Snapchat is giving people a better look at what’s going on in the world but is not including a place for advertisers (at least not yet).
On Wednesday, Snapchat rolled out Snap Map, which plots people’s publicly posted Stories by location on a map so that others can see what photos and videos people are sharing from a specific location.
People can pinch on the app’s main screen to pull up a normal-looking map that places heat maps around places where a lot of people are posting Stories, as well as around location-based events, like concerts and sporting events. And people can choose to have their own location appear on the map — either to everyone who follows them or only to certain friends — so that friends can see where they are and send them a message through Snapchat to meet up; if that sounds creepy or you’re not tight enough with anyone to constantly ping your location like a tagged endangered animal, you can go into Ghost Mode so that your location won’t be shared with anyone.
While Snap Map could pave a path for Snapchat to boost its position among location-minded marketers, Snapchat will not be running ads alongside Stories access through Snap Map or selling a way for brands to place a promoted Story or location on people’s maps, according to a spokesperson for Snapchat’s parent company, Snap.
It’s easy to see how Snapchat eventually would want to extend its ad business to Snap Map, though.
For starters, Snapchat could simply run location-targeted ads against Snap Map’s location-related Stories. If someone is viewing Stories about someplace in Los Angeles — either because they live there or are a visiting tourist looking for something to do — Snapchat could show those people ads from brands looking to reach people in Los Angeles, the same ads that would otherwise appear between people’s Stories, within Snapchat’s Our Stories collections or in Discover channels’ Publisher Stories.
But the real opportunity with Snap Maps is taking advantage of the context. According to Snap’s company blog post announcing Snap Maps, the feature is meant for people to “see what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure!”
That means ads within Snap Maps could be better positioned to get people to go to a brand-related location than ads placed elsewhere in Snapchat. A retailer running a sale could target Snap Map Story viewers because those people may be looking for something to do in a city, as opposed to people browsing their normal Stories feed who are more likely just looking for something to watch. Same goes for a brand hosting an event in a city, like a pop-up shop or meet-and-greet with a celebrity spokesperson.
And Snapchat’s opportunity isn’t limited to extending standard Snap Ads to Snap Maps. In the same way that Snapchat is placing event-related Our Stories within Snap Maps that, unlike the heat maps, carry a label to give them more prominence and pique people’s interest, Snapchat could have brands pay to place promoted Stories on locations within a Snap Map, similar to the ads Google slots within Google Maps. That way, the brand hosting a celebrity meet-and-greet at a new store’s grand opening could produce a Story with the celebrity touring the store, and that Story would appear within a Snap Map where the store is physically located and potentially include a way for people to swipe up on the Story to get directions to the store.