Is Snap Building a Local Discovery Engine?

Snapchat is signaling an interest in becoming a socially fueled local discovery engine. Connecting dots over several years, its geo-local efforts include Geofilters, Snap MapLocal Place Promote, and Local Lenses.

The through-line in these moves is the notion that social engagement can trigger local, in-real-life activity like meeting friends for a drink. That in turn boosts Snapchat’s engagement, including its highly valuable and differentiating Gen-Z following. And, of course, higher engagement and stronger relationships with local businesses, who are potential advertisers, equals revenue for an ad-centric business like Snap.

The latest evidence for Snap’s geo-local play is the recent My Places launch. A feature of Snap Map, it brings more structure to local discovery through new ways to interact with 30 million local businesses. Specifically, it lets 250 million Snap Map users tag, share, and check into their favorite spots.

What’s Snapchat’s Local Play?

Mapvertising

My Places’ UX is built around three tabs — Visited, Favorites, and Popular. “Visited” lists places you’ve checked into, and “Favorites” lets users manually designate the places they like best. “Popular” is more of a discovery engine in that it algorithmically suggests places.

The latter is potentially most impactful as it further differentiates Snap Map from Google Maps. The signals Snap uses to make intelligent recommendations include a user’s current location, past check-ins or “favorited” spots, and how all these signals flow from one’s Snapchat social graph.

The launch of My Places also follows Snapchat Layers. This likewise adds an organizational framework to Snap Map by thematically grouping events and entities. An “entertainment” layer unearths data from Ticketmaster, for example. Layers will develop around food, fun, and other themes.

Meanwhile, MyPlaces aligns with Local Place promote. This is a promotional tool that gives businesses greater exposure within Snap Map. It does this by offering expanded business profiles and targeted advertising within the mapping UX (a.k.a., mapvertising).

MyPlaces supports Local Place Promote by driving user engagement to the point that SMBs see it as a good source of foot traffic. Data from My Places could also flow into Local Place Promote, meaning content for businesses profiles such as highlighting reviews and business activity.

Augment My Town: Local’s Next Turf Battle

Identified and Annotated

While we’re listing integration possibilities, My Places aligns with one of Snap’s biggest product targets: AR. The technology continues to drive Snap’s revenue growth through lenses and visual search (Snap Scan). And it’s already integrating AR in geolocal ways, including Local Lenses.

For those unfamiliar, Local Lenses are the geo-relevant flavor of Snap’s signature selfie lenses. They utilize the rear-facing camera to augment the broader canvas of the physical world. That leads to a larger addressable market of lens-based advertisers, beyond products that go on one’s face.

The database My Places develops through user activity could support Local Lenses. For example, local businesses can be identified and annotated through Local Lenses, as they’re powered by the place data from MyPlaces. Google does something similar in its Live View product.

The timing could be right for these moves, as the world opens back up (sort of). In a broader sense, Snap wants to compete with Google Maps as a local search and discovery engine. That’s a tall order, but Snap could have an edge in socially-fueled map results. As often, it’s all about the data.

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Mike Boland has been a tech & media analyst for the past two decades, specifically covering mobile, local and emerging technologies. He has written for Street Fight since 2011. More can be seen at www.mikebo.land