‘Facebook Events’ App Is Now ‘Facebook Local’

Facebook has revamped the separate Events app it released last year into with a broader mission designed to promote discovery and reviews.

The new version, which is being rolled out on Apple iOS and Google Android devices is called, simply, Facebook Local.

“Last year, we launched a standalone app for people who love using Facebook events to find things to do around them,” said Aditya Koolwal, Product Manager, in an email. “Now, we’re updating that app to help people find more things to do with their communities. The new app, Facebook Local, helps you easily find what to do, where to go, where to eat, or what you need— all recommended by the people you know and trust.”

If that sounds a lot like Foursquare and Yelp, you’re probably right. But for Facebook, the decision simply follows its years-long focus on local as it tries to counter its primary advertising and marketing rival, Google.

The release of Facebook Local comes after another high-flying quarter for the social network. Earlier this week, Facebook reported its Q3 2017 earnings by saying it now has nearly 2.1 billion people using Facebook every month and nearly 1.4 billion people using it daily. (Instagram also hit a big milestone this quarter, now with 500 million daily actives.”).

Facebook Local app in action. Source: Facebook

Overall, total revenue grew 47 percent year over year, and we had our first ever quarter with more than $10 billion in revenue. And with social media being inherently local, Facebook’s effort to make it easier for its users and businesses to connect and engage with each other is essential to keeping those numbers rising.

“For my part, when I think about our Marketer segment, we have SMBs; we have brand, direct response, and developers,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told analysts during the company’s earnings call. “We’re seeing strong growth across all those areas. “I think if you think about where the growth remains, it really is in increasing the relevance of the ads, because the ads I think are getting better in terms of reaching the right people at the right time.”

All Users Are Local

While Facebook Local didn’t come up during the earnings call, the importance of local advertising did.

Sandberg touted Facebook’s Custom Audiences and its targeting tools, as leading to better experiences for both consumers and businesses.

As an example, she pointed to an effort by the Alameda County Fair, a local fairground in Pleasanton, California. The Fair used Facebook to target people within 25 miles of their fairgrounds, focusing on ages 20-to-51 who have specific interests in concerts, music festivals, and theme parks. As a result of Facebook’s tools, the Fair saw season pass ticket sales for 2017 rise by 50 percent compared to 2016.

“That’s really about finding the people that are interested,” Sandberg said. “And if you look at the percentage of our ads business where people are using our most sophisticated approaches to finding the right audience, I think we still have a lot of opportunity for growth there, and that will improve both the quality of the ads people see but also the returns to marketers. And I think that will hit all of the verticals and all of the segments.”

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How Asahi Premium Beverages Is ‘Localizing’ Facebook And Instagram Campaigns

When it came to local marketing for Asahi Premium Beverages, the Japanese beer and soft drink company, the company typically relied on traditional mediums such as printed signage, umbrellas, and giveaways, says John Kelly, National On Premise Group Business Manager.

But as social media has advanced, Asahi, which markets such brands as Schweppes Ginger Ale, a line of vodka, and Italy’s Peroni beer, among others, found that it needed a clearer path to help direct consumers to local shops and bars where they can find its labels.

So Asahi turned to local social advertising platform Tiger Pistol, a Facebook global marketing partner, to manage its Facebook and Instagram presence.

But to help close the loop between social media users and the locations where Asahi products can be found, Tiger Pistol has struck an integration with Yext this week. (Full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here)

Tiger Pistol’s platform will allow its clients to use the Yext App Directory to run “thousands” of localized Instagram and Facebook campaigns, leveraging the Yext Knowledge Manager to create and maintain digital information that will let consumers know where and when to shop for Asahi products.

Over time this relationship will allow Tiger Pistol users to leverage additional Yext content and data for automated campaigns linked to menu updates, store events and more.

“The Tiger Pistol integration with Yext opens the opportunity for clients to bring their corporate level advertising strategy to their location network across the country via Local Facebook pages,” says Tiger Pistol CEO Steve Hibberd. “It’s a new ‘game changing’ capability that, to date, is delivering 30-50 percent better outcomes on average compared to national campaigns using simple geo targeting.

