Gen Z’s search habits are changing. Here, we take a look at the shift in behaviour and what it means for brands and news publications alike.
Gen Z is turning to TikTok as a way to make searches
Although Google has been one of the most popular search engine tools over the years, there has been a noticeable shift with TikTok being the go-to for young people. According to research by the UK’s communications watchdog, 7% of adults are using the video sharing platform to stay updated with the latest news, with the consumer demographic consisting of Gen-Zers.
This comes as a report from Reuters Institute indicated that a large number of young people who come from less educated backgrounds expressed that the news “can be hard to follow and understand” and that they are more likely to avoid it altogether.
TikTok is a popular choice for young news searchers due to its digestible content and visual learning style, where videos are usually kept short and captivating to their viewers. Content creators on the platform are noticing this trend, and are adapting their content to be more digestible to younger people. Although the app is known for its singing and dancing videos, creators are turning to the platform to discuss complex subjects, highlight the importance of social change and share knowledge on topics such as politics and healthcare.
What are the potential risks of this trend?
Using TikTok to consume news media has come with its doubts and questions. As more people turn to TikTok creators rather than reliable sources, the lines between verifiable factual reporting and misinformation and disinformation risk becoming ever more blurred. At times, these unreputable sources can be deemed as dangerous, causing harm to individuals and the TikTok community. This is particularly the case when topics such as medical misinformation and conspiratorial content bounce from one ‘For You’ page to another. The #JusticeForJohnnyDepp case was a trending topic for months on the app, with many users creating videos in support of the actor, often producing fancams and compilations of funny moments during the defamation trial. In contrast, many videos portrayed users’ disbelief of Amber Heard, who had claimed Depp was abusive by liberally “memeing” the actor. The case came to a decision this year in favour of Depp, with many questioning whether these TikTok videos had contributed to the outcome of the case.
What are the implications for Google and established news platforms?
As of 2021, TikTok has conquered Google to the top spot of the most popular domain, with the app being the most downloaded worldwide in 2022. Google itself has taken this defeat onboard and has been pushing video formats through its own YouTube Shorts due to short video being increasingly popular. Although it may be thought that TikTok is leading the way for news, an Ofcom report indicates that adults are still consuming more news from outlets such as BBC One and ITV. Even social media platform Facebook ranks higher than the video app, raking in 32% in popularity for adults to consume news.
However, these news outlets and their journalists are taking this shift onboard in a bid to keep up with the latest trends. Top journalists such as the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire have taken to the platform to report on the news, developing her videos in a way that young people can decipher. The TikTok page frequently consists of concise story reporting alongside simple, intelligible language that differs from the often sophisticated reporting conducted at the BBC.
What does the trend mean for brands?
Why should digital marketers and media agencies be paying attention to these changes? It is clear that short-form video content is proving popular online, and this demand will not be diminishing anytime soon as it has been predicted that video will possess 82% of all consumer internet traffic this year in a publication by Forbes. Marketers need to input short-form video content into their content strategies and learn and implement SEO into the platform. According to Colormatics, 93% of marketers have landed a customer via social media video, highlighting the undeniable importance of video format within the user journey.
Pippa Gilroy is a Digital Marketing MSc student, content creator and social media enthusiast with a passion for writing about the latest industry trends.
Instagram: @pippagilroy / TikTok: @gilroypippa / Twitter: @pippagilroy