Over the last couple years, digital brand discovery has expanded beyond Google. Social media platforms have become places for consumers to discover and purchase new items, without leaving preferred apps. While social platforms have always been about discovering new voices, the rise of influencers has naturally led to users hearing about, learning about, and now purchasing from new brands. And given that the average American spends 2 hours and 14 minutes on social media each day, there is ample time for users to interact with paid and organic content from brands and influencers.
Which Social Platforms are Winning the Discovery Grab?
Nearly 40% of Gen Z prefers using TikTok and Instagram for search over Google, which was found through a Google-specific study. Younger generations tend to view short-form videos results as more useful in their search and discovery process. Whether they are looking for products, a tutorial, or advice, they prefer to view an interactive video, as well as comments from other users, rather than the text-based search results page on Google.
Platforms like TikTok are expanding their offerings to take on this new behavior, adding things like geo-tagging options to content along with a “nearby” feed, so users can search for local recommendations. Additionally, TikTok is pushing users to interact with the in-platform search function. Related search topics show up on all videos, prompting users to find similar content on the same topic. Along with news and trending topics, it’s becoming a popular destination for users to discover new brands and products. With its expansion organically, the paid component is expanding as well. Ads appear within the search results for topics related to their content.
Pinterest has focused on their search features, using it to capture audiences who are actively in the discovery and planning phase. Search has been a pillar of Pinterest since its launch. It provides users with multiple ways of searching, such as standard keyword, general topics, and even image search. Once called the “virtual shopping mall,” Pinterest creates a browsing type of experience that works well for users who are still in the discovery phase. Paid ads fit in nicely within this landscape, as they can be targeted to specific topics and keywords.
Even Instagram is taking steps to blend a discovery mindset with the search intent demonstrated by users, with the addition of new ads in the search results. This new feature pushes content based on the topic being searched by users. Ads will show up within the feed of search results, but will be clearly marked as a “Sponsored” post. This is feature is not yet widely available but is expected to be fully rolled out in the next few months.
Where Does Google Net Out in All This?
While these shifts in user behavior and product updates on various social platforms might make us re-think Google’s top spot, that shouldn’t be the case. Google continues to respond to new behavior and platform advancements with their own spin on things—aiding in the retention of their users. For example, Google introduced YouTube Shorts, which mirrors TikTok’s format with vertical video that is limited to 60 seconds and displays in an infinite scroll. This fight for usership continues beyond video, with features that make the discovery and shopping experience more visual, more personalized, and allow the user to shop with confidence. Additionally, while the discovery process is started on a variety of platforms, Google remains king when it comes to purchasing. A recent KSM study shows that users age 18-34 are more likely to use social media than search engines for product discovery, yet all age ranges are more likely to use search engines than social media platforms for purchasing.
KSM’s head of social Ashley Hutchings recently weighed in on these shifts: “By no means do I think Google should be scared of losing large market share to social platforms—it still reigns supreme. That said, the younger audiences are expecting different user experiences when discovering and also have different app preferences. As this demographic’s purchasing power grows, it will become more important for brands to take an even more nuanced approach to their entire discovery journey within a campaign.”
So What Does this Mean For Marketers?
- The Consumer journey is blending across platforms, and advertisers need to think carefully through where their audiences are engaging, especially as things become more fragmented.
- Activating the right mix of awareness and action-oriented tactics in these spaces will be key.
- Stop treating each channel as a tactic for a specific stage of the funnel, and instead take advantage of the full-funnel potential of these continually-evolving platforms.