In terms of how it works, advertising campaign templates are created by the brand and then customized and distributed for each location imported from Yext, Hibberd says.

“Campaign localization includes customized creative, copy, spend and audiences – the campaign not only geo-targets people in the area, but can leverage local or national custom and lookalike audiences overlaid with local geo-targeting.”

Yext launched its App Directory in June. It allows clients to connect digital knowledge from Yext with software systems across the enterprise. The Yext App Directory integrates digital knowledge seamlessly throughout an organization, creating opportunities for growth and time-saving efficiencies with apps for over 20 leading companies, including HubSpot, Smartling, Domo, Zendesk, with Tiger Pistol being the latest.

“With the Tiger Pistol platform, we can deploy Peroni campaigns through our distribution channels which allows us to deliver more relevant campaigns, track performance, gain valuable audience insights, and maximize share of voice,” Asahi’s Kelly says, noting the natural affinities between social media, mobile, and local business.

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Snapchat’s Context Cards Extend Digital Presence Information From Outside Apps

The introduction of Snapchat’s Context Cards represent the clearest way for brands that manage their online listings to get in front of the image sharing platform’s 173 million daily users.

The company bills Context Cards as a “new way” for Snapchatters to learn about what they’re viewing via information from third–party app partners including Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Michelin, and Goop. Context Cards also offers connections to ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft, as well as reservation platforms Open Table, Resy, and Bookatable.

Context Card in action: Using Snap’s own “Knowledge Graph” and tools like Snap Map, users can find information about places — and then make a reservation or hail a ride all without leaving the Snapchat app.

Context And Engagement

In a larger sense, Context Cards shows the expansion of the “Knowledge Graph” concept promoted by Google that aims to meet consumers’ demand for specific answers and information instead of a list of links from a search.

The Snapchat feature is similar to the mix of personalized news and place-based information that Google Now app users see via “smart cards.”

In the case of  Snapchat Context Cards, when a user sees an image of, say, a place that serves pancakes in a Snap, they can swipe up if that Snap says “More” at the bottom to see more information likes reviews about that business from partners like TripAdvisor or Foursquare, for example.

Once within the Context Cards for a specific location or venue, a user can then locate the restaurant on Snap Map, contact the restaurant directly or make a reservation (if it’s available) via Open Table, Bookatable, or Resy, and even get an Uber or Lyft to take them there — all without leaving Snapchat.

Snapchat Context Cards showcase location information and provide access to apps that will connect the user to a physical place.

It all adds up to the way Snapchat has gone from bewildering publishers, agencies, and brands as marketing partner two years ago to being an essential part of practically all major brands’ app engagement and Digital Presence Management by linking together places and related real-time information) to online/offline strategies.

No Ads, Only Organic Connection

The advent of Context Cards comes as other platforms seek ways of aligning with complementary apps. Two weeks ago, as an example, Walmart signed on to Button’s Marketplace, an app engagement and payments platform that connects matches mobile content with the ability to access related transactions without having to juggle multiple apps at once.

The Context Cards also follow the path set by previous Snap features like Geofilters, which initially allowed only users to add an image overlay telling friends their location,  and Snap Map, which debuted in June and lets Snapchatters position themselves on a map of the world while displaying crowd-sourced images and videos shared from specific locations.

Like Snap Map, ads will not appear within the Snaps found in Context at this time — that includes Snap Ads and Sponsored Creative Tools. In general, it’s worth noting that in the interest of preserving its unique user experience, ads still do not appear between Snaps in Search or Snap Map today either.

Location At The Center

The feature also puts a spotlight on the importance of location technology that Snap has relied on.

Foursquare is noted as a particular partner in Context Cards, thanks in part to its personalized discovery tools based on its location intelligence as well as its connection to a wide range of brands. But it’s not the only provider of geospatial information to Snap.

In addition to its purchase of online-to-offline attribution Placed this summer, Snap Map is also powered by navigation and geo-data visualization players Mapbox, OpenStreetMaps, and DigitalGlobe. On the advertising side, Snap also works with geo-data specialist Factual and location-based ad targeting and analytics provider GroundTruth.

