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!

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Why TikTok Influencer Marketing Is Heating Up

Why TikTok Influencer Marketing Is Heating Up

TikTok

TikTok recently created a relationship with software firm CreatorIQ to help brands find the right influencers on TikTok. This news illustrates the growing importance of influencer marketing, a type of social media marketing that involves endorsements and product placements from influencers.

What Did TikTok Announce?

TikTok is adding software platform CreatorIQ as a new influencer marketing partner. The relationship will allow CreatorIQ’s clients to plan and execute TikTok creator marketing campaigns. CreatorIQ customers will use a dashboard to see creator and content metrics from the TikTok Creator Marketplace, which helps brands collaborate with creators based on their industry, budget, and business goals.

Why Is This News Significant?

The news underscores how sophisticated and measurable influencer marketing is becoming. Influencer marketing is a fast-growing $14 billion industry. With influencer marketing, a brand collaborates with someone deemed to have a desirable following among the brand’s customer base. Many casual watchers of this space associate influencer marketing with mega celebrities such as the Kardashian family, whom brands pay to promote their products via their high-profile social media followings. But few businesses have the budget to collaborate with celebrity influencers. Most brands work with micro-influencers, who possess followers based on shared interests and geographic locations.

Micro-influencers are big on TikTok. They build street cred by mastering TikTok’s viral short-form video format. Because their popularity is based on their TikTok videos, they are considered to be creator influencers – or people who create content. In fact, creators are so popular that brands are seeking them out to create TikToks for them. For example, TikTok influencer Bella Poarch has been tapped as an HP HyperX ambassador. Influencers are credited with spurring the rise of TikTok as a social commerce platform where people buy products. 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 8 billion views on the app.

Brands are getting more sophisticated about finding influencers that work best for their own needs. Not every TikTok superstar is the right fit for every brand. In some ways they are like any other kind of product “endorser” – a brand needs to feel comfortable that their personalities and style are a good fit for the brand’s own image, and they need to understand each influencer’s audience. In Chicago alone, there are many influencers who may or may not be a great fit depending on a brand’s needs and audience (here are some of them).

TikTok understands that for the app to become Influencer Central, TikTok needs to make influencer marketing more of a measurable science. Few brands will dive into any marketing/advertising campaign without understanding return on ad spend. That’s why TikTok launched the Creator Marketplace and is partnering with businesses such as CreatorIQ to make the process of launching and measuring an influencer outreach campaign a measurable process.

Creator Influencers Are Having a Moment

The rise of creators on TikTok is part of a bigger trend toward brands and creator influencers collaborating. In our 2022 advertising and marketing predictions, we predicted that creator influencers will have a huge year, and not just because of TikTok. Another factor: collaboration networks are proliferating. These networks give creators an all-in-one platform to create communities and build influence. In addition, gaming sites such as Roblox and Twitch offer creators opportunities to monetize their work with potential partnerships with brands, and crypto currency sites such as Rally.io make it possible for creators to mint their own currency. The big social networks such as Meta are responding by making themselves more attractive to creators. More businesses will tap into niche networks to partner with emerging creators who are lesser-known but possess tremendous street cred. Big-name partnerships with stars will still thrive, but the social media icons will need to make room for the new kids in town.

What Brands Should Do

Does collaborating with an influencer on TikTok make sense for your brand? Some thoughts before you proceed:

  • Make sure you already have a strong TikTok following. Brand ambassadors won’t stick around if they don’t have an audience. Alternatively, partner with a personality that comes with their own built-in following.
  • Mix it up. A strong creator class is made up of diverse voices. Putting together an influencer team that looks at your brand from different angles can help you reach a new, wider audience.
  • Choose creators aligned with your brand. Passion for your company will translate into authentic messaging. Take time to understand who a creator is — and whether they are the right fit — before bringing them on board.

 Contact True Interactive

Hoping to explore what TikTok and other social platforms have to offer? Contact us. We can help.

Why TikTok Is the Most Visited Site in the World

Why TikTok Is the Most Visited Site in the World

TikTok

Cloud-infrastructure company Cloudflare has been tabulating the world’s most-visited sites since 2020, creating its rankings by following global internet traffic patterns like app usage or when a person visits a site on their web browser. While Google held the crown for most-visited site that first year, it was a short reign: in 2021, TikTok took the throne. What does TikTok’s great leap forward mean for your brand?

The News: TikTok Is King

According to Cloudflare, TikTok didn’t waste any time gaining traction: by February 2021, the platform had already started racking up massive views. And from August on, it consistently ranked Number One, every month, for the rest of the year. That alone is a feat, one that gains even more resonance when you consider that back in 2020, TikTok ranked a respectable — if relatively humble — Number 7.

