Why Are More Instagram Influencers Sharing Their Photos On Google Maps?

Partnering with influencers to share high-quality photos as part of Google's local guides could be a major boon to businesses — particularly in the restaurant category.

Influencer marketing has surged in popularity over the past several years, as brands have sought new ways to reach engaged audiences on social media in a way that doesn’t feel overtly “salesy.” But as Instagram has ratcheted down its algorithm — meaning that posts don’t appear in chronological order, and more content doesn’t surface each time a user checks their feed — brands and influencers on the platform are turning to new tactics to get more views on their photos.

One of the more unexpected methods for influencers in the food space? Sharing their photos to Google Maps to boost engagement and long-term visibility.

Here’s how it works: If someone took a high-quality photo at, say, Joe’s Seafood, they can share it on Google Maps as part of local guides, as Google encourages people to share photos, reviews, and more about businesses. Because there is no algorithm controlling how these photos are displayed, it will show up automatically for users clicking through to “see more photos” of a particular restaurant on Google. What’s more, a high quality image has a high chance of taking the top spot in their knowledge card — meaning views and engagement from any person looking at the business.

“Google is constantly asking users to contribute as local guides. Ever search for a business and see the pop up asking if you know this place? They want you to add reviews, photos, videos, answers and more. They are pushing for more info, more users and more activity,” says David “Rev” Ciancio, an influencer with over 40k Instagram followers and Director, Industry Insights, at Yext (full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here). “So what happens when you add a great looking photo to a location on Google Maps? High quality photos get your attention. They draw clicks. They create engagement. Google wants to keep you on Google and to make your purchase decision without needing to leave Google until the very last minute, AKA, the bottom of the funnel.”

Ciancio has confirmed that he has shared photos in this way that have generated substantially more views (and even Instagram likes, for those who seen them and clicked back to his profile) than his other content — as have other influencers he is acquainted with in the restaurant space. But could this become part of a larger trend that is encouraged by businesses themselves?

Influencers On Google Maps?

The answer, it appears, is yes: Soliciting high-quality content from influencers that can live on Google and surface whenever someone searches for a business is a smart bet for driving views and engagement.

After all, “whether a brand is managing their digital knowledge or not, they want the highest quality photo to come up in their knowledge graph,” Ciancio says. “If you’ve searched ‘best Burger near me’ in Google and the restaurant that comes up has a picture of an unappealing photo of a Burger, a dirty plate, out of focus meal or worse, a dirty bathroom are you going to be enticed to visit that restaurant?”

As such, restaurants that are currently paying and partnering with influencers to share photos on Instagram may soon be doing more of the same with Google Maps — a place where even more users with intent (i.e. someone making a search for a specific place or item) are likely to see them.

“Brands should be populating their listings with as many high quality photos as they can to up the chances that the best looking, most engaging, most representative photo of what a customer can expect from that business comes to the top,” Ciancio says. “For brands and agencies working with influencers, asking them to share the same photo they are posting to Instagram to Google maps is one way to achieve this without having to put together a photo shoot or do it themselves.”

What’s more, from a “stickiness” standpoint, it’s likely that a photo on Google Maps has more value over time to a brand than on Instagram.

“Once someone interacts with a photo on Instagram, unless they save it, the moment is over,” Ciancio concludes. “It’s a valuable impression, but it lives on an expiring timeline. That photo on Google is going to come up when someone searches for a location after they have seen something from that brand on Instagram.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.