Instagram has launched a live test of a new feature called ‘Map Search’ in Australia and New Zealand, which enables users to discover businesses and locations of interest on the in-app map, and find info on each listed business, as well as post public posts tagged with that location.
As you can see here, users with access to the new option are being prompted to tap on the map icon at the top right of the Discover tab. That then connects through to the new Map Search experience, which highlights cafes and restaurants primarily, but also shops, entertainment venues and more.
You can see in the last frame above that when you tap on one of the new location marketers, it then expands and displays more information about that place. For businesses, that includes hours of operation, location markers and price info, along with connection through to their IG profile, above a listing of public posts tagged at that location.
Though none of the businesses I looked through actually had pricing info available as yet. I assume that this will be built into Instagram business profiles, providing an option for brands to choose their price listing in the display, which, for restaurants, could be an average estimate per meal, and for entertainment venues, a ticket price.
It’s an interesting addition, providing more direct connection between Instagram and businesses, which is increasingly an element that Instagram’s looking to emphasize, with in-stream shops and business promotion options to facilitate expanded usage. Instagram says that more than 200 million businesses use Instagram each month, while 90% of its users follow at least one business, and as such, streamlining that connection works in alignment with both usage habits and increased business demand.
It’s also similar to Snapchat’s advancing map tool, which also now displays business info in the same way.
Snap added ‘My Places’ to its Map back in July, which highlights popular businesses, as well as places that you’ve previously visited, on the map display. That increasing utility may have pushed Instagram to update its own listings, with the new Map Search offering similar functionality in terms of business discovery and detail.
But there is a specifically interesting point of note in this new display – the icons themselves are square, as opposed to the regular Instagram circles. Which is interesting only because it separates these new listings from Instagram Stories.
That’s worth noting because of the removal of Location Stories late last year, which many users have called on Instagram to reinstate. Location Stories enabled users to view public Stories posts from a location on the map – so you could look up your city and find all of the posted Stories in your area.
As of October last year, that option was removed, which was seemingly part of Instagram’s temporary pre-election changes, designed to limit the spread or misinformation, or political misuse of the app. But it’s never come back. And with the new location icons here shown as squares, not Stories circles, it seems to underline that it won’t be coming back any time soon.
Which, as noted, will be bad news for the many Instagram users who’ve called for it to be re-enabled. But still, the new Maps listing does provide another means to connect with potential customers in the app, and for Instagram to become more of a utility in driving in-store traffic and visitors in this respect.
There’s no word on a planned full roll-out as yet, but the option will reportedly be tested in more regions over time.