The evolution of search: From Reddit to TikTok
by Smithfield Agency

The recent Reddit IPO (initial public offering) caught some by surprise, with the company’s shares rising significantly on its first day of trading. The IPO was priced at $34 per share but on its debut, the stock opened at $47 and closed at $50.44, marking a nearly 48% increase from the IPO price​. So why, in a tough market when publishers have been struggling, did Reddit’s stock surge? The answer is search…

The way we search for information online has undergone a rapid transformation, evolving from traditional search engines like Google and Bing, to more interactive platforms such as Reddit and TikTok. This shift not only reflects recent changes in technology, but also in user preferences and behaviour. For brands, navigating and understanding these changes is crucial for developing effective content strategies that work across multiple generations.

The rise of Reddit: From forums to AI powerhouse

Reddit has emerged as a powerhouse for information-seeking behaviour, offering a vast array of communities (subreddits) catering to almost every interest imaginable. Unlike conventional search engines, Reddit provides a platform for users to engage in discussions, share personal experiences, and seek advice from peers.

For example, consider someone researching the best travel destinations. Instead of typing generic queries into a search engine which may turn up things like product pages, they might turn to Reddit to seek recommendations from fellow travellers in specialised subreddits like r/travel or r/backpacking. These communities provide valuable authentic insights and tips, helping shape travel plans with first-hand knowledge.

“The unique user-generated content on Reddit not only enriches our understanding of niche markets but also aids in AI-driven marketing strategies,” explains Harry Dacres Dixon, Senior Digital Manager at Smithfield. “Leveraging these insights allows us to tailor our clients’ campaigns to be more impactful and engaging.”

The sheer size of the site and breadth of shared knowledge means that Reddit’s user-generated content is ideal for AI training. A partnership with Google is reportedly worth $60 million annually, and with other deals in the pipeline, now you know why the IPO was so hot!

TikTok: The visual search revolution

On the other end of the spectrum lies TikTok, a platform revolutionising the way we consume and search for content through short-form videos. With its algorithm-driven ‘For You’ page, TikTok delivers personalised content tailored to each user’s interests, preferences, and browsing history. This algorithmic approach makes content discovery seamless and addictive, prompting users to spend hours scrolling through an endless stream of videos. With the average TikTok android user in the UK spending nearly 50 hours a month on the app, it’s no wonder people are searching for content on the platform.

Take, for instance, a Gen Z individual interested in learning a new recipe. Instead of sifting through lengthy blog posts or YouTube tutorials, they might turn to TikTok for quick, visually engaging cooking demonstrations. Hashtags like #FoodTikTok and #CookingHacks have become popular avenues for discovering trending recipes and culinary inspiration, reflecting Gen Z’s preference for bite-sized, visually stimulating content.

Late last year, TikTok launched their first ad campaign aimed at increasing awareness around their search functionality. “It Starts on TikTok” features popular creators and users, showcasing how ideas, music and cultural phenomena gain momentum and go mainstream after originating on the platform.

Understanding generational search behaviour

While there’s no one size fits all, each generation does seem to exhibit distinct search behaviours shaped by their upbringing, technological exposure, and societal influences.

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964): Boomers tend to favour traditional search engines like Google and Bing, relying on keyword-based queries and authoritative sources. They value reliability, accuracy, and comprehensive information when seeking answers online.

Generation X (born 1965-1980): Generation Xers are more likely to use a mix of traditional search engines and social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn for information gathering. They appreciate content that is informative, concise, and professionally curated.

Millennials (born 1981-1996): Millennials are early adopters of platforms like Reddit and value peer-generated content, authenticity, and community engagement. They seek out niche communities and user-generated reviews when making purchasing decisions.

Generation Z (born 1997-2012): Generation Z individuals gravitate towards visually-driven platforms like TikTok and Instagram, preferring short, entertaining content that captures their attention quickly. They rely heavily on influencers and user-generated content for product recommendations and lifestyle inspiration.

“Understanding these generational preferences helps us refine our overall digital strategy,” notes Charlee Oliver, Digital Operations Director. “It’s not just about placing content; it’s about optimising our approach based on how different audiences consume information.”

Implications for your content strategy

With the way we search evolving, diversifying your content formats is key.

“At Smithfield, we’re not just reacting to changes; we’re anticipating them to ensure our clients always stay ahead of the curve. Connect with us to see how we can transform your strategies and lead in the digital age,” says Sarah Coften, Head of Digital Strategy at Smithfield Agency.

Contact us today to learn how to adapt your search strategy to ensure you’re reaching your target audience.

May 2, 2024

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