Gen Z Is Turning to TikTok as Go-To Search Engine, Claims Google
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Gen Z Is Turning to TikTok as Go-To Search Engine, Claims Google

TikTok has already dominated the social media landscape. Now, its users are helping it become a search engine.

While at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference, Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan said internal research indicates that users aged 18 to 24 are forgoing Google Search or Maps and instead sending their inquiries to social media sites. Despite growing concern about misinformation on such platforms, TechCrunch reported that TikTok and Instagram are now steering attention away from the core feature that launched the company into notoriety.

“We keep learning, over and over again, that new internet users don’t have the expectations and the mindset that we have become accustomed to,” Raghavan said at the conference.

Google, for its part, wants to highlight TikTok and Instagram videos in its search engine. Additionally, Raghavan said the search engine is incorporating more visuals while also leaning into voice searches.

As TikTok users film their meals and often add short, quippy reviews, Raghavan said Gen Z is turning to social media apps for their next lunch spot. Many TikTok users turn to influencers for food suggestions, with Los Angeles restaurants like The Red Chickz and Paris Tokyo gaining notoriety on the app.

Users often check the app for a widerange of recommendations. Raghavan’s statements confirm that TikTok users are turning to the video-sharing app for information. Videos under the hashtag for facts, hacks and recommendations, #tiktoktaughtme, have gained a cumulative 8 billion views.

Influencers on TikTok, however, often do not accurately disclose when a video includes sponsored content, as required by the Federal Trade Commission. And marketing companies have shifted to incorporate ideologies, like Urban Legend, an ad-tech startup that recruits social media celebrities from macro to nano to create content around everything from climate change to discouraging mask mandates. Urban Legend’s strategy draws on the idea that users who turn to influencers for recipe recommendations or fashion trends may also trust their opinion on political issues—even if many of the posts were not flagged as sponsored.

TikTok has also come under fire for misinformation—from the potentially harmful abortion tips to internationalelections to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the app has been criticized for not doing enough to combat it. Google has also been criticized for how its algorithm can highlight misinformation, such as suggesting “fake” abortion clinics.

With TikTok’s growing popularity, Google must contend with how to capture Gen Z’s attention as they try to retain that audience. And TikTok, for all its problems, has helped communities come together to inform people about topics ranging from autism diagnoses for women to astrological terms to LGBTQ+ information. Suggestions get local, too, with Los Angeles residents sharing free things to do downtown, vintage stores to shop at and museums to visit—succinctly providing recommendations with flashy videos.

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The Lithium Race Takes Shape in the Salton Sea

Located roughly a hundred miles east of San Diego, the Salton Sea is California’s largest landlocked body of water, for now.

Measuring 5 miles across and 35 miles long in its current form, the lake was created by diverting water from the Colorado River into the region for agricultural purposes. Once a vacation destination renowned for its wildlife and wetlands, a series of environmental mishaps and mismanagement have left the lake toxically salty, shrinking and often malodorous. Conditions have gotten so bad that Palm Springs Life Magazine called the region’s transformation “the biggest environmental disaster in California history” in March of 2020.

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David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.