Overall, Snap relies on a sophisticated combination of internal and external signals to determine relationships between venues and locations. Together with location intelligence from its partners, it been able to build a strong knowledge graph, the value and accuracy of which will continue to grow stronger.

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How Walmart Plans To Connect With App Content And Services Through Button Marketplace

Walmart is the latest retailer to sign on to Button Marketplace, an app engagement and payments platform that connects mobile content and commerce brands.

In addition to adding Walmart, the Button Marketplace has also added more than 30 diverse new retailers to the platform. These include fashion companies such as Gap, Express, and Under Armour; digital travel brands such as Hotwire, HomeAway, and VRBO; retail giants such as Target, QVC, Walgreens, and Sears; among many others.

The Marketplace is run by a company called Button, which provides the connective tissue between complementary mobile apps and websites to promote loyalty and payment.

Just by way of explanation, last May, The Weather Channel app began featuring Button Marketplace apps from Uber, Groupon, delivery.com, Caviar, and Resy.  As a result, its users would be able to hail a ride, sign up for a deal, get a food delivery, or make a reservation without leaving The Weather Channel to connect with those functions. In addition to maintaining engagement, The Weather Channel could potentially drive revenue through affiliate deals to promote those separate app functions.

As Walmart seeks to combat rival Amazon to be the primary online and offline shopping center for consumers, the extension to other apps within its own mobile base could help it prove its own greater convenience to consumers.

Michael Jaconi, founder and CEO of Button, was particularly ebullient in announcing what he believes the benefits are to the retail giant.

“Walmart joining Button’s Marketplace is one of the greatest accomplishments for the company to date,” said Jaconi, at his company’s Tap 2017 conference. “Enabling Walmart to expand the partnerships that matter most to them to the mobile channel is a core ingredient in their digital growth strategy. Now, with Button playing an important role in that strategy, I’m confident our platform will deliver the highest-converting channel for mobile buyers that exists.”

Jaconi backs up his claims by noting that as mobile commerce continues to grow, with smartphone sales expected to reach more than $102 billion in 2017 alone, retailers are seeking new avenues to tap into the growth of the mobile economy and acquire new users for the highest converting channels they have — their apps.

Back in February 2016, we spoke to Mike Dudas, Button’s co-founder, chief revenue officer, about the role that mobile was playing in blurring the lines between online and offline for retailers.

“We are focused on mobile commerce,” Dudas told us at the time. “But what’s really surprising is that mobile commerce is actually happening in store. For example, Walmart saw that something like 10 percent of their mobile transactions are happening in store on device.

“People want to walk in to a store and if it doesn’t have the good on the shelf, they say, ‘Guess what, I’ll buy it from you on my phone.’ You’re going to see retailers responding to this. You’re going to be able to buy anything and get it delivered at the biggest, most savvy and sophisticated retailers. There’s going to be a much bigger shift to transactions that occur on what some would call ‘remote commerce,’ but I would call “proximity commerce,” as I tap the phone and pay with a credit card.

“Then, there’s this whole class of transactions that occur with services like Uber, and other platforms where you can book anything from food to hospitality to movie tickets,” Dudas said, foreshadowing the dozens of partners Button has signed up since.

The Walmart deal follows its recent aim at Amazon by partnering with Google on voice-activated shopping.

Owners of the Google Home will be able to speak orders to their voice-activated Google Assistant (aka “Okay, Google”) for delivery or pickup via its local online shopping marketplace Google Express. The Walmart connection came on the heels previous store partnerships with Costco, Target, and Whole Foods, which, coincidentally, is being acquired by Amazon for $13.7 billion.

In addition to adding Walmart and other retailers, Button is also concentrating on publisher apps as well. It has signed up social news outlet Buzzfeed, which will be able to tap into mobile commerce apps in the same way The Weather Channel’s app is through the Button Marketplace.

“Buzzfeed is the king of merging content and commerce in the most authentic way,” said Jaconi. “Incorporating mobile shopping for consumers within their properties is an exciting opportunity, and the variety of Button Merchants combined with Buzzfeed’s content creates endless possibilities for all partners – a win, win all around.”

