As we learned at Dreamforce 2016, user-generated content is one of the most compelling trends in marketing right now.

Google has capitalized on just that by allowing locally sourced Google Maps edits. Residents, who know their streets the best, can now edit their own cities. If you’re a heavy Google Maps user, who thinks stars and reviews are the end-all-be-all, you might just get invited by Google to become one of their Local Guides.

Read more about how UGC is impacting social media, as well as e-commerce sales.

Welcome Series

Google is capitalizing on user-generated content by incentivizing local residents to make reviews in Google Maps.

About six months ago, I got an email from Google saying thanks from a Google Community Manager for my recent reviews – yes, I have a rating problem – and that it was time to join the ranks as a Local Guide for Kansas City. The best part is, Google supplies you with free marketing collateral (logos, flyers, etc.) to promote being a Local Guide, and in turn promote the use of Google Maps. The Local Guide logo also appeared next to my name, so whenever I leave a review, people have something to look at and feel a little more assured that it’s an honest take.

Kaitlyn Herder_Google_UGC_1

Insider Status

The more you star, rate, and review, the more you receive.

Local Guides earn points, and with each level are more rewards. These levels and perks are rewarded via email notification, rather than in the Google Maps app, which states how important email has become as a relationship builder.

Level 1 – “inside scoop” with monthly newsletter + Google-hosted workshops and Hangouts.

Level 2 – “early access” to new Google products (think beta apps).

Level 3 – Local Guides badge in Google Maps.

Level 4 – FREE Google Drive storage upgrade + social media features (G+, FB, Twitter, etc.).

Level 5 – Trusted Testing on Google products before they’re public + Level 5 Local Guides summit.

Social Factor

Not only is Maps an app, but its reviews are a form of posting, like in social media. Everyone sees your post, it can be liked, and views (impressions) are what get your review to be featured.

Every photo uploaded is then, of course, tracked. Emails are sent once or twice a month to show Local Guides how many views each photo gains, ranked by the hundreds and thousands. Guides are also told when a photo surpasses a personal record, and encouraged to keep uploading.

Google is combining email and social components to build relationships and communities within Google Maps.

There’s also a “real life” social component: Local Guide Communities.

Google actually sets up a community page where users in that city (e.g. Kansas City) can set up a Hangout. Good examples would be to all try a new coffee house or escape room to then review and generate new content.

The Local Guides Community on a national level includes competitions. Think “Most Photos in a Month” contests. The most interesting I’ve seen was tied into the National Parks 100th Birthday, the Centennial Celebration. “The Most Reviews of National Parks & Landmarks in a Month” contest encouraged people to get outside, bringing digital to the real world.

Most recently, cities are competing in October to be one of the top five cities to publish the most reviews and photos for the month. Winners get an “epic event” hosted by Google in their hometown.

Why is this important?

Digital on-the-go is becoming the new millennial way of life.

Trend alert: Digital on-the-go is becoming the new millennial way of life.

We millennials are constantly criticized for being on our phones, but it’s not always for the stereotypical reasons; we’re doing less texting and trolling, and instead getting out into the world. Technology is actually making us more social. Don’t believe me? Feel free to refer to the Smithsonian.

Facebook Live streaming real-life events, Snapchat stories of music festivals, Maps and Yelp! reviews of new restaurants and experiences like #BreakoutKC, even the occasional Instagram dedicated to #naturewalks. We’re not all shut indoors staring at a screen. We’re using the screen to capture the world around us. Think how quickly Pokémon GO caught on — taking technology on-the-go.

That’s why Snapchat partnered with AEG, one of the world’s largest producers of music festivals, to get out there where users are, and of course, take advantage of user-generated content, the other hottest trend in digital marketing.

Virtual reality and augmented realty definitely contribute to this trend, but some VR headsets are just displacing the user from their living room to a virtual world, rather than taking your device into the real world.

Google’s Local Guides program is a great example of not only today’s integration between social and relationship marketing, but also why user-generated content is so sought after. As a full-service digital agency, DEG specializes in these fields.

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  • Jay Herder

    Jay Herder

    5 years
    Great article!