Why TikTok Rules

To what can we attribute TikTok’s ascendance? A few factors play a role. For one thing, TikTok has helped inform a global interest in short-form video. Short-form videos have been around for a while, of course, but it is arguably TikTok that has made it easy for users to create, enrich, and share videos. And the platform’s user base is diverse: while the site attracts would-be creators, it also appeals to everyday people who find the clips both informative and just . . . fun. Video is hot, and TikTok has helped make it that way. TikTok also has a superpower in its hip pocket: it’s insanely viral. Remember Nathan Apodaca, the skateboarder whose TikTok clip incorporating Ocean Spray juice, his deck, and the Fleetwood Mac tune “Dreams” catapulted him to fame? Apodaca and the way his creative efforts went viral underline just how influential TikTok can be. And brands have taken note. Consider Pepsi’s #ThatsWhatILike TikTok campaign, which inspired people to post videos of silly, fun moments that usually featured Pepsi in some fashion. The hashtag challenge encouraged fans to engage with the brand in a likable, playful way—and it placed that likable persona squarely in front of a huge audience. The campaign netted more than 13 billion views. Finally, TikTok is especially favored by the Millennial and Gen Z demographics: a whopping 42 percent of the U.S. population. And that’s just one country! TikTok is grabbing eyeballs—and a youthful demographic—all over the world.

What Brands Should Do

Given these factors, it’s no surprise that brands are embracing TikTok and striving to create their own content there. What does this mean for you? We recommend:

  • If you want to take up with TikTok, make sure you understand the platform. Know how to speak the language. Overt ads? That would be a No. As Pepsi demonstrated, playful content that takes its cues from user-generated content, on the other hand, is a huge Yes.
  • Stay current and informed. Short-form video is not exclusive to TikTok: one need look no further than Instagram’s Reels to see that there are alternatives. Stay on top of how TikTok, and its competitors, are innovating. By understanding what’s out there, you can make an informed choice for your brand.
  • Make sure you formulate a strategy for collaborating with TikTok influencers, who can be especially powerful (and helpful). We discuss this topic here.
  • If appropriate for your brand, understand how to incorporate social commerce on TikTok into both your advertising and marketing strategies. Curious? We blog about that here.

Contact True Interactive

TikTok can play a robust role in a brand’s marketing strategy. And we know the ropes. Contact us. We can help.

How Brands Collaborate with TikTok Creators

How Brands Collaborate with TikTok Creators

TikTok

Businesses have been embracing TikTok as a place to build their brands with their own content. Many more are also finding ways to connect with TikTok Nation through relationships with popular TikTok stars. A recent case in point: TikTok influencer Bella Poarch has been tapped as an HP HyperX ambassador. Now brands are figuring out how to find influencers who can actually create content such as TikTok videos for them. Creating relationships with TikTok stars can help a brand become more culturally relevant in ways they might not be able to do acting on their own. Let’s take a closer look.

How Brands Are Finding Creators

Competitions and hashtag challenges have proven to be a reliable way for brands to connect with content makers—and essentially make creators part of their marketing team. “It’s no longer about trying to get that one creator with a giant following to mention your brand once,” notes Ali Fazal, VP of marketing at influencer management platform Grin. Rather, as Fazal points out, it’s a way to “integrate the creator into their overall marketing strategy.” The trick is to find influencers who genuinely, organically, love the brand. “Creator classes” is the term that’s been coined to describe the influencer teams that result—teams that are made up of individuals with specific interests and skill sets.

Consider the 11 influencers in the Major League Baseball’s inaugural creator class, which was curated with the help of input from die-hard MLB fans. As Kathryn Buckles, the director of brand and content marketing at MLB, notes about the group,  “One is an esports player, one is more comedic. We also have someone who focuses on youth baseball, and a food creator that likes to replicate ballpark dishes.” In short, different influencers are bringing unique skills and interests to bear. As part of the relationship, creators have access to MLB merchandise and can attend games and visit the MLB offices.

For Gatorade, its creator class, called the Social Squad, came together through “tryouts” in which TikTokers submitted videos for consideration. Nine influencers were chosen from a pool of 1,500, and this select group will be creating content for Gatorade’s TikTok through November. Again, the individuals—from Clifford Taylor IV, formerly a walk-on for the Florida Gators, to Caitlyn Schrepfer, a professional soccer freestyler—bring a variety of talents and perspectives to the table.

Diverse as creator classes can be, a common thread among the influencers should be passion for the brand: super fans are naturally going to tell an authentic story. When Chipotle used TikTok to put together a 15-person creator class, for example, they were won over by Georgian Wyatt Moss, whose video showed Moss and friends eating Chipotle—in all 50 states (since Chipotle doesn’t have a location in Hawaii, Moss took his Chipotle on the plane ride out and ate it once he arrived!). Members of Chipotle’s creator class are rewarded for their passion: they are eligible for up to 50 free entrees, and can pay a visit to the Chipotle test kitchen. They also receive priority consideration for future paid campaigns—crucial to budding creators hoping to make a living as influencers.