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China’s Tencent And WeChat Ready To Make A Big Play For U.S. Advertisers

China’s leading social media and commerce developer Tencent is expanding its reach to Chinese-speakers in the U.S. as it seeks to challenge Google and Facebook  on matching advertisers and consumers on a more global basis.

Tencent will make its official U.S. marketing debut during the Advertising Week New York next week. The company, which runs the popular WeChat messaging app, will showcase of a new suite of advertising solutions and resources that enable U.S. marketers to directly engage Chinese consumers on Tencent platforms both in China and while they travel abroad.

These new offerings and the establishment of a dedicated U.S.-based support team provide U.S. brands and agencies with unique and powerful ways to capture attention, drive brand preference and increase sales among Chinese consumers.

Why should U.S. businesses pay attention?

As Tencent points out, Chinese tourists visiting the U.S. spent roughly $35 billion in 2016 alone.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, the average spending per trip of a Chinese traveler in the U.S. is higher than any other international traveler, and shopping is a key activity for Chinese outbound tourists.

“For U.S. advertisers, China presents a dynamic, lucrative and challenging opportunity. Brands have become more sophisticated about the needs and behavior of Chinese tourists. To make a sale outside China, they understand that they need to speak to their customers before they even plan their trips,” said Poshu Yeung, VP of International Business at Tencent.

Over the past few months, a few select U.S. brands were invited to use these new advertising solutions, including the largest mall operator in the United States, Simon Property Group, and popular women’s fashion brand, Rebecca Minkoff.

“Tencent and WeChat’s new travel targeting and advertising solutions provide us with an unprecedented opportunity to directly connect with Chinese travelers, both in China and when they visit the U.S.,” said Kristen Esposito, Simon Property Group Vice President of Tourism and Marketing Alliances. “China is projected to be the largest overseas inbound travel market to the U.S. by 2021, so the potential for growth is truly extraordinary.”

The connection between U.S. brands and China’s social media platforms could produce a lucrative exchange that allows American advertisers to expand their reach beyond U.S. borders.

In terms of the size of China’s social media usage, More than eight in 10 internet users in China, or 626 million people, will access social networks regularly in 2017, according to an eMarketer report this summer.

eMarketer has raised its previous estimates for social network user growth in China by more than 4 percent, mainly because of older users increasingly using homegrown messaging platform WeChat to perform a myriad of tasks that reach far beyond messaging.

For example, 62 percent of internet users ages 55 to 64 in the country will be social network users this year—equating to 28.8 million individuals.

Since its launch in 2011, WeChat has evolved into what eMarketer called a “must-have” app in China. As messaging apps in the U.S. are still slowly expanding into commerce, WeChat has pioneered the format to be used for shopping, food delivery, even booking a doctor’s appointment and paying bills.

“WeChat’s further expansion into the areas of payments, shopping and general utility have proven fruitful for China’s social networking and messaging giant,” said Monica Peart, eMarketer’s senior forecasting director. “And it will only increase the attraction for new mobile users and older users, as WeChat increasingly has something for everyone.”

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Apps Dominate Users’ Digital Time — But Is Interest In New Apps Falling?

Smartphone apps are still the way most consumers access digital content and information, but as the mobile marketplace matures and other avenues of interactivity emerge (e.g., voice-activation) new entrants into the app landscape may face greater challenges when it comes to grabbing attention.

That’s the view from audience measurement company comScore’s 2017 Mobile App Report, which outlines the levels of app engagement across 57 pages of charts.

If you’ve ever looked at your smartphone and thought about how many of those various apps you actually use, the report’s main findings are not very surprising. But it does provide a good deal of clarity by quantifying how consumers are using apps — and the degrees of how they’re not.

For example, the big takeaway from the comScore report is that a slight majority users (51 percent) do not download any apps in a month. Meanwhile, 66 percent of users do not download any paid-apps in a given month, comScore found, suggesting more difficulty for developers who want to rely less on ad support.

