May 17, 2017

Instagram Bets on Location, its “Hidden Gem”

Chicago Instagram 2017-05-16

The war between Instagram and Snapchat is intensifying around location.

Josh Constine of TechCrunch has reported that Instagram is testing a feature known as Location Stories, which collects and shares public Instagram Stories content from Instagram’s 700 million users. As Constine writes, “Users can then visit that business, landmark or place’s Instagram page and watch a slideshow Story of posts from there shared by strangers they don’t follow.”

The testing of Location Stories builds upon features that Snapchat had introduced. For instance, in December, Instagram launched stickers that emulate Snapchat geofilters by making it possible for users to spice up their Instagram posts with content such as emoji and location names. Those stickers are crucial: Instagram is using the stickers as tags to create Location Stories. In doing so, Instagram has one-upped Snapchat. As Constine reports,

The closest thing Snapchat has is the new Stories Search feature it’s testing. But it relies on metadata, machine vision object recognition and the free-form text people add to Snaps to surface content. Instagram’s standardized location database that powers location stickers will make it easier to both add to a unified Location Story and watch them, too.

At the 2017 TechCrunch Disrupt NY event, Instagram’s head of product talked about Instagram’s heightened interest in location-based content. He described location pages as a “hidden gem” of Instagram. He said, “I think that over time, as people are tagging their Stories proactively, there’s an opportunity to aggregate content and find out what’s happening right now at the Eiffel Tower, what’s happening right now at your favorite restaurant.”

Instagram could monetize Location Stories in a number of ways. For instance, Instagram could allow businesses to place ads in Location Stories feeds just as they do already with Instagram Stories. Or Instagram could aggregate the images from Location Stories as data to give businesses (for a fee) better insight into customer behavior (similar to how Foursquare sells data to advertisers based on users’ foot traffic).

In any event, the news is another reminder to brick-and-mortar businesses to use visual storytelling more thoughtfully as a competitive asset. Businesses should treat their Instagram accounts as opportunities to create foot traffic and potential customers, not just places to build their visibility (although doing so is important). Instagram is but one platform for creating organic and paid content. Instagram Location Stories will help 700 million users do a better job drawing attention to their location and sharing cool things to do and see. Brands need to participate, too.

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