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The Tea On TikTok: Millennial Gets Schooled By Gen Z

You can learn a lot from working with younger colleagues. Once upon a time I was the newbie, teaching my older co-workers how to upload a photo on Instagram or choose a Snapchat filter (remember those?).

Alas, Father Time is vicious, and now, I’m the old millennial manager trying to play catch up with my way cooler Gen-Z workmates. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that TikTok is the most popular social media platform among youths between 18 to 24 years old.

As an early 90s kid, I consider myself more of an Instagram and Facebook native, which eventually led me to a career in social media marketing. However, I’ve recently been working with a few new Gen-Z colleagues to help launch a TikTok channel, and let’s just say... it’s been quite the crash course.

Not only have I gained a new perspective on why TikTok is such a transformative platform, the experience also helped me to understand the type of short-form content that resonates with Gen Zs.

1. TikTok is the new Google search engine

It’s crazy to imagine a time when you couldn’t power up Google to conduct an online search. Now imagine a world where Google is no longer the first platform you go to. Well, guess what? It’s already happening as we speak. The new port of call? That’s right – TikTok.

According to a recent study by Adobe, TikTok is the fourth most popular search engine, right on the heels of Bing, YouTube, and Google. Frankly, I’m surprised that Bing is even on the list. In fact, one in 10 Gen Zers would rather rely on TikTok than Google search.

I’ve seen it with my own partner, a TikTok native who regularly uses the app to search for travel hacks, make-up products, and restaurant recommendations.

2. Memes are deeper than people think

Speaking of internet trends, memes are perfect for TikTokers and people with short attention spans. They’re easily digestible and feature some sort of pop culture reference to make them relevant. But there’s more to memes than meets the eye.

One thing my Gen-Z colleagues have taught me is that, when done right, they can be an effective way to spread ideas and resonate with an audience. We’ve seen entire movements gain traction on social media thanks to trending memes on #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.

Even here in Singapore, we’ve seen media sites such as SGAG and Mothership utilise memes as part of their political coverage during elections and National Day speeches. Who can forget our former PM Lee Hsien Loong being meme-d for his ability to switch languages after taking a sip from his “magical” cup?

3. TikTok is an educational resource

Educational content on TikTok has become a powerful resource to learn and absorb new information. Just type the hashtag #LearnOnTikTok, and you’ll find countless tutorial videos on multiple topics and subjects of interest.

TikTok has becomes a powerful tool that not only lets you learn from other creators or experts, but I feel that I can retain the information faster thanks to its user-friendly format. In its own way, TikTok is raising Gen-Z to be a generation of researchers, and it’s something that everyone can learn from.

4. Don’t underestimate the power of the algorithm

When I first created my own TikTok profile, I recall randomly searching for WWE content. The next thing I knew, my For You page (FYP) was immediately besieged with pro wrestling content creators, wrestler profiles, and even local wrestling pages. It was crazy (freaky) how fast TikTok managed to curate content recommendations based on my interests.

It’s really fascinating because it creates such a unique algorithm that no one person’s FYP is similar to another. It also evolves as your viewing habits and behaviour changes. My Gen-Z colleagues would always warn me not to accidentally like or engage with other pages while using the company’s TikTok account as it might “screw up” the algorithm.

I’m not going to mess with the TikTok AI gods for sure, especially after experiencing their capabilities first-hand.

5. The potential TikTok ban in the US doesn’t scare Gen Zers here

The United States government recently announced a bill that would effectively ban TikTok in the country unless its parent company ByteDance sells it. We’ve seen the numerous memes on TikTok CEO Chew Shou Zi, filled with exasperation, trying to explain to the members of Congress that he is, in fact, Singaporean.

While talking to my Gen-Z colleagues about the news, they didn’t seem flustered nor worried about the impending ban.

Other than the fact that it won’t affect other countries, including Singapore, they brought up another good point. TikTok’s power, as Shou eloquently puts it, is the ability to “build community and connection” on the platform.

Such a ban, they argue, would have the opposite effect and rally the youths of the world to protest the move. One thing is clear: Gen Zs are the wrong generation to mess with.

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