Snapchat Locations: Good for Brands, Risky for Users
This article comes to us from the Speaking Human University Program, which gives voice to the opinions and perspectives of the next generation of consumers and marketers…
Put yourself into the shoes of a brand marketer. You’re trying to find a unique way to advertise your brand with less competition. Then it hits you: Snapchat. Snapchat has had advertisements flash across users’ screens daily for years, but yet still remains less saturated than other social media channels. Take it a step further. Imagine having the ability to flash an advertisement across multiple screens as customers are in close proximity to your location. The thing is, that could be a closer reality than we think.
Snapchat made over 3.1 billion dollars from brand advertisements in 2021, and that’s expected to continue to grow in upcoming years. It is expected to bring in nearly 6 million dollars per year by 2026. If their focus shifts to further integrating advertising into Snap Maps, this dream that many marketers have could come to life.
Snap Maps shows a global map displaying users’ locations if they enable the app to do so. This feature allows people to see where their friends are at, view content from other countries, and even uses heat maps to show popular environments in your area. Snap Maps debuted in 2017 and has made strides towards improving location accuracy. They also continuously work to improve the quality of the visuals on the maps, allowing users to zoom in on exact locations and even shows house layouts and road names. In February of 2022, they expanded to allow a “live location” feature which shows your constant location to selected friends. An even newer feature, shows you how to get to your friends’ exact locations with step-by-step directions and approximate travel times. Snapchat has already started labeling businesses on the map and wants to continue to evolve this feature. The further advertising integrates into the map, the less intimacy there is to it. But what does this mean for consumers?
Many people say the danger of Snap Maps is limited since you can turn your location off by going into “Ghostmode”. But it’s not quite that simple when not everyone understands what Ghostmode is or why you should use it. 21.1% of Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 17 years old. This is the second highest age group of users and many may be unaware of the risks associated with the application. Many users, particularly skewing younger, add everyone back as a friend on the app to gain popularity and views on their stories. But many of these users often have zero knowledge of the identity of the person they’re now sharing their data with. With human-trafficking, stalking, and harassment cases rising every year, it’s clear to see why a location-sharing feature being used primarily by minors is a huge concern. Young users could be at risk due to being unaware of the dangers of having their location displayed so publicly. Many users, regardless of age, may have their location on without realizing the exposed position they’ve just put themselves in. The more the maps’ features advance for future marketing space, the more consequential the dangers become.
Marketers’ having access to this exact location tracking service for advertising may be a dream to them, but it could turn into a nightmare for consumers. Snap Maps continues to erode users’ privacy with each update to “improve” the experience, while continuously decreasing safety with each update they make. If they’re already giving directions to your exact location, where does it stop? At what point will safety become the priority for Snapchat over the potential money to be made? It’s unclear to see the exact future of advertising on Snap Maps, but wherever it leads privacy does not seem to be the primary concern of the developers.