Google has begun the global rollout of its new ‘hashtags’ feature in Google Maps, which allows users to add hashtags to the end of the reviews they write, thereby helping others to find local attractions and businesses.
How It Works
When using Google Maps e.g. to find places to eat or local attractions, if a Google Maps user then chooses to write a review afterwards, they are given the opportunity to add up to five hashtags to the end of the review (to keep the text easy to read). The hashtags need to be specific to be useful e.g. #love or #food, but things like #familyfriendly, #wheelchairaccessible, #sunsetviews, or #vegetarian.
The idea is that these hashtags will make it easier for other users to discover places that have been recommended by others for specific reasons, thereby increasing the value of Google Maps to users.
From Google’s point of view, this (and other new features) could help Google Maps to compete against other platforms in the world of social recommendations as well as other popular local search offerings such as Yelp.
Just Local Guides For Now
So far in the rollout of Hashtags, it’s only available on Android for members of Maps’ Local Guides program. This is the program where members receive rewards for sharing their opinions and photos for the places they visit and review.
Added to ‘Follow’ & ‘My Business’ Updates
The new hashtag feature comes right after the new ‘Follow’ feature that was introduced to Maps last month. ‘Follow’ allows users to click a follow button for locations which enables them to receive updates about any events and offers e.g. from favourite stores and restaurants, and information about new places that are due to open soon.
The update to ‘My Business’ in Google was to enable businesses to update their Maps profile with new content, use the app to view and respond to reviews and messages, and to enable businesses to add all the content that will work with ‘Follow’.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Local search and platforms offering users value-adding information and recommendations about the places they plan to visit are now competitive areas, and Google wants to stay ahead of the game. Adding social elements such as hashtags, ‘Follow’, and direct messaging all contribute to the vital engagement factor for Google and can be monetised.
Other updates to Google Maps that could add even more value to Google’s platform from a consumer’s point of view are a useful commuter tab that shows a user information about their commute e.g. real-time public transit information and status alerts about anything that could cause delays, and allowing users to control their music from inside Google Maps. Google is clearly well placed and is fighting hard to make its platform more attractive than competing offerings. It will be a matter of opinion, however, how user-friendly all these bundled features turn out to be.