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TikTok takes “Googling your health condition” to a whole new level

Lindsay Dixon

For over a decade, we have all told our patients to please stop using Google to self-diagnose and/or research their health conditions. Google is old news though: There is a new platform that is rapidly gaining viewership that you need to be aware of.

A recent survey showed that 1 in 5 Americans are currently using TikTok for their primary source of information when it comes to health issues. TikTok is a short form vertical video-based platform, and though Gen Z and Millennials currently account for approximately 75% of TikTok users, the platform is gaining popularity among all other demographics as well.

You should also know that TikTok (similar to Google and YouTube) is now a search engine. This platform is competing with the world’s largest search engines for viewer attention, and they are succeeding.

TikTok is known to be the platform where you can be your authentic self. The videos don’t have to be polished, nor is this a photo platform for showcasing your “perfect life” so it feels more comfortable and welcoming for most users (though photo sharing is coming to TikTok as well.) This ease of use and feeling of authenticity have given TikTok an edge over other platforms like Instagram or YouTube that often require either a more aesthetic image or a higher skill level of video editing and graphic design in order to be successful.

TikTok is also a platform where users go to learn how to do things, and how to solve problems. The hashtag the #LearnOnTikTok hashtag has over 412 billion views.

As a relatively new platform, it’s still incredibly easy to generate content that can reach quite a large audience. Technically you don’t even have to show your face to produce engaging content that gets tens of thousands of views. I recently made a Vitamin D video for TikTok that garnered close to 200K views. It was just a piece of text with a video background, and music from the platform itself for audio. You wouldn’t believe the controversy that this 6-second video, warning people not to take too much Vitamin D, caused on the platform.

There is a massive opportunity here, both for businesses wanting to entrench their "brand" and for combating misinformation. 

One example is #TeamHalo, a group of healthcare professionals and scientists from around the world who have been using social media, including TikTok, to combat misinformation. One of my favourite accounts is Canadian physician Dr. Jonathan Laxton, FRCPC, who is an expert at debunking the latest misinformation on topics like COVID-19, vaccination, and monkeypox. His account has grown to 57K followers, showing us that there is also an appetite for credible, scientific information from different healthcare professionals on this platform as well.

The opportunity for healthcare professionals here is limitless. If you are not leveraging short form content to amplify your message and/or your product or service through the use of short form video content, either on TikTok or elsewhere, you are likely missing out on one of the largest opportunities of the decade.

Or maybe you have a passion for science communication and for debunking myths about your area of specialty. I would strongly encourage you to consider joining this platform to help combat misinformation – we really need evidence-based healthcare professionals to help refute some of the ill-conceived health-related claims that are being made on this platform.

While researching for this article, I was astounded to see that my small TikTok, which I started back in January of this year, has generated >500K views with fairly minimal effort. It will not always be this way.

If you are looking for a way to amplify your message or get your service or product in front of an audience with minimal effort, you may want to consider this platform. If you would like to discuss a possible collaboration or if you would like further information on how you can use video to amplify your message and increase awareness of your product or service on social media, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to hear from you.


1 in 5 Americans consult TikTok for health advice before their physicians:

Educational content is top of the class on TikTok:

Dr. Jonathan Laxton on TikTok:

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