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Are TikTok and YouTube the new Googles for generation Z?

By Aimee Earlam | Research executive

Savanta

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June 16, 2022 | 6 min read

As Google loses its prowess with generation Z, Savanta's executive in research, insight and consulting, Aimee Earlam questions whether TikTok and YouTube serve as adequate replacements.

Google has long served as an iconic search tool for many years. It seems almost incomprehensible that it could ever be ‘replaced’ by anything. However, recent data from BrandVue, Savanta’s daily brand tracking tool, suggests it may be facing some strong competition as the UK’s favorite search engine among generation Z.

The emotional tie consumers have to Google is evidenced through its Brand Love score, placing it at No.2 in Savanta’s Top 100 Media Brands League Table. Google remains in the top 3 for millennials, generation X and baby boomers, yet when looking through the lens of generation Z, Google slips to 4th position.

Savanta questions whether Google can be replaced.

Savanta questions whether Google can be replaced

So, what are generation Z searching for?

With generation Z’s desire to access a wide range of information very quickly, video-based apps such as YouTube have clear advantages. This is supported by BrandVue data which shows that generation Z are the only age bracket for whom YouTube outperforms Google.

Additionally, data from YouthSight’s State of the Youth Nation Tracker (a tracker of the attitudes and behaviors of generation Z) indicates that YouTube is perceived almost as a necessity for young people. 76% claim they would find it difficult to give up the app.

Further data from the State of the Youth Nation Tracker shows that between 2016 and 2021, there was a 16% uplift in generation Z’s desire to learn through video as opposed to reading, creating an ideal space for the emergence of a wide variety of learning-based YouTube channels. These channels capitalize on young people’s perception of videos as a far more accessible and engaging way of learning.

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Popular channels range from student StudyTubers, including the likes of Ruby Granger (with almost 700,000 subscribers), to professional doctors such as Doctor Mike (boasting 9.32 million subscribers). These influencers create platforms in which they are able to help provide young people with a trusted source of knowledge, which they may have otherwise had to sift through pages of unreliable websites to locate. They also give a distinct sense of community, something which young people were somewhat lacking during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

The rise of TikTok

This desire for a sense of community during lockdowns is partially responsible for the rise of TikTok – a platform housing an acute algorithm which enables the delivery of exceptionally personalized content. The platform’s growth has exploded since its launch in 2018, acquiring its billionth user twice as quickly as Facebook, YouTube or Instagram.

TikTok has come to provide a particularly tangible sense of community for generation Z, extending its uses as a search tool further than just for educational purposes. Users can share knowledge, advice, opinions and reviews at the touch of a button, with content ranging from tips on how to elevate your workout, to reviews of locations and activities, advice on relationships, and much more.

Users seemingly value the transparency and authenticity of content, when compared with articles or websites found on Google, where there is much more of a disconnect between the reader and the author. With tips on how to improve your makeup routine and locals' view on the best place to eat in town, TikTok is becoming the most popular platform young people are turning to for answers.

But is the clock ticking on its success?

Infamous for its addictive nature and popularity almost exclusively among a young demographic, TikTok has become a somewhat polarizing social media giant. While it ranks 5th for Brand Love amongst generation Z, TikTok only just makes it into the top 10 for millennials (10th) and further declines among generation X (22nd) and baby boomers (64th).

Additionally, BrandVue data indicates that while positive buzz over the past 6 months for Google is strong (at 27%), TikTok is falling behind at 19%, while negative buzz associated with TikTok is almost double that of Google, at 10%. This arguably controversial nature of TikTok may pose a risk to its long-term potential as a search engine tool.

It appears the longstanding and reputable nature of YouTube, in conjunction with the exciting and novel buzz surrounding TikTok, has provided the perfect online environment for people to access information through video with ease. While this emerging trend is seemingly reflected in generation Z, it will be interesting to see if YouTube, and particularly TikTok, develop into an alternative (or indeed preferred) search engine tool among older generations too.

You can download Savanta’s BrandVue’s Most Loved Media Brands 2022 report here.

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