For the past 15 or so years, Google Maps has increasingly become part of everyday life for many people. I may not use it every day, but certainly when I need to find a new location, the first place I go to is Google Maps. Sometimes, I use it just to find what restaurants or shopping venues are nearby. I’ve never used it for anything other than that…to locate something.
So I was quite amazed when I realized that this app offers so much more than location services and telling me the best route to get there. In fact, now this app can even be used as a social networking site. Ok, it probably will never take the place of Instagram or Twitter, but it is offering some really cool features that many people aren’t even aware of.
For starters, the profile setting. Yes, you have a profile setting in Google Maps that allows you to include a photo of yourself and a short bio. But be warned, this is linked to your actual Google account, so any changes you make here are also made in other Google sites. After setting up your profile, you can follow others and allow others to follow you. This is a great idea if you want to follow people who are connoisseurs of particular foods or places that you are interested in trying. It allows you to easily see how many stars your friend, Hazel, gave the new Italian restaurant before you drive across town to try it out.
But the “updates” tab is what really got me excited. Basically, it’s a news feed of the people and businesses you follow. And, based on Google’s algorithms of places nearby that you might be interested in, it will automatically update you to anything you should know about it….like the specials that are being offered on the menu that night, an entrance that might be closed due to construction, etc. It also allows you to specify places of interest, so that you see more of those and fewer of places you visit less frequently.
Rating an establishment or leaving a review isn’t anything new, not even on Google Maps. But did you know that you can add a photo on Google Maps of a particular place in order to draw more attention to it? You also have the ability to simply tap on any specific place on the map to pull up its information card and leave comments, a rating, or a photo right there.
And last but not least…location sharing. This is a feature I strongly recommend you use with caution. You have full autonomy over who can see where you are and when, but you need to be certain you have that information set and secure.
While I realize Google Maps will probably never dominate the social media landscape, I do think we should give the developers some credit for all the cool features they’ve added. I, for one, will now be using this app for way more than just directions!