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Google Maps’ Local Influencer Play

Google Has 120+ Million Local Guides In 24,000 Locations

Google Maps is a sleeping giant.

Every month, more than a billion people use Google Maps.

Following a host of feature upgrades within the past year they’re about to use it a whole lot more.

Google’s plan for Maps is to be the one-stop-shop where users go to explore, plan, and share travel destinations with people.

Over the past year, Google has expanded its Maps functionality to incorporate elements of travel planning, a bit like the Trippit app, and location intelligence, a bit like Foursquare.

FYI – Foursquare is a location data B2B play now, not a social app.

Not to mention, clever new augmented reality features and a liberal sprinkling of machine learning, to predict public transport delays, for example, making it smarter than ever.

However, what Google Maps has lacked is perhaps the more human element.

Following the expansion of its Local Guides Program last week, this looks set to change, in a move which brings more social features and elements of influencer marketing to Maps.

Google’s Local Heroes

Local Guides are a mostly unseen, but integral, part of the Google Maps experience, providing reviews, images and other content as well as answering questions (Q&A) about local businesses and places.

Guides write more in-depth business reviews and post photos to help other Google Maps users learn about the area.

In exchange, they receive a variety of perks, like early access to new features, exclusive local meetups, free access to Google services, discounts and coupons and more.

The Local Guide program had 5 million participants globally in 2016, growing to 50 million in 2017, 95 million by 2018 and now sitting on 120 million in 2019.

Now the Guides are about to become much more prominent as users will soon be able to follow Local Guides and see local recommendations of places and things to do.

In effect, creating local, grassroots influencer networks all around the world.

Local Guides As Influencers

Google Maps users in select markets will be able to follow the top Local Guides by clicking a new “Follow” button on these users’ profile pages.

By doing so, the Guides’ recommendations will be surfaced for users when they’re using Google Maps. In a new section on the “For You” tab in the app, they’ll find the area recommendations from the Local Guides.

Google is piloting the program in Bangkok, Delhi, London, Mexico City, New York, Osaka, San Francisco, São Paulo and Tokyo, initially.

Austin Wells, Product Manager, Google Maps

“Across 24,000 cities and towns, we now have an active community of 120 million Local Guides on Google Maps who are passionate about sharing their experiences by contributing reviews, photos, lists and more.

If you’re in Bangalore, Melvin John is a Local Guide whose reviews and recommendations will guide you through the city’s microbrewery scene. And if you’ve used Google Maps in Tokyo, Ayaka Ohkawa’s popular photography has probably helped you explore the city’s landmarks, cuisine and culture.”

In a similar update last year, Google rolled out a “Follow” feature for tracking businesses on the Maps app. Further expanding this in 2019 and integrating with Google My Business.

For bricks and mortar businesses, and organisations where local discovery is essential, Google Maps’ ever-expanding feature set will increasingly make it a priority as we head into 2020.

The ascension of Local Guides in Maps, and other areas of Google’s search empire, will also no doubt start a new local influencer goldrush.

Smart marketers might even start exploring who the Local Guide movers and shakers are in their local communities and begin the slow process of nurturing relationships.

After all, there’s nothing like getting on a “future somebody’s” radar when they’re a “nobody”.

 

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