Social Media as Search Engine

When we hear or read the term “search,” Google instantly comes to mind. Lately, artificial intelligence innovations such as ChatGPT might also pop up in our thoughts. It seems that another famous online entity, however, has become a “go to” resource for search. And that entity is the iconic social media platform—TikTok. Welcome to the era of “in-app search.”

What is in-app search and how does it work?

With in-app search, a popular, frequently used website or app will earn revenue from within its own search activity. While the results and frequency of in-app searches on a social media app such as TikTok may pale in comparison to the number of times users will visit Google, the results may more targeted and the revenue to be gained for familiar websites—which include Amazon—can be greater. And TikTok is a unique example of in-app search in action.

TikTok and innovation

Earlier this year, TikTok found itself at the center of controversy regarding privacy, which led many users who either discontinued using the app, while some called for an outright ban. Regardless of this, TikTok’s innovative spirit has triumphed over detractors. Consider its recent launches of the ‘Commercial Content Library‘ and ‘Commercial Content API,‘ two supplements to aid transparency. The platform’s future innovation: ‘Search Ads Toggle.’

Search Ads Toggle

Through ‘Search Ads Toggle,’ TikTok will provide a paid search option which allows marketers to promote first-time presentations of their branded content to users—and potential customers. While ‘Search Ads Toggle’ may indeed fulfill the points listed above regarding more direct targeting and greater revenue, TikTok may face more controversy, as there is concern as to whether or not this innovation will steal search market share from Google. Wait and see…

In-app search in action…

While anyone who uses social media has a favorite platform, those who subscribe to TikTok are especially engaged. This engagement extends to the ease and efficiency with which marketers can identify select users who might fit into the particular target audiences they are trying to reach. A successful connection between brand and potential customer in this situation illustrates the theory of more effective targeting, followed by greater revenue.


While the actual results from ‘Search Ads Toggle’ won’t be known until launch, the potential of social media being used as a search engine is undeniable. It’s all about intent. TikTok is currently at the forefront. Will Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms follow its lead? Hayley Botte, Social Media Manager at EGC, offers this take:

“Although the ‘Search Ads Toggle’ isn’t available yet, we saw TikTok successfully incorporate SEO into their algorithm for educational search earlier this year. Similar to other forms of SEO, users who are intentional about using keywords in their descriptions will see a small search box at the top of their comment section encouraging users to explore more videos in this arena. This feature offers brands the opportunity to not only be prioritized in search but become thought leaders in their space.” 

The EGC Group continues to “stay social with social media” and monitors and changes or developments that impact marketing and advertising. Whether you own a brand or business and would like to increase visibility on one or more platforms, our social media team is here to help. (Case in point: EGC’s recent campaign for client Jovia Financial Credit Union, which combined influencer marketing with TikTok and delivered results that went above and beyond expectations.)

So, why not get social with EGC?