Snap Maps: For the marketer or the stalker?

In this cross-posting from the LinkedIn agency influencer series Carter Nicholas asks what utility marketers could find with Snapchat's latest innovation.

Over the last year, the ‘Story’ war between Snapchat and Instagram ignited a competitive battle for continued growth. In August 2016, Instagram added Stories to its already established platform – an identical portrayal of Snapchat’s Stories feature – and as a result, Snapchat’s parent company, Snap Inc., posted a net loss of $514.6 million at the end of 2016.

A year on, Instagram stories now make up 250 million daily active users and considerably outweigh that of Snapchat’s 166 million users.

The success of Instagram Stories, along with the introduction of the new live video feature, poses a challenge for Snapchat. How can it remain innovative and continue to foster user growth?

Enter Snap Maps.

This intriguing launch proposition takes sharing to a whole new level, but it’s also sparking its fair share of controversy.

Snap Maps allows you to share your location in real time, and post pictures and videos that can be viewed by anyone on a map. This has raised safety concerns, as strangers are now capable of mapping out the location of your school, office or home, which presents dangers such as stalking and bullying, particularly for youths.

Carter Nicholas

But while Snap Maps present risks, these can be easily managed. Firstly, it’s not possible to share your location with someone outside of your friends list, so unless you’re someone that adds and accepts contacts you don’t know, this shouldn’t pose a problem. Also, Snap Maps gives you the option to turn your privacy settings to ‘Ghost Mode’, which makes your location invisible to contacts.

Interestingly, according to BI Intelligence’s 2017 Digital Trust survey, of the top five social media platforms, users trust Snapchat the most to protect their personal data and privacy. Beyond these initial concerns, the concept of Snap Maps presents a great opportunity for location-minded marketers.

By pinching the screen, a user is exposed to the virtual world of Snapchat, a map filled with captivating hotspots, represented by heat maps that can be pressed to view stories posted from that exact location. Events happening across the world are now available to view and engage with, creating an environment of discoverability, a different world for you to experience daily. According to Snap’s recent blog post, the feature allows people to “see what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure”, no doubt an exciting proposition for many.

For me, this raises a question: what if brands could place a location-targeted ad as a Story on people’s maps to inspire an adventure associated with their messaging?

The new Snap Maps feature

Imagine you are walking along George Street in Sydney and viewing stories posted in the area to see what’s happening around you. Snap Maps could show you an ad from a brand looking to reach people on George Street, such as McDonald’s, which is conveniently 30 meters ahead of you.

We could even take this one step further: imagine if the ads were personalised and you were offered a unique code to receive a discounted Chicken Big Mac meal. Yes please!

We all know that ads on social media can be a pain in the proverbial and are scrolled past faster than the time it takes to actually get a whiff of what is being advertised, but if Snap Maps offered a location-targeted ad that provided unique value to a consumer, it may very well be Chicken Big Mac time.

Snap Maps presents an opportunity for marketers to utilise a new channel capable of targeting individuals in real time, while the feature has the potential to be an interactive extension of Snap Ads where brands pay to place promoted Stories and personalised messages in a familiar and nearby way.

Meanwhile, location-targeted ads on Snap Maps could give marketers instant data and unique impressions that would make it possible to determine behavioural trends in real time.

There is the possibility that this will come at the cost of our privacy, but whether you view Snap Maps as a marketers dream, or just plain creepy, it will be interesting to see how the feature develops.

Carter Nicholas is Inside Sales at McCorkell & Associates

This piece is part of the LinkedIn agency influcencer program. Find more pieces from the program by clicking the banner below.

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