“TikTok is Replacing Google” Stop. No it’s not.

That’s such a Chad thing to say
July 13, 2022
Pictured: Spam comments plaguing TikTok that become their own viral trend. “Anyway, here’s the recipe for brownies.” 

This summer, there’s only thing more overrated than Top Gun: Maverick. And that’s TikTok.

TikTok is a place where I happen to spend an inordinate amount of time. In fact, I’ve quantified it: I spend 10-12 hours per week on TikTok. It’s a tremendous source of inspiration, discovery, serendipity, and joy for me. It’s also a new channel for arbitrage after the iOS 14 privacy changes disrupted Facebook’s monopoly on DTC ad spend.

So it was only a matter of time before the thinkfluencer Twitterati came to ruin the TikTok party. An Army of Chads showed up this week following a report in Techcrunch which covered a Google SVP citing internal research: “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,” he continued. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.” The desire to declare the “death of Google” is strong with the Chad, and he cannot help himself but author a thinkpiece.

It’s not news that searches begin off of Google. For nearly a decade, shopping searches have begun at Amazon.com. Product reviews at Instagram, and “how to” searches on Youtube. TikTok sits at the intersection, with a decidedly younger audience, and a preference for the short-form content.

The relatively high quality of the service today is due to the authenticity and the purity of the current audience. That will be driven down over time as more brands, and marketers, try to extract value from the platform.

I believe that TikTok is purely additive to the digital buyer journey. Let’s break this down and dispel the myth that TikTok’s core product, as it stands today, is replacing anything, let alone, Google:

  • Google’s search product is a highly-contextual and relevant ad engine. While TikTok may learn what you give your attention to, it doesn’t understand your offsite behavior (yet). Google, however, has tendrils into your email, your work, your travel, your incognito behavior.
  • Video information is low-density. Do you listen to podcasts at 2X? Do you skim emails, headlines, and your Twitter feed? The average reader can ingest 300 words per minute. Spoken-word maxes out at 150 words per minute. Advantage text. Information in a video is sequential, linear, and time-based. You have no way of knowing when the content will be relevant. It’s not searchable, not sharable, and can be devoid of context.
  • The quality of the TikTok service will go down as people game the platform. This is the existential threat - its own success could push the quality of the content down over time, just as SEOs ruined recipe blogs. Gaming the algorithm is already prevalent on the platform, just ask anyone who has wasted 3-5 minutes of their life on a “put down your finger if…” storytime.
  • TikTok has deprioritized its own search function. To me this is the most telling. If search was such an existential threat to other services, and teens everywhere started and ended all discovery in the TikTok app, why then did they remove the search bar, and hide it underneath the “Following” feed?

If we were to keep a scorecard of groupthink trends that began on social media, it wouldn’t fare so well. Cricket Protein, The Sharing Economy, Voice Commerce, Ephemeral Everything, The DTC Era, Social Commerce, NFTs? Duds. With that lens, let's evaluate Chad’s track record… "TikTok will Replace Google" Hmmm.

TikTok is a brilliant product. But it’s no replacement for Google. It is an inspiration and entertainment machine. It will affect commerce, and it will drive value for businesses that invest in the platform and its related ad product. But it is no existential threat to the vertically-integrated behemoth that is Google. Not even close.

If you want to hear more about how groupthink missed the DTC wave, and a trend I’m calling  “The DTC Uncorkening”, check out this week’s essay right over here

— Phillip

EV Deliveries. Walmart is planning to purchase 4,500 entirely electric vehicles from Canoo in efforts to fulfill next year’s eCommerce orders. Test deliveries will begin soon in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as the companies finish determining vehicle configurations.

Editor’s note: it seems that modern sustainability and ESG initiatives, especially those wrapped up in mobility, are done so with the aid of conspicuous design. Rather than having an EV that resembles a normal car, this new era of corporate wokesmanship needs to show off its commitment with absolutely unhinged car concepts.

Corporations signal their good deeds. This is a form of Trustwashing. In 2010 we got green packaging and leafy iconography. Today we get absurd Pixar-looking vehicles. Other examples are below: 

Water in the Desert. In a first-ever of its kind: WATER will join the legends of residency in Las Vegas. Evian sparkling water will be exclusively available at TAO Beach Dayclub for the month of July 12-August 12.

More Sights & Sounds. A bright pink fashion trend — Barbiecore — is emerging, likely due to the upcoming release of the new Barbie movie. Bookstores are experiencing a unique and diverse revival. And Verishop has raised $40 million in Series B funding.

Have You No Sole? The company who brought you pre-worn $500 sneakers for the people you least like to be seen with in public is now offering in-store repairs. In a “retread” of an offering provided by other decidedly more conscientious brands, Golden Goose is giving its customers a service to extend the life of their shoes. The offering won’t, however, give them good taste.

The Future of Car Ownership? BMW has started charging a subscription for heated seats in multiple countries, including the UK, Germany, and New Zealand, along with a handful of other high-end features. They basically build the cars with capacity for these features, but block their use without a subscription. The Twitterati are calling it “greedy and exploitative.”

Editor’s note: When Tesla software-gates a feature like extended range and battery life, we call it “innovation”. When BMW does it, we call it “douchey”. Make of that what you will.

Face Off. MSCHF is helping New York and LA beat the heat by eating the rich. The $10 popsicles feature confectionary versions of your favorite billionaires. The packages invite you to “Bite Bezos” and “Munch Musk.”

What Kind of Coin? Hostess is attempting to take part in the world of crypto by releasing limited edition “coin-shaped” Twinkies dubbed… “$TWINKcoin snacks.” Small, generic cakes. Smaller awareness of slang.

More like “Gorgeous-saurus,” amirite? The full skeleton of a Gorgosaurus will be sold via auction this month to a private collector, because what most rich homes are missing are the remnants of an ancient lizard.

In Soviet Russia, Lego Leaves You. Lego is closing down operations in Russia indefinitely. Ninety employees in Moscow are slated to be laid off, and Lego has terminated its contract with Inventive Retail Group, the franchisee which operated stores in Russia. We apologize for the 2005-era meme.

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