Source: comScore 2017 Mobile App Report

App Overload

Mobile apps account for 57 percent of all digital media usage, and smartphone apps alone capture more than half of digital media time spent, comScore notes. The disconnect is that since apps are the avenue by which media brands, developers, and places reach consumers directly.

But just as there are only so many TV channels and programs viewers can watch, there are only so many notifications and glances mobile users can afford to devote to their apps.

As for the that 57 percent activity figure for mobile app usage, the breakdown shows has 50 percent devoted to smartphone apps, while just 7 percent accounts for tablet app use. In addition, desktop comprises for 34 percent of time with mobile web 9 percent.

But all hope isn’t lost for app developers, at least if future consumers continue their patterns. Not only are younger users skewing the curve on mobile-apps time spent (those 18-24 are spending 3 hours a day in apps, vs. 2.6 hours for 25-34, and 2.3 hours for 35-44), they’re the ones who are downloading new apps. Of those 18-34, 70 percent say they’re always looking for new apps and they’re willing to pay for them.

Source: comScore 2017 Mobile App Report

Age-Old App Usage Issues

Millennials’ app usage is particularly relevant, since they represent mobile natives that have grown up in the decade since the iPhone introduced smartphone apps. These younger consumers still have a lot of excitement for new apps, suggesting that there is still room for many new apps to experience growth.

It’s older smartphone users who do not match Millennials’ level of interest in app usage. It’s likely that they might catch up as mobility and apps becomes a more completely ingrained in the digital experience for everything from online and in-store payments to accessing financial services to shared mobility and driving.

In any case, comScore’s report does contain some interesting factoids that highlights the difference between generations. Make of this example what you will: 55+ year-olds are 5x as likely as 18-34 year-olds to only operate their smartphone with two hands.

Millennials, on the other hand (pun intended), are more likely to position apps on their phones based on “thumb reach” and are increasingly “considering this dynamic.”

In general, Millennials are more likely to engage in curation of apps by location and accessibility on their home screens, comScore finds.

“While they love social and entertainment apps, they are also extremely reliant on more functional apps,” comScore says. “They can’t live without their apps, but also show signs of app fatigue.”

The Future Of App Usage

For all the talk about Google’s attempts to build up the concept of the Physical Web, where the browser takes the place of apps in anticipating users’ needs and connecting them with the resources they want, such as a restaurant reservation or a ride-hail, apps are looking more important thank ever.

“I believe that when we think about apps, the way we consume and promote apps today, will not remain the way it happens in the future,” The LBMA’s founder and President Asif Khan told us last fall. “I believe that there’s a future where apps will still exist, but the apps will be temporal, and that the delivery of the app, the promotion of the app, will be based on the physical presence type of idea.

“Once the ‘Internet of Things world’ really takes hold, and everything becomes smart and interconnected, we’ll see buildings ‘talk’ directly to the phone. And the phone can talk to the car. And the car can talk to the building and that ‘conversation’ can connect to the billboards and everything else around the user and their devices.”

 

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What’s Driving The Growth Of Connected Health Devices?

More than 40 percent of U.S. broadband households now own a Connected Health product, up from 37 percent in 2016 and 33 percent in 2015, notes tech research consultancy Parks Associates.

That report buttresses other industry forecasts looking ahead to tech developments in the intersection of connected devices and artificial intelligence. For example, eMarketer has forecast the value of the “Internet of Health Things” will hit $163 billion by 2020, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 38.1 percent between 2015 and 2020.

And within the the next five years the healthcare sector is projected to be “number one” in the top 10 industries for Internet of Things app development. As a separate Accenture report notes, the insurance industry is primed for AI.

The mainstreaming of on-demand technologies that have changed the way people find restaurants and share information with friends online is altering the methods that doctors are “discovered” and engaged by existing and potential patients already.  The use of reviews by patients through platforms like ZocDoc is one case in point.

Is there anything on the horizon that will serve as an alternative means of finding a doctor. Will Siri or Alexa or Cortana likely recommend nearby doctors in the future? It’s a matter of time, Parks Associates’ analysis suggests.

