How to use TikTok search to find content, community, and creators

TikTok has firmly cemented its place in our daily lives as one of the fastest growing social networks.

It has quickly become the go-to place for short-form video content and is revolutionizing Meta enough for Instagram to implement changes to compete.

But there’s more to TikTok than cats riding robotic vacuums or trending dance moves.

Global brands have quickly realized the power of the TikTok algorithm as a way to engage with audiences of all ages and leverage sales with influencer partnerships.

And with the average user spending more than 90 minutes on the app every day, finding a community through other creators has become a big part of TikTok’s appeal to its core audience.

However, how does this work for digital marketers?

We’ll see.

How TikTok knows what you’re looking for

Like any good search algorithm, TikTok collects data about you to tailor your app experience.

The more you interact with videos by liking, commenting, sharing, or following, the more you’ll begin to see content aligned with your interests.

Sounds and hashtags in videos, along with device and account settings such as language, are also included in the algorithm.

All of this data is put together to generate a personalized “For You” (FYP) page.

Typically, the videos you see here are a mix of people you follow and creators new to you that TikTok thinks you’ll like, based on what it knows about your past activity on the app.

Thematic content drives the algorithm, and the more content you view and engage with (including viewing time), the more related and adjacent content the app will show you.

Content Search

The search bar is the place to go if you’re looking for content on a certain topic.

Here, you can be as specific as you like, whether you’re searching for a creator by their username or focusing on a broader topic, like a city name.

The most relevant results will appear first, along with some suggestions of other searches you might do on that topic (similar to Google’s “People Also Ask” style suggested search).

For example, someone looking for recipe ideas using Trader Joe’s products can simply search for “Trader Joe’s” and have a whole list of options to click on, such as:

  • Trader Joe’s recipes.
  • Trader Joe’s must-haves.
  • Trader Joe’s fries.
  • Trader Joe’s meals.

From there, you’ll make your selection and be taken to the “main” feed first – these are the most popular videos in that particular search.

To appear in this section, creators typically use the search phrase as a hashtag in their video captions to increase their chances of being found and text in the video while being thematically relevant.

Once they’ve gained popularity, TikTok will list them in the “top” results.

You can scroll down to “users” to find anyone with usernames similar to the query you searched for, “sounds” related to that search, any “live” content, or related “hashtags” – they all have a presence in the tabs of filtering.

In the “hashtags” section, the videos that started the tag will be displayed first, followed by the most popular videos under that hashtag.

Using the search option on TikTok is one of the best ways to find content creators and communities on the topics that interest you most.

The more specific your search is, the more specific the content shown to you will be.

What does this mean for digital marketers?

The search feature is great for finding communities that focus on your personal interests and/or brand affinity categories.

But it’s also a tool that digital marketers can easily leverage to position their brands in front of both new and established audiences.

trending content

Thanks to the work of the algorithm, accounts with very few followers can more easily gain ground on TikTok than on more established platforms like Instagram or YouTube.

Jumping on trending songs or hashtags is a great way for brands to tap into already popular content and increase social reach (just be careful with copyrighted music and be sure to follow FTC guidelines).

Think of new ways to repurpose existing content you have on other platforms and integrate them into your TikTok strategy.

Do some research to see what popular songs people use and how they use them in their videos.

Do you have something that could fit or adapt to a new video using the same sound?

Educational content performs well on TikTok, but entertainment videos remain the most viewed, commented on, and shared, especially in verticals like fashion and retail.

In fact, according to TikTok insights data, “40% of millennial TikTok users on fashion travel prefer branded content that is fun and entertaining. ”

If you’re willing to put some money into your TikTok marketing, the search feature is a useful way to help you find trending content that you can replicate for a paid campaign.

(Though trends often make for better organic content as they move so fast on this platform)!

As a still relatively new advertising channel, impressions, clicks, and conversions are still more affordable for most markets than on other platforms, so now is the time to start experimenting.

In-feed ads work similarly to Instagram Stories, taking control of the user’s screen before they scroll to your next video.

Ideally, you want to create ads that look and feel like free TikTok content, especially since users may not initially realize they’re seeing an ad.

That means longer display times and a better chance of clicks to your site or store. The slogan of the TikTok ad platform is: “Don’t do ads, do TikToks.”

Keep in mind that this is not the time to try to reuse your pre-roll or other high production banner ads. Even your social content from other channels will likely flop.

TikTok is a unique ecosystem and a type of content worth investing in on its own.

influencer associations

These tools are also good for finding influencers to work with on brand collaborations.

Thinking about your business theme is helpful here.

There may not be hundreds of influencers waiting to work with a dentist’s office, but if you offer teeth whitening or cosmetic procedures, beauty or wellness content creators are a good place to start.

Finding influencers to work with through search tools is also a great way to find user-generated content (UGC) about your brand or topics related to what your brand offers.

UGC works well on almost all social platforms, particularly TikTok.

There’s also a maker marketplace you can access if you’re just trying to get your show off the ground.

In conclusion

There is no doubt that TikTok is becoming widely used as a search engine for many people.

Although it has a reputation for being a “young” app, TikTok is increasingly the go-to app for many demographics to find creators, communities, new brands and products, and the content they love.

It may seem like a departure from the social marketing we’re used to, and in a way, it is.

But there are opportunities for smart marketers to get their content in front of new people, and the sooner we start treating TikTok like a search engine, the later your brand will be.

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Featured Image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

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