TikTok Creator Marketplace

These brand/influencer collaborations are definitely mutually beneficial, and TikTok is invested in helping to make them happen: TikTok Creator Marketplace, currently in beta in the United States, is the official TikTok platform where brands and creators can connect. Think of it as a sort of dating app—a way for brands and influencers to “meet cute,” or at least connect in a mutually beneficial fashion. Participating creators sign up in hopes of connecting with brands and paid sponsorship opportunities. Participating brands can view creator profiles, audience demographics, and engagement metrics, then reach out to potential brand influencers via push and in-app notifications if they sense a possible match. Creators have an opportunity to review campaign details and a contract in order to make an informed decision.

Lessons Learned

Does collaborating with an influencer on TikTok make sense for your brand? Some thoughts before you proceed:

  • Make sure you already have a strong TikTok following. Brand ambassadors won’t stick around if they don’t have an audience. Alternatively, partner with a personality that comes with their own built-in following.
  • Mix it up. As the above examples indicate, a strong creator class is made up of diverse voices. Putting together an influencer team that looks at your brand from different angles or celebrates different aspects of the experience casts a wider net—and can help you reach a new, wider audience.
  • Choose creators aligned with your brand. As noted above, passion for your company will translate into authentic messaging. Take time to understand who a creator is—and whether they are the right fit—before bringing them on board.

Contact True Interactive

Hoping to explore what TikTok and other social platforms have to offer? Contact us. We can help.

Why TikTok Has Embraced Social Shopping

Why TikTok Has Embraced Social Shopping

TikTok

TikTok has partnered with Shopify to make it possible for TikTok users to shop directly in the TikTok app. The headline here? Social shopping has become huge! Read on to learn more:

TikTok Made Me Buy It

TikTok, the video app that has taken Gen Z by storm, is perhaps best known as a go-to for short-form entertainment and memes. It’s not that products have been ignored. But up to now, TikTok has featured influencers who talk up merch—from clothing to household goods—and users could only buy those products through ads on the app.

Things have changed.

Now, with the Shopify/TikTok partnership, Shopify merchants participating in a pilot program can add a shopping tab to their profiles, then build a “mini-storefront” including prices, photos, and an “add to favorites” button. As Marketing Dive explains it, the storefront “leads users to [the brand’s] website upon checkout by syncing their product catalogs.” The shopping pilot is currently open to Shopify sellers in the U.S. and U.K., and will launch in other regions in coming months. (Merchants must have a TikTok For Business account in order to participate.)

The move is a savvy one, indicative of an understanding of a simple fact: users find merch that speaks to them on TikTok. 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 4.7 billion views on the app.

TikTok isn’t alone: apps like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter have all jumped onto the social commerce bandwagon. The data supports this trend: a recent eMarketer report reveals that social commerce sales in the U.S. have exploded, growing 35.8 percent this year, from $26.97 billion in 2020 to $36.62 billion in 2021.

Although TikTok is relatively new to this crowded field, it’s already demonstrated that it has a talent for making merch go viral. As we have blogged, TikTok collaborated with Walmart last December to host a shoppable livestream event. The response was . . . significant, with viewership exceeding expectations so spectacularly that a second event was scheduled for March 2021.

It’s also worth noting that TikTok Shopping is meant to appeal to brands large and small. As Blake Chandlee, the president of global business solutions at TikTok, said in a statement, “TikTok is uniquely placed at the center of content and commerce, and these new solutions make it even easier for businesses of all sizes to create engaging content that drives consumers directly to the digital point of purchase.” And brands are taking note. Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics is pegged to be one of the early TikTok Shopping adopters.

Why the News Matters

These developments underscore how big social shopping (also known as retail social commerce) has become. As noted above, eMarketer has acknowledged the multibillion-dollar industry retail value that social commerce represents. The market research company goes on to make a bold projection, predicting that 2020’s $26.97 billion in sales “will more than double by 2023, when we predict retail social commerce earnings will hit $56.17 billion.”

eMarketer also notes that social shopping is particularly popular with the surging Gen Z population. That’s good intel for brands hoping to reach this audience. Per eMarketer, more than half of U.S. social media users aged 18 to 24 have used a social channel to make purchases. eMarketer also says that in the United States, it’s the Millennials who are most likely to rely on social media networks as important information sources when deciding what to buy.

What Brands Should Do

How to incorporate social commerce into your marketing plan? We recommend that you:

  • Understand your audience. Are you reaching out to Gen Z? Boomers? Not all social commerce platforms are the same. TikTok resonates with Gen Z and Millennials. 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 will have its own requirements for creating content. In addition, all of these popular sites will demand a strong understanding of how to use visuals—anymore, it’s essential that brands know how to create powerful imagery.
  • Appreciate how influencers can be a powerful ally to your brand. How might you partner with influencers to reach your audience online—and fan the flames of demand?
  • Make sure you are teed up for success. As we’ve blogged, many businesses have struggled to manage the surge in demand that can happen when they attract more shoppers with an intent to buy. Make sure your online fulfillment is up to handling an uptick in sales.

Contact True Interactive

Now more than ever, there are multiple ways brands can connect with their audience—and facilitate purchases. Contact us to learn more about leveraging the exciting digital opportunities out there.