“The steady increase in consumer adoption of connected health products bodes well for the ongoing healthcare practice transformation,” said Harry Wang, Senior Director of Research, Parks Associates.

GeoMarketing: In terms of the Connected Home, as well as devices like Amazon Echo and smart watches, can you put the state of Connected Health in context? How big is this area versus other areas, such as wearables or the Connected Car in terms of consumer adoption?

Harry Wang: Connected Health is intertwined with connected home technology and wearable device industry therefore adoption of these technologies will help connected health industry grow.

We include wearables that directly benefit consumers’ health and wellbeing, such as fitness trackers, smart watch with health & fitness tracking capability as connected health devices (which include connected medical devices, e.g., a BPM, or connected wellness devices, e.g. a Fitbit) from a device adoption perspective, adoption of connected health products as a whole category is perhaps on par with smart home device as a whole category (thermostats, door locks), but ahead of connected cars (depending on its definition). Individually speaking, fitness tracker and smart watch with fitness/wellness features leads with 12 percent adoption each.

Are there any particular use cases that are driving Connected Health? For example, are we mainly seeing growth in Connected Health from wearables like fitness trackers?

Connected health is more than devices. Software and services are actually more exciting. Health and wellness apps are used by more than 40 percent of consumers in the U.S., and access to remote care services (those pioneered by Teledoc and MDlive) is on the rise.

Besides these general categories, the connected health market has many unique, high growth, and niche use cases that are gaining distribution channels and consumer’s mindshare.

These innovations that target specific use cases may be driven more by healthcare providers than consumer marketing efforts.

For instance, Health insurers start to fund/subsidize diabetes prevention programs, hospitals begin to contract digital rehab software makers to offer in-home technology-assisted rehab services.

Each use case has significant room to grow but as their target market is not the entire consumer population, they would never reach the traditional mainstream status.

But for healthcare providers and insurers, if these technologies can help them address the issue of the 80 percent of the healthcare spending by 20 percent population, mainstream adoption is irrelevant.

Is there anything in the Connected Health space that will help doctors, hospitals, and medical clinics, achieve greater discovery through the use of these IoT devices?

We do believe that many IoT devices/software that touch upon people’s life therefore contributing to doctor’s understanding of patient condition and helping patients self-manage their conditions will gain more adoption. Siri may one day evolve to answer health related questions from patients or Echo will collect patient self-reported data to doctors.

Applications targeting health and wellness needs of consumers will find their way to a connected home, a connected car, or a connected speaker platform.

Many remote care applications are mobile driven so consumers can talk to a doctor via video on smartphones, and healthcare system will rely more on these everyday consumer devices to engage patients particularly in preventive care areas.

Barriers still exist; it takes time for consumer and doctor’s habits to replace old ones. But we are getting there.

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Verve German Acquisition Pushes Mobile Ad Platform Deeper Into Proximity-Targeting

A year after began building up its presence in Europe with the opening of its London base, Verve has made its first acquisition on the continent with the purchase of German push-marketing specialists matchinguu GmbH.

The deal accomplishes two main goals Verve has been pursuing for the past 15 months.

First, matchinguu GmbH will give Verve access to German publishers and advertisers in Europe. Secondly, it expands Verve’s focus on connecting outdoor geotargeting along with indoor proximity marketing. Verve first explored indoor marketing with its acquisition of beacon platform Roximity in June 2016.

Specifically, four-year-old matchinguu GmbH’s proximity-based push and in-app notification tools will be folded into the enterprise-focused program called Verve Velocity, which is part of Verve’s effort to turn the one-time mobile ad network into a “one-stop-stop” for location-based ad targeting, data, and insights.

“[The purchase of matchinguu GmbH] checked a lot of boxes for Verve,” Fi Taylor, Marketing Manager International, told GeoMarketing’s Lauryn Chamberlain in Cannes last week. “It gives us  a push Notification product immediately. That will mean Verve can adopt that product, and we can then overlay our intelligence and location ad tech story that we’ve built up over the past 10 years.”

In essence, matchinguu GmbH will help Verve’s clients reach new European audiences with “enhanced mobile advertising experiences aligned to the unique needs and expectations of consumers in the EU,” the company said in a statement.

