Instagram has launched a new map search feature to help users discover local businesses more easily. The new feature allows users to scroll around a map, browse popular locations, and explore local businesses. The map promotes a more immersive experience, where users can upload and view stories tagged in each location. 

How the New Instagram Immersive Map Works

The map, provided by Apple, has been around for some time, with photos available to view at each location. Finding businesses on the Instagram map is as simple as searching for the name of a city and dragging the map around. When you find a location you’re interested in, you can save it for future reference or follow the Instagram account to keep it top of mind.

This update gives businesses an incentive to establish and maintain an active presence on Instagram. Locations are not pre-populated or user-submitted, like on Google Maps. As a business, the only way to get found on the Instagram map is to have a professional account filled in with your contact information.

Search for restaurants in Minneapolis on Instagram
A search in Minneapolis shows restaurants downtown.

User-generated content

This new feature on Instagram is now more of a discovery engine, where users can explore geographical areas by tapping on tagged locations on posts, stories, and videos. Once tapped, you’ll be shown a map of the area with a list of businesses within it to discover. Cool right?

The information you’ll see about each business location on this list includes:

  • business category
  • opening hours
  • number of Instagram posts the business has
  • an idea of how expensive the place is

Each location features three top images, which are collated from the second, third, and fourth most liked image tagged at the location. The most liked photo is used as the location’s profile photo, as well as the pin photo seen on the map. This suggests Instagram is adding authenticity to the experience, through real-time user-generated content, rather than relying on official logos or profile images used by each business. 

List of restaurants in Minneapolis when searching businesses locally on Instagram
A list of businesses is displayed on Instagram when searching for restaurants in Minneapolis.

For users with public profiles, stories and posts tagged at the location will show up for others to see on the interactive map. This looks like another way the platform is pushing for content creators to become discoverable through local area searches. You can see in the example above when we searched for restaurants in Minneapolis, well-known spots like Fhimas and the new restaurant Mara in the Four Seasons Hotel come right up.

You’ll notice top posts consist of many selfies and portraits from influencers. An interesting take here is that Instagram is the ultimate influencer platform, and it’s now making the most of it with this new maps feature, showcasing influencers at popular locations for more users to see. 

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram has recently said:

“We want to do our best by creators, especially small creators, and we see recommendations as one of the best ways to reach a new audience and grow their following.” 

Clicking into each business location gives you the option to ‘see related guides’ which drives you to user-generated guides that feature the selected location. The benefit of this is that if users create a local guide that features you, your business is then more discoverable on the map. 

Locations also show a CTA button to ‘Contact’ or ‘Call’ the business if the business has this set up on its profile. This could mean an increase in clicks to call directly from Instagram, made by users looking to book with you from this in-map experience. 

Full list of posts at Fhima's Minneapolis when doing local business search on Instagram
The full view of a business is seen when clicking on its location. in this case, Fhimas Minneapolis

You can also see a ‘View information’ CTA which shows the full business listing. The listing includes the website and phone number, a dropdown for daily opening hours, address, category, and price.

It’s now even more essential to ensure your Instagram listing is kept up to date, based on the discoverability of your business through the new map update. 

What makes a business feature higher on the location list?

According to Search Engine Journal, the only way to appear on the map is to have a professional account filled in with your contact information. Localogy has also found that the only trigger on the map is location relevance, alongside social signals like tags that inform relevance. We do not know if there are any other factors or algorithms to feature higher on the location list.

What does this mean for Instagram and local businesses?

Instagram’s new immersive map puts user-generated content, authenticity, and creators at the forefront of the map search experience. 

This update coincides with a recent discussion point from Google’s Senior Vice President, Prabhakar Raghavan about how “40% of younger users were conducting local searches on TikTok and Instagram instead of Google”.

This data point suggests that users in this demographic are looking carefully at the authenticity of search results, with creators endorsing the location they tag in their content. It could also be that younger users trust user-generated content more than the Google algorithm. 

Greg Sterling at Near Media has suggested that this new map is a competitive local search feature, and “stands a chance of gaining meaningful user adoption“ based on it being built on existing user behavior. Users are very used to spending time on Instagram, so this new update won’t be anything completely new to them. 

With this update, it’s really important for businesses in a variety of industries, particularly hospitality and tourism, to keep their Instagram business profiles up to date.

If your business is ‘Instagrammable’ (i.e. your location, product, or service is curated to be visually appealing and aesthetically pleasing), then you could find many benefits with the map search. You could gravitate towards an influencer marketing and user-generated content strategy to encourage more people to share their experiences of your business on Instagram, and by doing so allow more people to discover it through map search.

By boosting brand awareness in this way, there’s an opportunity for the immersive Instagram map to become a benefit to your business visibility and growth.

Original article posted on Brightlocal.com