The TikTok Tidal Wave – Is It About To Overtake Our Marketing Strategies?

This time last year, TikTok officially surpassed Google as the world’s most popular site. The perfect storm of lockdown boredom, a Vine-shaped hole in our hearts to fill and the demise of other social media platforms saw this relatively new idea rocket past its competitors. To date, there are over 1.5 billion active monthly users on the app, just under 20% of the entire population of the globe. Let that sink in.

With such colossal usage figures and endless potential, many are now questioning whether TikTok will overtake the likes of Google as the go-to search engine, as well as whether it will replace traditional news outlets, and basically become our one-stop shop for all things social in 2023 and beyond. It’s an interesting idea that everyone in the PR and comms industry should take seriously. Let’s look into this a little more.

Will TikTok Replace Google?

I’ll start by saying that personally, I don’t believe TikTok, nor any other site will ever come close to replacing Google and its influence on the searching world. I think I could approach anyone in the street and ask them to look something up for me, and the first thing they’d do is open up their web browser – not TikTok. I’m sure most in the industry would agree with me on this too.

But that being said, I understand the sentiment of those who believe that TikTok *could* become the next big search engine. Because it churns out a lot more inspirational content. For example, if you were looking for Christmas present inspiration or NYE party outfit ideas, you might be more likely to look this up on social than via a web search due to the quality of the results.

Presently, 92% of all searches are conducted on Google – and despite TikTok stealing a march on the site’s traffic – that’s a stat that’s going to be nearly impossible to chip away at. I completely understand the value of TikTok for idea-motivated searches, but realistically, what percentage of all searches fit into this box? I imagine not all that many, meaning that whilst TikTok probably does pose a genuine threat to some of Google’s users, the number of those searches in the grander scheme of things is probably very, very small.

But this is still important for PRs to take note of.

We all know how important SEO is to any good marketing campaign. Being visible on SERPs can bring in a lot of traffic, be it navigational, transactional, or informational – most users are valuable to your business in one way or another. In this industry, we can find ourselves spending a lot of time writing for and optimising for Google, so if TikTok is stealing some of that traffic – shouldn’t we be considering augmenting it too?

In my opinion yes. But not in the traditional SEO methods you may be used to. TikTok is all about inspiration. So where you may work on a blog to provide information to a user or optimise a landing page to enhance conversions – I think SEO on TikTok is all about creating genuinely engaging content that can stir and enthuse a watcher. I’m sure there’s no harm in creating content specifically for potentially high-volume searches such as “UK staycation inspiration” or “first date outfit ideas”, but I’d concur that the best method is to create a post that not only answers the user’s question but offers them choice, vision and above all – inspiration. What that looks like specifically is really up to the individual user or business on TikTok but figuring it out is all part of the fun!

What About The News Sites?

Another argument is that TikTok is becoming our news source, and more traditional outlets are losing out as a result. Ofcom did find it to be the fastest-growing source of current affairs for adults this year, but I think this is another statistic to take with a pinch of salt. Personally, I get a great deal of my ‘bitesize’ news from social media, for example through Twitter Trending or I might even hear about something for the first time on my TikTok ‘for you page’. BUT… I’ll go and search online to find out more – and this nearly always takes me to one of the nationals or regionals depending on the context.

Image: Guardian / TikTok

This means that there’s absolutely still value in traditional PR and communicating your news through the channels we’re used to – because they’re still incredibly valuable, a better source for conveying long-form content, AND, you have to consider that not all of your audiences are going to be on TikTok and other social media channels. The best strategies will cover all bases. The latest research by Statista still shows the BBC and ITV trump the rest of their competition in terms of being the leading news source, and even Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Instagram sit far higher than TikTok.

Is TikTok Going To Overtake Anything?

I don’t necessarily think that TikTok is going to replace any site or social platform in the coming months and years – because I think it’s entirely established in its own right. Ever since we lost Vine, there’s been a great big gap in the market for a social based around short-form video content; and TikTok managed to fill it right up just before Instagram came in with Reels. The fact that both are now thriving shows that there was a demand for this particular kind of USP and suggests to me that there’s no need to speculate what TikTok will replace – as it can co-exist with all other existing platforms and still do as well as it is doing currently. Isn’t that a nice thought?

Image: photo via YourNikonMan / GettyImages Remix by Jason Reed & The Daily Dot

How PRs Can Use TikTok To Their Advantage

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about TikTok, and I’d wager it won’t be the last. Any good PR will always have their curiosity piqued by an upcoming social platform or idea (go ahead and ask me how many of the Source PR team downloaded Mastodon a few weeks ago!) and it’s important in comms to always keep one eye on the things that are evolving.

You can read my blog on why you should consider using TikTok for your brand on our website, but in short, the premise is that it’s always about whether you have something of value to add to the conversation – and not just hopping on trends for the sake of it. Give my other blog a read, and as always, we’d love to know your thoughts. You can reach us on all the social media platforms including Twitter and LinkedIn (and TikTok, of course 😉)

If you’d like to find out more about how Source PR can support your social media strategy (and maybe even experiment with a few TikToks with you!) feel free to drop our friendly team a line. We’re always happy to chat.