Considering that Germany is Western Europe’s second largest advertising market, plus the fact that Germany’s mobile ad spend is expected to reach $3.5 billion in 2017, the deal comes at a good time for Verve to broaden its reach.

“The acquisition came naturally, thanks to the complementary technologies and both parties having similar missions: enabling great storytelling through location-powered data,” said Ian James, Verve’s International GM. “We are opening the doors to Germany’s foremost push technology; working together will make our offering even stronger for our clients and bring Verve firmly into the heart of Europe. Consumers demand relevance and engagement that is as seamless as possible and this acquisition will empower us to deliver this more than ever.”

“matchinguu GmbH’s mission has always been to deliver a premium location data solution for our clients, allowing them to expand their storytelling capabilities beyond the norm, which has always been a core focus of Verve,” said Felix Heberle, CEO, matchinguu GmbH. “I am very excited to see the results of our businesses joining forces, not only in Europe but also in the US market.”

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Acquisition Of Zenly, Launch Of Snap Map Highlight Snapchat’s Real-World, Real-Time Influence

Snap, the parent company of social messaging app Snapchat, has been adding a variety of location tech tools at a rapid pace lately, and the debut of Snap Maps with the platform’s latest update is further demonstration of how its images and animations are intended to affect users’ activity in the physical world.

Launched the same week as its big appearance at Cannes Lions, where Snap’s branded yellow ferris wheel dominated the skyline in the seaside French town, Snap Map is being billed as a new map experience for its users.

In essence, Snap Map lets Snapchatters show and see what’s happening around their friends. As opposed to most social media uses of location, Snap Map is not about where you are and directions for how to get somewhere.

In addition, after suggesting certain similarities between Snap Map and French social location app, Zenly, Techcrunch broke the news that Snap acquired the company for between $250- and $350 million dollars in May, citing anonymous sources.

While Techcrunch contends that Snap Map is built directly on Zenly’s location sharing capabilities, the similarities actually appear to be merely skin deep.

Attribution is commonly required in map-based apps to indicate the technologies and geospatial data used in the application. The companies listed on the Snap Maps attribution page are all suppliers (directly or indirectly) to Snap Map. Typically a map platform puts together a number of different data sources, synthesizes them into the various map layers and then delivers them to the application. That indicates that Snap maps are built on Mapbox (as indicted in my previous article), not Zenly.

There is an obvious similarity between the two and Snap has acknowledged that they purchased Zenly several months ago. That similarity is may be due to Zenly having built on Mapbox as well…as are thousands of other customized map based applications.

Offline Activity Brought Selectively Online

The map itself is powered by a trio of location data visualization and geospatial tech providers: Mapbox, OpenStreetMaps, and satellite imagery vendor DigitalGlobe.

The activity on the map is seen through Snap “Actionmojis”– a new type of Bitmoji, which users can download separately to create a new avatar on Snapchat, the company said in its blog post announcement.

The idea essentially updates what other mobile apps from Swarm to France’s Zenly is to connect members of a social network together based on where they are and what they’re doing in the moment.

“In a lot of ways, we’re taking what a map is and turning it upside down,” Jack Brody, a product designer at Snap, told Refinery29’s Madeline Buxton. “This map isn’t about where am I, it’s about where are my friends and what are they up to? It’s not about figuring out how to get to your destination, but about discovering where you want to go.”

The nature of Snapchat, unlike say Facebook or Twitter, indicates a greater level of actual friendship in “real life” and its use of location reflects that level of intimacy: roughly 60 percent of the interactions on Snapchat are between close friends, according to a study called Circles of Influence from Sparkler, US data, commissioned by Snap.

To use and view Snap Map, app users simply pinch to zoom out from the Snapchat “camera.” The Snap Map is a new layer on top of the current Snapchat experience. The first time Snapchatters open Snapchat after updating their app, they’ll be taken through an explanation outlining how to find the Map and how it works.

