Social media overtakes search engines for discovery among Gen Z and millennials

The news: Traditional search engine usage is declining, particularly among younger demographics, who are increasingly turning to social media and mobile devices for their information needs.

  • A new survey from Forbes Advisor and Talker Research reveals a significant transformation in search behavior across generations. The study of 2,000 Americans found that social media platforms are becoming primary search tools for many.

Search engines slide: Generation Z is 25% less likely to use Google for searches compared to Gen X.

  • Only 64% of Gen Z use search engines for brand discovery, compared with the 94% of Baby Boomers who do so.
  • But there’s a bright spot for Google: 57% of people use YouTube to search for information in the same way they use Google.

Social search climbs: Nearly one in four (24%) of respondents primarily use social media for searches.

  • 46% of Generation Z and 35% of millennials prefer social media over traditional search engines.
  • 44% of Gen Z discover new brands on social media daily.
  • TikTok is favored over Google by Gen Z for searches on topics like hair and makeup (40%) and gift ideas (40%).
  • On Instagram, the most popular search category is fashion brands (12%).
  • Facebook users frequently search for news and current affairs and recipes and meal ideas.

Mobile matters: One-third of respondents access the internet only on their cellphones; this trend is stronger among millennials (39%) and Gen Z (40%).

Our take: The data underscores a seismic shift in how different generations approach search. Gen Z’s preference for social media over traditional vehicles like Google signals a move toward platforms that offer quick, visually engaging content. This shift is not just about convenience but reflects deeper changes in digital consumption patterns.

  • Businesses aiming to connect with younger audiences must prioritize their presence on social media, ensuring their content is optimized for mobile and video formats.
  • The significant use of YouTube for search suggests that video content is becoming increasingly important. Brands need to consider how they can provide value and capture attention on video platforms.
  • Emphasizing mobile-first and social media-centric approaches will be key to staying relevant in this rapidly changing digital landscape.

Go further: Read our Gen Z Social Search Habits report.

First Published on Jun 6, 2024