Instagram has launched a live test of a new feature called ‘Map Search’ in Australia and New Zealand, which allows users to discover businesses and locations of interest on a map in the app and find information about each listed business, as well as post a public tag.
As you can see here, users who have access to the new option will be asked to tap the map icon in the upper right corner of the Discovery tab. This is then linked to a new map search experience, which primarily highlights cafes and restaurants, but also shops, entertainment and more.
In the last box above, you can see that when you tap one of the new location markers, it expands and displays more information about that place. For businesses, this includes hours of operation, location tags, and pricing information, along with a link to their IG profile, above a list of public announcements tagged at that location.
Although none of the companies I reviewed actually had price information available yet. I guess this will be built into Instagram business profiles, giving brands the option to choose their price list on display, which could be an average estimate per meal for restaurants, and a ticket price for entertainment venues.
It’s an interesting addition, providing a more direct link between Instagram and business, which is increasingly an element Instagram wants to emphasize, with in-store stores and business promotion opportunities to facilitate expanded use. Instagram says so more than 200 million companies use Instagram every month, while 90% of its users follow at least one company, so as such, simplifying that connection works in line with usage habits and increased business demand.
It is also similar to Snapchat’s advanced map tool, which also now displays business information in the same way.
Snap added “My Places” to his map back in July, which is the map view highlights popular businesses as well as places you have previously visited. That growing utility may have prompted Instagram to update its own listings, and the new map search offers similar functionality in terms of business discovery and detail.
But there is a particularly interesting point in this new view – the icons themselves are square, unlike the usual Instagram circles. Which is interesting just because it separates these new entries from Instagram Stories.
This is worth noting because of the removal of Location Stories late last year, which many users called on Instagram to bring back. Location Stories has allowed users to view public posts in stories from the location on the map – so you can search for your city and find all the published stories in your area.
Since October last year, that option has been removed, which was apparently part of a temporary pre-election change on Instagram, designed to limit the spread of either misinformation or political abuse of the app. But it never came back. And with the new location icons shown here as squares rather than story circles, it seems to underscore that it won’t be back anytime soon.
That, as stated, will be bad news for many Instagram users who have asked to be re-enabled. But still, the new list of maps provides another means to connect with potential customers in the app, and to make Instagram more useful in this regard to increase store traffic and visitors.
There is no information yet on the planned full introduction, but this option will be tested in several regions over time.
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