If you’re one of the TikTok users who always checks the comments section, you must have noticed the little “search suggestion” at the top of the comments that started to appear somewhere in the last year. I will explain why this is very clever and will change the search engine game.
Why other search engines fall short
Up until very recently, people mostly depended on Google to find the source of any information. But what about contextual information or information related to a post on social media? Depending on Google meant that users would have to leave social media, go to Google, and search for this context. If there were no websites, news articles, blogs, or other social media entries that Google already indexed, you would have zero information about what’s going on.
I can almost hear some say: “What about the search function of other social media?”. To some extent, Twitter does offer search, but it isn’t always helpful in understanding context since you need to “know in advance” what keywords to search for in the first place. If you see a conversation without context, there wouldn’t be a way to understand it other than looking at other users’ comments under that tweet. Meanwhile, Instagram’s search has never been helpful on anything, and people use it more often to search for other people (see: stalking), places, or hashtags, but never for “the context”.
What TikTok does differently
TikTok seems to reel more and more into the “context-heavy search function” of its platform. This makes sense because research already shows that more and more GenZ uses the TikTok search engine rather than Google. Feeding the data about “what people searched after seeing this content” into the comments section to provide more context about the video is something very new and clever. Let’s see how the search suggestion works in action:
The TikTok Drama
To give an example, I’ll provide you with a relatively new “TikTok drama” about infidelity. The former American girl band star Danielle Cimorelli recently announced (in a now-deleted TikTok) that she and her husband, Emmyn are no longer together but kept the details private. This shocked their fans since Dani had provided alone for her husband for a long time and opened the “doors of fame” for him. Fans were very disappointed and kept asking for the reason for the breakup to no avail. Dani kept her silence.
But after some digging around, fans figured it out: He is rumored to have cheated on Dani on his first European tour. If you watched any of her recent videos of her doing “single” activities (like moving out, going out with friends, etc), you would have no idea why Dani is suddenly single. This is the point where TikTok helps you find the context. In any of her recent videos, if you went to the comments section, this is what you would see:
Clicking the search suggestions would take you to videos related to their breakup, explaining fan theories of why they think Emmyn cheated. In this way, TikTok is creating its own network between videos that might be useful for the viewer (pretty much like the YouTube video suggestions) but does it even more effectively since the suggestions are based on viewers’ search keywords and not entirely on the keywords/hashtags that the uploader used.
I think the search functionality of TikTok, now spreading to the comments section, and its success in providing not only authentic results but also providing “context to social media content” will place TikTok as a serious competitor to Google in the upcoming years. It will also be interesting to see how TikTok will choose to monetize this function. Are we going to end up auctioning for certain suggestions? Pay TikTok to show certain search keywords under our videos? This is an interesting discussion to have with marketing peers. Let me know what you think in the comments.