Showing Snapchat’s Playful And Serious Sides

At the moment, there are no branded sponsorships available in Snap Map, the way they are through Snapchat’s Geofilters, which have been available to marketers for two years, starting with McDonald’s in Aug. 2015.

For Snap, The Map is another place for it showcase its users creativity in the app’s “Our Story” feature, which feature public posts. Users can also opt-out of wide sharing of their Map stories through the “Ghost Mode” privacy setting.

In general, Snaps are available to view on the Map for about 24 hours, though they may be found for a longer period through the app’s search.

A visual “Heat Map” within the feature can be used to point other users to a special event or breaking news at a particular place and are sorted through Snap’s algorithm.

Thumbnails will also help Snapchatters distinguish points of interest where a lot of Snaps are regularly being taken and submitted regularly, like Times Square or a major attraction, as well as those events that the Snap team has more of a hand in curating.

The addition of Snap Map comes a week after the company struck a partnership with geo-data specialist Factual’s Global Places data, which contains real-time info on more than 100 million places across 52 countries. Days before that deal, Snap acquired attribution platform Placed. That purchase came after months of assembling location data and digital presence knowledge from partners such as Foursquare and Yext (full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here).

Last August, Snap acquired mobile search and local recommendation app Vurb for a reported $110+ million to help promote discovery of local places.

Snap Map Making — And Breaking — News

While Snap tends to take things a bit more cautiously when it comes to marketing, the company has been trying to demonstrate how it, like Facebook/Instagram and Twitter, can serve as an additional distribution channel for news sites and publications. Given the inherently local quality of news, the use of Snap Map could be used to enhance Snapchat’s appeal to publishers.

As Brody tells Refinery29, Snap wants to prove it has a serious side as well as a playful side.  For example, Brody points to the first test of its mapping capabilities during construction site’s crane accident in Feb. 2016. Snapchat users began sharing details of the incident through the Our Stories view.

Brody’s summary of Snapchat’s role in spreading information is particularly telling for traditional news organizations still trying to catch up to the speed f social media: “That was this moment of ‘we have something here,’” Brody says. “We had newsworthy content 10 minutes before the first news company actually arrived.”

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Via Partners With The New York Times For Location-Based Subscription Promo

On-demand ride sharing app Via has partnered with The New York Times to give riders complimentary eight-week digital subscriptions of the paper to riders in New York who purchase a monthly “ViaPass,” letting them catch up on the news during their daily commute rides — a bid to help both entities boost exposure and discovery on mobile.

This isn’t the first time Via has partnered with digital or physical businesses in a bid to compete with the larger-scale Uber Pool and Lyft Line. But while the benefit of the promotion for riders is clear, it’s a reminder of the fact that businesses of all stripes need to do more in order to stay top-of-mind in the age of intelligent search.

On-Demand In The World Of Intelligent Assistants

While the nature of Via’s app and the NYT’s mobile subscription model give this effort a digital bent, promotions of this type are as old as advertising itself. But why is it more important than ever for brands to make a memorable impact in order to get discovered today?

As SessionM CRO Bill Clifford put it last month, “voice, AI, and platforms like Amazon Alexa or Google Home present a pretty interesting challenge. If I’m in my house and I just say, ‘Hey Google, order me a pizza,’ it’s really up to Google what they come back with. So the platforms have more and more control for operating this invisible storefront that’s driven by an algorithm. Brands need to [figure out] how they’re going to deal with that.”

In the case of on-demand ride apps like Via, that means getting customers to say “call me a Via” or “download Via” to their connected devices — rather than simply “call me a car.” In other words, as search and discovery become even more deeply tied to voice (and AI), brands of all stripes must think about how to make sure that customers ask for them when given the chance — meaning that providing personalized offers or experiences that improve the user experience are more important than ever.

“This is just a new storefront, and we don’t see it. So I think the point is, it becomes increasingly important and integral for a brand to create a direct relationship,” Clifford concluded — and while it remains to be seen if Via’s NYT partnership drives adoption, promotions that integrate digital touch points can be one integral part of that. “It’s a lasting, ongoing engagement, so that when you do ask Google, that brand is top of mind — and you’re giving the consumer control, not the robots.”

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