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Study Shows Young Consumers Are Increasingly Turning to Social for Discovery

While it likely comes as no surprise to learn that younger audiences are far more likely than older groups to use social platforms for product discovery, it is interesting to know what people are searching for, specifically, within social platforms, and what they still turn to Google for when in need.

That’s what the team from Forbes Advisor sought to find out in their latest study, for which they partnered with Talker Research to survey 2,000 U.S. internet users to get their insights into their evolving discovery behaviors.

The main finding? Young people are increasingly using social apps, TikTok and Instagram in particular, for business discovery purposes.

Forbes Advisor social search study

Again, that’s not surprising, with even Google highlighting the shift to TikTok and IG for search as being a potential threat to its business.

The question then is: “What does generative AI do for this trend?”

Google just recently added ChatGPT-like responses within Search, which provides automated overviews on certain queries, and if conversational search like this does become a bigger shift, as many expect, will that then bring more people back to Google?

Along the same line, TikTok’s experimenting with its own AI chatbot, while Meta’s added its AI assistant tool to all of its apps (except Threads). So they are looking to provide similar options, and it’ll be interesting to see how discovery changes, or not, as a result of these advancing AI tools.

But a more interesting element of Forbes Advisor’s study looks at what people are searching for in social apps versus Google search.

Forbes Advisor social search study

As you can see in this chart, Gen Z users are primarily turning to social apps for fashion, beauty, food, and craft-related trends, more the type of stuff that’s about self-care and wellbeing, and D.I.Y. projects. While they turn to Google for bigger purchases, as well as places to go and professional services.

I guess, that’s not a big surprise either, but it is interesting to consider where people are looking, and how that relates to your own marketing efforts.

So, the first point is that it largely comes down to the audience that you’re trying to reach. If you’re looking to connect with older audiences, then Google remains a critical pipeline, and it’s worth considering the wording that you use for this audience.

A growing number of young people, however, are searching on social, which, again, could help guide your creative, and alignment with each platform.

So while it may feel relatively obvious based on broader trends, it is worth taking note of the specifics, and how they relate to your promotions.

You can check out the full study report here.

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