Snapchat is bringing user location to the forefront of its social media experience. Today location is a defining characteristic of Snapchat, and the company continues to develop new features that make otherwise mundane longitudes and latitudes meaningful.
The effective use of location data has proven difficult for the social giants, and the market is rife with unmet opportunity around user location. Nine out of 10 smartphone owners enable location services on their devices, according to eMarketer and data from the Pew Research Center, but a recent Skyhook Wireless survey found that only 38 percent of respondents grant social networking apps access to that information.
Snapchat's fresh take on location
Snapchat's unique approach to location already earned the company legions of geo-fanatics, thanks to its quirky location-based filters that augment images or video, as well as it "live stories," which are only available within specific regions or at certain venues. Snapchat also hopes to use location data to create on-demand geofilters so it can sell them to businesses that want to market events, products or specific locales.
Snapchat's use of location is notable because it takes a refreshingly different approach to the feature, which has become somewhat stale, boring and under developed in other similar social apps. Facebook, Google and Twitter have largely shifted location to the background of their social apps and activities, but Snapchat elevates the importance of place and puts it front and center in the user experience.
For example, Snapchat has "gamed" location around human behavior and capitalized on it through a "more private network where space isn't precious, but rather fleeting," says Cameron Friedlander, marketing technology strategy lead at Kimberly-Clark, a consumer packaged goods conglomerate. "Quick non-linear storytelling is inherent to the [Snapchat] platform and location is a natural part of that — connecting people to their environment and others to tell their stories."
Snapchat aims to add 'right place' to the marketing mix
Location-data has been available to marketers in social apps for many years, including data collected via geo-fencing on Twitter. Facebook also offers targeted ads based on users' cities, states and zip codes. However, Snapchat presents marketers with a new and creative means to customize their messages using location, according to Stephen Golub, vice president of accounts at DXagency, an "engagement agency" that focuses on the entertainment industry. For example, when people in Hoboken, N.J., open the Snapchat app they see a completely different set of geofilters and curated content than users in Los Angeles, he says. And while brands can also target Facebook users with location-specific content, Snapchat lets them sponsor new sets of filters and functionality that may only be available for 24 hours, according to Golub.
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