Here’s how Gen-Z actually uses Snap Map and why it *could* be big for discovery

Imagine spending $250M-$350M so that your mobile app could provide a comprehensive way to help users stalk where their friends are at and what they may be doing. Well not too long ago, Snap Inc. did.

For those of you who aren’t too familiar with Snap’s latest feature, it’s pretty simple. You pinch your Snap camera screen with your thumb and index finger and it activates the map. You then select whether you want to be visible to all your friends, a custom group of friends, or to no one (ghost mode). Just like that you have now been entered into the wonderful world of modern day stalking, of both your friends and interesting nearby events.

Now…..many of you may be thinking, why in the WORLD would I want to let my friends stalk my every movement? That’s the thing though, it isn’t intended to be used for stalking. Instead, it’s intended to be used in a more natural manner that helps facilitate every day, natural behavior. By no means am I defending or opposing any point of views surrounding the ethics of Snap Map, but the point of this piece is to deconstruct how teenagers today are using it and why it may lead to enhanced discovery of surrounding ‘happenings’. Let me digress into some qualitative data..

Teen group chat, 7/19/17

As is often times with teens, at first they downplay the idea of using Snap Map in fear that others in the group aren’t supporters of it. So you would think, as many studies ‘report’, that teens are super cautious of their privacy, especially based off of their gut reactions of calling it ‘stalkerish’. As it turns out time and time again, and as demonstrated in the conversation above, if it serves enough of a utility, then privacy gets thrown out the window — which is why I am not surprised they are adopting Snap Map.

The truth is that teens care about where their friends are and what they are doing, as it provides very important context to how they may and ‘should’ interact with their friends. They are usually so active in their iMessage group chats that they end up sharing their locations anyways, so this is just a natural extension of it. It makes their daily routine of sharing their whereabouts with their friends a lot easier, and as crazy as it may sound, it makes their interactions more efficient. If they know their friend is at a nearby stadium, or if a few of them are at a friends house, they can just cut to the chase and tailor whatever message they send them to be more direct. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Gen-Z it is that they love being straight forward and to the point.

My Snap Map, 8/8/17

Another reason why I think it’s important to look at how teens are using Snap Map is because it’s an important indicator of how our behavior with regard to discovery may be trending. I’ve slowly come to pay more attention to the discovery aspect of Snap Map — IMO teen’s usage of wanting to be kept aware of their surroundings, e.g. their friends, is a lagging indicator of why discovering nearby surroundings could prove to be an important implementation for some consumer apps, assuming there is a pre-existing social graph. One of my co-founders, Kevin Flynn, actually had an idea for a similar implementation a few years ago based on how discovery of surrounding events may be impacted with the use of GPS and Map integration with most mobile devices today. Instagram, Facebook, and a few other products already do this in their own ways, but as we have seen first hand with Fam, the environment and demographic within which a feature is released is very important.

If you haven’t already checked out Snap Map for yourself, go ahead and try it out. At a minimum, it’s interesting to see which of your friends have already adopted it. You might even find yourself peaking at it throughout the day to satisfy your curiosity. The jury is obviously still out as to whether it becomes a long-term daily behavior, but so far teens today think it’s worth giving it a shot.