Using TikTok as a Search Engine



Key takeaways

TikTok’s search evolution

In an age where social media platforms evolve rapidly, TikTok has emerged not just as an entertainment hub but also as a search engine. Driven by a desire to understand this shift, we dove deep into how consumers use TikTok for their search needs and how businesses are pivoting their strategies to capitalize on this trend.

Our comprehensive research involved surveying 808 consumers to glean insights into their TikTok search behavior. We also questioned 251 business owners, exploring the innovative ways they are adapting their marketing to cater to consumers’ search intent on TikTok.

Americans are redefining their relationship with search engines, with TikTok emerging as an unexpected contender. Let’s see how different generations are turning to TikTok for their search needs and why.

While exploring the evolving search habits of Americans, we discovered a surprising trend: Over 2 in 5 have used TikTok as a search engine. Consumers most often turned to TikTok to search for new recipes, but they also frequently searched for new music, DIY tips, and fashion advice.

This shift was particularly pronounced among younger generations, with 64% of Gen Zers and 49% of millennials saying they’ve used TikTok as a search engine. Gen Zers were also 29% more likely than millennials to scour TikTok for new recipes. And even more striking, nearly 1 in 10 Gen Zers preferred TikTok over traditional giants like Google for their search needs.

Another surprising find was the new chatbot on the block, ChatGPT. Over 1 in 10 consumers turned to ChatGPT to search for information, with 1 in 20 going as far as asking it for personal finance advice.

Decoding TikTok’s search appeal

TikTok isn’t just for entertainment anymore. Why are consumers drawn to using TikTok as a search engine, and what type of content captures their attention the best?

According to survey respondents, TikTok draws users in because it features short and informative videos, a distinct storytelling format, and personalized content tailored to the viewer. Among Gen Zers who gravitate towards TikTok, 2 in 5 were captivated by content that feels more tailored to their tastes. And over 1 in 4 baby boomers expressed a fondness for the platform’s narrative-driven videos.

When asked about content preferences, most people (62%) liked TikTok’s video tutorials best, but they also appreciated product or service reviews (39%) and personal stories (38%). These preferences for firsthand accounts are likely why consumers rated TikTok highly for expertise and experience.

After surveying consumers, we turned our focus to business owners, who are navigating the TikTok terrain to meet search intent. Let’s learn how these entrepreneurs leverage TikTok, compare its efficacy to traditional SERPs, and manage the challenges that come with it.

Business owners are beginning to recognize the untapped potential of TikTok as a tool to cater to search intent. More than half of business owners (54%) had used TikTok to promote their business, posting an average of nine times per month. Some have also tapped into the potential of influencer marketing, with 1 in 4 small business owners using TikTok influencers for product sales or promotions.

On average, business owners allocated 15% of their marketing budget for TikTok content creation. Our survey also shed light on the types of content they’re investing in, with 43% leaning into creative tangential content related to their product, followed by:

While the platform shows promise, with 53% of business owners intending to boost their investment in TikTok affiliate marketing next year, challenges persist. Almost one-third found boosting engagement rates challenging, while over 25% struggled with consistently creating content, appealing to a larger consumer base, and creating high-quality videos.

Online tools like a free video editor enable business owners to solve some of these issues, helping them save money and make TikTok videos in minutes—no experience required. And as for appealing to a larger audience besides Gen Z, our findings suggest most viewers are into tutorials and reviews, especially when they contain personal anecdotes and a storytelling style that’s easy to engage with.

Tapping into TikTok’s search power

Many American consumers aren’t turning to TikTok just for entertainment anymore; they’re also leveraging it as a search engine that’s in touch with what they like. This movement is particularly evident among the younger audience, who not only receive content personalized to their tastes but also view TikTok as a genuine competitor to established search engines. As this shift gains momentum, there lies a golden opportunity for businesses, especially the smaller ones, to harness TikTok’s vast potential and deliver content that truly resonates.

Whether you’re diving into storytelling videos, tutorials, or trending challenges, creative tools like Adobe Express help your business to build its brand, schedule social media posts, and cater to the search intent of TikTok’s vast user base.


To explore how consumers are using TikTok as a search engine, we surveyed 808 consumers. We also surveyed 251 business owners to determine how businesses are adapting their marketing strategies to address search intent on TikTok.

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