Snapchat Adds Location-Based Features, Brands Consider Options

Snapchat just added location-based filters to its growing list of personalization features.

Now, users in New York City and Los Angeles can add ready-made art -- including the names of particular locations -- to their personal messages. Additional locations should be added shortly.

Of particular interest to brands and agencies, a video demonstrating “geofilters” features users snapping selfies in front of a SoulCycle, a Groundwork coffee shop and Disneyworld. Suggesting a clear path to promotional initiatives, each location offered visitors branded images to include in their snaps.

SoulCycle, Groundwork and Disneyworld each agreed to be featured in Snapchat’s demo video, a company spokeswoman said. “We chose some brands that we really love,” she said. Beyond that, there is no word on broader partnerships.

Furthermore, Snapchat declined to discuss the new feature’s ad implications, on Tuesday.

Agencies and social media pros see dollar signs in the new feature. “For brands, while it's still a fairly shallow way to engage with the program … the opportunity to position a logo on snaps taking place at a retail or event location is of course an attractive prospect,” said Grace Gordon, strategy director at social agency We Are Social.

“Snapchat is taking its first steps to find the right offering for its platform,” Jon Elvekrog, CEO of social media ad startup 140 Proof, said Tuesday. “Geo-targeting is table stakes in mobile, but with their unique platform it is not enough to solely define their offering around location.”

Matt Wise, CEO of digital agency HelloWorld, added: "Given that the app is so popular with young audiences, this should be a valuable new opportunity for brands to jump on quickly."

For a while, vanishing pictures helped Snapchat stand out in a messaging market dominated by giants like Facebook and Apple. Yet, the company has been pushing into other areas, such as live-event coverage and more mainstream mobile messaging services.

This past weekend, Snapchat hitched its “Our Story” feature to FIFA’s World Cup final. The service’s entire community was given access to a stream of curated content created by those lucky enough to attend the big game between Argentina and Germany.

Snapchat debuted “Stories” late last year -- a feature that lets users save and share photos for up to 24 hours. Adding a collaborative component to the service, the start-up more recently unveiled “Our Story” so people at the same events can combine their own “snaps” into a single “story.”

Snapchat also recently rolled out a text- and video-messaging feature named Chat, while making it easier for users to save their exchanges with friends.

Many on Madison Avenue have been happy to experiment with Snapchat. Following Taco Bell’s lead, McDonald's joined the service earlier this year, while Heineken recently relied on Snapchat to connect with festival goers at Coachella.

Among brands, other early adopters include Juicy Couture, Seventeen, NPR and HBO's "Girls."

To bolster its business side, Snapchat also recently poached the global director of Facebook’s Preferred Marketing Developer program, Mike Randall. Randall officially serves as vice president of business and marketing partnerships at Snapchat.

Presently, the most popular social networking niches among young users, anonymous and ephemeral messaging have quickly become crowded categories.

Snapchat is currently the most popular disappearing messaging service, per Forrester, but it faces increasing competition from Whisper, Secret, PostSecret, sixbillionsecrets and Slingshot -- Facebook’s own disappearing message service.

Investors continue to place their bets. Just this week, Secret took another $25 million, while Whisper raised a sum approaching $30 million, in March.

Snapchat rebuffed a $3 billion buyout bid from Facebook last year.

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