. adults.

For marketers, the news of TikTok’s increasing popularity as a search engine is an important development to be aware of. It presents an opportunity for brands to leverage by attempting to optimise their ads or associated content to not only suit Google’s search algorithm, but perhaps TikTok’s too.