Search engine

Why brands should treat TikTok more like a search engine than a social media platform

TikTok promises new opportunities for content engagement and purchase pathways, especially when brands effectively leverage the platform’s search capabilities, writes Nativex’s Kirsty King.

/ Shingi Rice

Gen Z longed for a more organic, user-centric approach to online interactions. TikTok has been able to accomplish what other media platforms have failed to do so far: create a community where user input is not only encouraged; it requires the platform. With this community comes loyalty and increased information sharing.

In doing so, TikTok may have inadvertently stumbled upon a huge digital gem: search.

Recent data indicates that nearly 40% of Gen Z internet users do not use Google search products for discovery; it gave even more credence to TikTok’s immersive video approach to the internet. TikTok thrives on trending content – and its search functionality is no different.

Recognizing and analyzing trends will be a key differentiator between a brand’s Google and TikTok search strategy. Including your brand in the TikTok discussion will blur the lines between social and search and make it easier for users to discover products.

So how can TikTok provide better ROI and keep your brand top of mind?

The main appeal of TikTok is its ability to sustain and engage users organically. This shows through the platform and its advertising products – from user-generated content to hashtag challenges that have become a staple for organizations looking to build brand awareness.

Purchasing decisions

One of the most powerful ways to fuel marketing growth on TikTok is to engage throughout the buying journey.

TikTok directs purchase decisions differently, deviating from the traditional linear approach to purchase and instead using a self-proclaimed “infinite loop” – a loop where search, reviews and participation can all have an impact. and equal membership rates. It’s crucial for brands to understand this framework thoroughly – rather than simply allocating resources to media buying.

Additionally, building a community is key, as users can quickly become brand advocates through hashtag challenges, tutorials, or reviews. Prioritizing attendance is a well-established post-purchase marketing tactic, but it has rarely been used as a tool for discovery and buy-in. With the right approach, marketers new to TikTok can tap into that potential.

Diversify your marketing mix

Recommendation-based marketing is evolving and now relies more on engagement. Fortunately, prioritizing engaging content doesn’t have to be expensive.

Working with influencers can be a cost-effective alternative to Google Search or Shopping if you understand a given influencer’s audience and niche well enough. Small Gen Z-focused brands are succeeding with this strategy, especially in competitive verticals like beauty and fashion.

Although TikTok’s popularity continues to rise, it’s important to remember that relevance will be a better measure of success than reach. Here, micro-influencers often resonate better with target audiences because users are looking for authentic and localized content. Localization is especially important for brands with specific geographic or language requirements, as it helps identify relevant keywords and hashtags during campaign planning.

TikTok search discovery allows brands and apps to diversify their marketing approach on TikTok. The creator-focused content strategy has already opened the door for brands to better engage with users, and with TikTok’s renowned recommendation algorithms, search will provide more user touchpoints for conversion.

Kirsty King is Senior Director of Customer Growth at Nativex.