TikTok’s Next Generative AI Push Could be AI Facilitated Search In-Stream

While social platforms are still developing optimal use cases for generative AI in their apps, TikTok may be close to launching a more practical use for the technology, with its Chinese sister app Douyin now experimenting with generative AI search, enabling users to maximize discovery both inside and outside the app.

As reported by Pandaily:

The ‘AI Search’ feature is located within the search interface of the Douyin app, alongside other search services such as products, group buying, users, and videos. Users only need to input relevant questions or information in ‘AI Search’ to obtain answers generated by intelligent search technology.”

From this overview alone, you can see how Douyin’s growth has been structured around discovery, with a range of additional search features already built into the app.

Generative AI search will expand upon this, though the most interesting element is the extent to which the new system is able to facilitate responses.

“The answers not only come from high-quality videos within Douyin but also include information from third-party websites, with provided links for users to view more details and explanations. Additionally, based on user queries, ‘AI Search’ can suggest related questions that users may find interesting.”

So Douyin essentially has its own form of ChatGPT built in, focused on discovery, which expands the capacity for the app to fulfill a wider range of search queries, and provide more utility within the app.

Which is particularly relevant to TikTok, especially when you consider its increasing use as a discovery tool.

As you can see in this chart, based on research conducted by Adobe, TikTok is already being used as a discovery engine, especially among younger users.

The value of this for TikTok is that as more people come looking for more things in the app, it can then match those queries up with internal shops and providers, as relevant.

TikTok already offers Search Ads on this front, which enable brands to display their products font-and-center within relevant search pages.

If it can incorporate AI-based search, and expand on this capacity, that could make TikTok an even more valuable discovery platform, which could lure even more of this activity into the app.

And as that search behavior expands, TikTok can also look to provide more in-app matches, by making pitches to relevant businesses, highlighting the amount of related queries that it’s seeing. If users are increasingly looking for dog toys in the app, for example, TikTok’s sales team can proactively seek more advertisers in this category, and with the system able to facilitate more searches, that’ll broaden its potential here.

Or it could look to meet any related product demands itself, via its own sourcing and facilitation, with Chinese manufacturers working in partnership with TikTok to provide custom products based on trends.

In this sense, TikTok’s really looking to integrate a Temu-style marketplace into the platform, honing in on the popularity of in-stream shopping to expand its offering.

Thus far, TikTok hasn’t cracked the code on this, but generative AI search could be another big step, while also providing another way for the platform to tap into the rising AI trend.

Which, thus far, social platforms haven’t really excelled in.

Sure, several platforms, including TikTok, are rolling out new generative AI elements, mostly related to visual creation in-stream. But most of these are a novelty, and don’t seemingly offer long-term value within the social media engagement process.

Generative AI search could be a more valuable consideration, while TikTok’s also experimenting with song creation via AI, which could be another value add, given the platform’s connection with music trends.

On balance, I would argue that, right now, TikTok is leading the way on integrating AI into its platform, as others are still trying to figure out good use cases for AI tools in-stream. Generative AI search makes a lot of sense in this respect, and while TikTok hasn’t indicated anything about it as yet, I would suspect that this will be coming to the app, sometime soon.

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