The Rise of TikTok as a Search Engine

15 May 2022
by Annie-Mai Hodge
4 mins
The Rise of TikTok as a Search Engine

TikTok exploded onto the scene with perfect timing, filling the hole that Vine left (RIP), after it was purchased by Twitter.

And the app only grew in popularity when the pandemic hit.

I remember thinking to myself: “I’ll never download TikTok, what’s the point?”

But inevitably, I caved. I downloaded TikTok and I haven’t looked back since. In lockdown, it became more of a comfort. It made it possible to connect with people all over the world in a time when you couldn’t go outside unless it was a necessity.

And I found myself using TikTok as an escape more than anything at that time – which I’m sure many people did. Not in a sad escape way, but more of a “let’s find some hilarious, wholesome or relatable content to help me forget about the goings-on in the world” – aka, the pandemic.

But the way I use TikTok has changed.

Well, not entirely.

I am constantly curating my perfect feed due to the incredibly smart algorithm – which is full of funny content, plenty of dogs and – ironically – reposts of popular Vines (it will live on!).

TikTok as a Search Engine 

What’s equally smart about TikTok is the search feature.

Yes, I know, every other social platform has a search feature but not quite like this.

When I want to know the best restaurants to visit, or the best places to explore, I don’t turn to Google, I turn to TikTok and that is how my use of the app has changed.

And I’m not the only one.

I ran a poll on Girl Power Marketing’s LinkedIn account asking my audience if they use TikTok as a search engine. Out of 757 votes, here are the results…

424 people voted for yes.

274 people voted for not really.

59 people were just interested in the results.

Although a fairly small pool of people, it’s interesting to note that over half of those who voted already used TikTok as a search engine.

And some of those who voted for not really commented to say that they hadn’t thought of using the app for search engine purposes.

Another commenter mentioned that they had used TikTok for recommendations of things to do in the place that they were going on holiday.

And that’s exactly what I use it for.

Sure, I don’t use TikTok’s search feature to find out what the longest word is according to the Oxford Dictionary (it’s pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, by the way) but I do use it for finding holiday recommendations, how to be more environmentally friendly, hidden gems in cities that I’m going to visit, trendy coffee shops, cooking recipes, physics facts, clothing hauls and so much more.

How businesses can benefit from TikTok 

My point? As a business, if you can use TikTok – use it. The opportunity to reach your audience in a different way, and further your reach to new audiences is HUGE.

You’ve got brands like Duolingo creating unhinged content with a big, sassy, green owl trying to get Dua Lipa’s attention and taking part in trends, which has seen the account grow to over four million followers.

And you’ve got brands such as Ryanair, who, let’s face it, don’t have the best reputation (being named among the worst airlines for short-haul flights) for creating funny videos, which most notably include one of its planes with the eyes and mouth of a human – I imagine that human being the social media manager.

Which is great, but these brands are already established and well recognised – it’s the businesses that risk collapse if they don’t increase app downloads or get people to book more flights.

However, it’s so possible for small-medium sized businesses to find success and beyond on TikTok.

TikTok identifies three main ways in which small businesses are finding “real” success on TikTok.

• Being authentic and creative:

You don’t need a large marketing budget to find success on TikTok. Creating content that resonates with your audience, making your brand more personable by taking part in trends and showing a level of authenticity that you can’t portray on other platforms is all part of the secret sauce of TikTok success.

• Sparking discoveries and new connections:

Unlike other platforms, you can reach your audience and beyond in ways that were not previously possible. I have discovered so many brands that I would never have known about if they hadn’t popped up on my feed.

• Turning the small wins into big results:

Celebrating small wins – such as achieving a certain number of views – is one thing, but it can turn into something much larger than that. You may find that products sell out or you obtain more leads.

So, if you think you’ve missed the window for joining TikTok, this is your sign that it’s absolutely not too late to join the app. When creating content, keep in mind what your audience may already be searching for. Take a good look at your competitors, trending sounds and popular hashtags, and give your brand a whole new lease of life on TikTok.

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