By Adam Shaffer and Andrew Tilley12/8/2022

Will TikTok Become the New Paid Search?

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Many marketers are still skeptical about TikTok’s place in the digital marketing toolbox, but more and more articles like this one from TechCrunch are making it clear that the platform is no longer playing second fiddle to the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Meta. Here at Brunner, we have certainly taken notice, and have been recommending TikTok to a variety of clients in recent years. If TikTok isn’t part of your digital marketing portfolio it has never been a better time to reconsider!

As noted from TechCrunch, nearly 40% of Gen Z users prefer searching on TikTok over Google Search & Google Maps “for discovery purposes”.  While that last phrase seems to indicate that Gen Z searchers are more likely to use TikTok as an initial touchpoint for a product or service rather than for immediate recommendations for a dinner spot, it’s clear that young people are searching the web in a much different way than previous generations. With most marketing departments being led primarily by Millennials and Gen Xers this can be hard to wrap our collective heads around – but ignoring this trend could be a critical mistake for those trying to reach the nearly 70 million Gen Z citizens in the United States. While not an ideal fit for every client and situation, TikTok is nearly a must when Gen Z eyeballs are a priority.

If your company is anything like our clients, you’ve been testing TikTok for some time with mixed results. High to mid-funnel results, and even soft conversions, typically perform strongly in TikTok and can often outperform some of the more established social channels like Facebook. However, you may have had a tougher time when proving ROI. For many advertisers, TikTok will not be the final place of conversion no matter how much search activity it’s generating. This can be a red flag for advertisers who are hyper-focused on proving the ROI for each channel. However, modern digital marketers know that the conversion funnel is as complex as ever, and just because a channel isn’t leading to a last-touch conversion doesn’t mean that it’s not an essential part of the user journey. Look no further than Google’s own ‘Messy Middle’ to see how the conversion funnel has evolved in recent years. Many user journeys have a multitude of intersecting touchpoints, and now TikTok is most likely at least one of those touchpoints for an entire generation of US searchers. If you’re not there, will you miss out on a valuable touchpoint?

We believe that the time is now to recommend TikTok for a growing number of client needs. But if you’re still on the fence about including TikTok in your marketing mix, the platform is working harder than ever to capitalize on its impressive search algorithm to show advertisers that it can be a lower-funnel touchpoint. As of July 2022, advertisers were able to take part in a closed BETA that allows for a sponsored ad placement in the platform’s search results. TikTok will search their eligible videos to place the most appropriate content in these results. What’s more, there are rumors that TikTok is also working on keyword-targeted ad buys that will let advertisers serve videos for specific queries!

Does that sound familiar? It appears that search advertising is quickly moving into an era that will go beyond simple text ads and become more focused on highly specialized video content. If TikTok proves out this model, how long before Google inevitably follows suit and the lines between search and video are further blurred? Are you ready to meet that challenge head-on? We suspect that few are, but those that can take advantage of TikTok’s blossoming search potential are bound to reap the benefits.

To find out if TikTok is right for you, keep reading.

Adam Shaffer is an Associate Director at Brunner with an expertise in cross-channel marketing. He is an expert in strategizing for and executing on a variety of marketing channels, including Paid Search, Paid Social, Online Video, and more. Adam has had the pleasure of working with many household name clients in the education, home improvement, and retail verticals in a B2C and B2B capacity.

Andrew Tilley is a manager at Brunner with a focus on all things paid social. Andrew has worked with clients of all sizes from startups to Fortune 100 companies as well as both B2B and B2C brands in a wide variety of industries. He holds certifications across major social platforms including Facebook/Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok.