TikTok and Instagram Challenge Google for Gen Z Searches

TikTok and Instagram Challenge Google for Gen Z Searches

Google Instagram TikTok

Google has a new challenger for product searches: TikTok and Instagram.

At a recent conference, a Google executive went on record as saying, “In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

This was a surprisingly candid admission from a company whose YouTube app has been battling TikTok especially for leadership in the video space. (Insider Intelligence predicts TikTok’s advertising revenue will overtake YouTube by 2024.)

Although Google is easily the world’s most popular search engine, when it comes to searches for things to buy, the company is not quite as popular. For example, Amazon is the Number One website for people to do product searches: according to a 2018 Jumpshot report, from 2015 to 2018, Amazon overtook Google in this area, with Amazon growing to claim 54 percent of product searches while Google declined from 54 percent to 46 percent. According to Marketplace Pulse, a majority of Amazon searches—78 percent, in fact—are nonbranded. Instead of pinpointing a specific company like lululemon, say, many customers are making broad searches such as “yoga pants for women” and seeing what comes up.

And we all know how easy it is to buy something on Amazon once you are done searching, right?

Well, Google has been trying to make itself a stronger destination for shopping amid Amazon’s ascendance. For instance, Google recently launched new commerce-related features such as:

  • Swipeable shopping ads in search. A new ad display pairs organic shopping results with shopping ads, which makes online shopping more visual. The new swipeable shopping feed is available for apparel brands via Search or Performance Max campaigns. These will be clearly labeled as ads and will be eligible to appear in dedicated ad slots throughout the page.
  • Product feeds for a shoppable YouTube experience. Advertisers will soon have the ability to connect product feeds to campaigns in order to create shoppable video ads on YouTube Shorts. With YouTube Shorts, people can quickly and easily create short videos of up to 15 seconds, similar to how TikTok and Instagram Reels are used. Shoppable video ads on Shorts helps Google capitalize on social shopping.

The problem with Instagram and TikTok is that they appeal to the surging Gen Z population, who look especially to TikTok for recommendations for things to buy.  According to The New York Times, two-thirds of TikTok users have been inspired to shop, even if that wasn’t their original intent when accessing the app in the first place. The phenomenon has gained enough attention that it even has a hashtag: #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has garnered more than 16.7 billion views on the app.

Even more worrisome for YouTube, TikTok and Instagram are both launching social shopping tools. For instance, TikTok recently launched the TikTokShop to make it easy for people to buy things right int the app. Instagram has launched a number of tools as part of Instagram Shopping, including:

  • Instagram Checkout, which facilitates simple, convenient, and secure purchases made directly from Instagram. Shopping from Instagram means protected payment information is kept in one place. So, Instagrammers can shop multiple favorite brands without having to log in and enter intel multiple times.
  • Instagram Live, which allows checkout-enabled businesses to sell products through “live shopping.” In live shopping, consumers might be inspired by a creator or brand’s live video content and subsequently buy promoted products in real-time.

In fact, 130 million people tap on an Instagram Shopping post and engage with Instagram Checkout every month.

All told, social commerce is exploding. eMarketer predicts that by 2023, 2021, U.S. retail social commerce sales will rise to $56.17 billion.

Google is also responding to these challenges. In addition to the features noted above, the company is making search more immersive and engaging by incorporating rich visual features and augmented reality. These should help the company make the search and shopping experience livelier.

Google is making progress. Morgan Stanley says that in November 2021, 57 percent of shoppers first went to Google platforms (including Search and YouTube) to research a new product, up from 54% in May 2021. In addition, the number of Amazon Prime subscribers turning to Google for initial searches increased to 56 percent from 51 percent in the same period.

What Businesses Should Do

  • Understand your audience. Are you reaching out to Gen Z? Boomers? Not all social commerce platforms are the same. As noted, TikTok and Instagram resonates with Gen Z. Boomers tend to gravitate to Facebook. Ask yourself: who am I trying to reach, and where can I find them?
  • Learn how to use the tools available to you. Each platform has its own requirements for creating content. In addition, these popular sites demand a strong understanding of how to use visuals — anymore, it’s essential that brands know how to create powerful imagery.
  • Capitalize on Google’s advertising tools that are designed to be more visually appealing. For instance, Google recently rolled out Discovery ads, which are image-rich ads designed for a more “laid back” search experience (more about that here). Google is clearly doubling down on the visual web, and advertisers should expect more visually appealing ad products as it attempts to become a stronger e-commerce player.
  • Take a closer look at video advertising and organic content sharing, given Google’s interest in building out a more robust search experience on YouTube.

Meanwhile, TikTok and Instagram will most certainly dial up their own advertising products to attract companies that want to have their sponsored content appear alongside search results. Gear up for more ad choices!

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What Does the Redesigned Instagram Content Feed Mean to Brands?

What Does the Redesigned Instagram Content Feed Mean to Brands?

Instagram

Instagram is giving more power to the people. Meta, Instagram’s parent, has announced that the social networking service will now give users two new ways to view their feeds: “Following” and “Favorites” (the standard “Home” experience, based on by the Instagram algorithm, is still an option too). Let’s take a closer look at these alternatives and what the development means for brands.

Following vs. Favorites vs. Home

So, what are these options, exactly? Essentially, Instagram wants to give users more control over what they see. For context, let’s review the experience Instagram users are accustomed to getting: the Home experience. This is an algorithm-based feed by which Instagram presents content that Instagram thinks users will be most interested in, based on their viewing habits. Notably, the Home experience is not purely chronological—it’s grounded first and foremost in user interests.

Instagram’s hunch is that the Home experience will remain the preferred go-to for users, so they’ve made it the default. As an Instagram spokesperson explained to CNET, “people have a better experience on Instagram with a ranked feed, so we won’t be defaulting people into a chronological feed.”

But now, based on a March 23 announcement from Meta, users also have the choice of a chronological experience with the Following and Favorites options:

  • The Following option presents a steady feed of posts from all the people one follows.
  • Favorites gives users the ability to further curate what they see by allowing them to designate up to 50 accounts they want to view higher in their feeds.

Users can make changes to their Favorites list at any time (people are not notified when they are added or removed).

Both Following and Favorites show posts in chronological order, making it easy to catch up on recent posts.

How Might Brands Adapt?

According to Ad Age, the chronological feed (for both Following and Favorites) may prove advantageous to advertisers and facilitate more real-time marketing opportunities. Amber Gallihar Boyes, director analyst at research firm Gartner, notes, “On the brand and creator side, there is an excitement and optimism about [the new structure]. I’ve seen creators just really feeling beaten down by lack of reach on Instagram and this gives them some element of control because they can make sure they’re connecting with their most loyal fans and followers.”

Live situations already lend themselves to Instagram, but the chronological feed, by creating a sense of immediacy, could prove especially beneficial to marketers during events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl.

“If you play it right [as a brand] you can almost . . . give people the experience that ‘if you’re not there when it happens, you’re missing out,’” Shawn Francis, head of creative at social media marketing company We Are Social, explains. He adds that it behooves brands or creators to ask “what content can you put out that makes people say, ‘I have to follow this brand in real-time.’”

In other words? Brands can lean into that FOMO.

They can also lobby to be on the coveted Favorites list: some creators are even putting out tutorials to teach fans how to add to their Favorites feed, presumably with the hope that their brand name will place high on the list when it’s created.

But achieving Favorites status is no slam dunk. “With 50 spots, people will be selective,” Nicholas Stoeckle, executive director of strategy and innovation at advertising and production company PPK, points out.

Competitive as it is, the Favorites list will certainly give brands a clearer sense of who their most loyal fans are, based on whether the brand makes it into a given Favorites section. Brands and creators will also get the opportunity to experiment with different posting times, to see if there are “sweet spots” for them in the chronological feed.

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Social media platforms are constantly evolving to meet users’ needs, and Instagram’s recent announcement is just one example. Trying to stay abreast of —and to leverage — these changes? Contact us. We can help.

Why and How Instagram Is Leaning into Video

Why and How Instagram Is Leaning into Video

Instagram Social media

Instagram isn’t just about the photos anymore. As reported in The Verge, the social networking service is embracing entertainment and video in a bid to stay competitive with platforms like TikTok and YouTube. This isn’t the first time Instagram has gone head-to-head with TikTok: as we’ve blogged, Instagram launched Reels last August as a means of connecting with TikTok’s Gen Z audience. What do these new changes mean? Read on to learn more.

Not Just For Square . . . Photos

In a video posted on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, Instagram head Adam Mosseri explained that the platform no longer wants to be identified as a “square photo-sharing app,” rather as a hip general entertainment app driven by video — and algorithms. Mosseri says focus is on four key areas:

  • Creators, where Insta’s recognition of “the shift in power from institutions to individuals across industries” underlines Instagram’s desire to empower its creators.
  • Video, which is, as far as Mosseri is concerned, where it’s at. As he notes, “Video is driving an immense amount of growth online for all the major platforms right now.” His message: Instagram users have spoken. They want to be entertained. To stay relevant, Instagram is making video a tentpole of its offerings. Mosseri promises changes along the lines of users getting full-screen, recommended videos in their feeds, including videos from accounts a user may not already follow.
  • Shopping, to reflect the leap commerce has made from offline to online, a change accelerated by the pandemic.
  • Messaging, to honor the way close friends keep connected now — not by Feed and Stories, as has been the case in the past.

Reactions So Far

Reactions to Mosseri’s announcement have been mixed. Journalists are saying Instagram is responding to the rise of TikTok and YouTube, but as noted in Axios, warn that “[a]s social networks continue growing, they run the risk of overwhelming consumers and losing what made them special and distinct to begin with.”

And while Mosseri specifically names creators as a priority in his video, some creators, specifically photographers, are feeling marginalized and voting with their feet: Digital Photography Review reports that some photographers are defecting to Twitter in order to share their work in a space they feel is more dedicated to their art. Photographer Bryan Minear is a case in point. “In my eyes, Instagram stopped caring about artists and independent creators a long time ago,” he says. Minear, who switched to Twitter as his primary social media outlet in 2019, has found a vibrant photography community there.

Although Mosseri later tried to retract some of his wording — “We’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app” drew particular ire — his initial statement has aggravated photographers who feel an algorithm championing entertainment doesn’t put a premium on quality. “Instagram has done nothing but promote video-centric features at the expense of still photographers,” Minear says. “They’ve made it loud and clear that we aren’t welcome anymore.”

What Advertisers Should Do

What does all this mean for your brand? Is this “new” Instagram a good fit? We recommend that you:

  • Re-examine how you use video in your marketing and advertising. Clearly, video is getting bigger: 86 percent of businesses use video as a marketing tool, and 93 percent of marketers who use video say that it’s an important part of their marketing strategy. Instagram is showing where its allegiance lies. If video makes sense for you, Instagram might just be a viable advertising platform for you.
  • Consider the different ways influencers on Instagram are using both video and imagery as you find influencers to partner with. Who does a great job with video? Are they the right fit for your brand?

Contact True Interactive

In short, video is hot. Trying to figure out how to embracing video in your online advertising and marketing? Contact us. We can help.