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Tech Savvy: Snapchat's new on-demand geofilters

Last month, a social media company debuted a new function that it hopes will get users to fork over money to design content that appears to other users—or give free shoutouts to the communities they call home.

The video- and photo-messaging mobile phone app Snapchat unveiled a way users can design their own "geofilters." The geofilters show up on any Snapchat user's phone when a particular user moves within a particular geographic area. Individual Snapchatters can design a free geofilter celebrating their area, or businesses can pay to advertise their brand via geofilters when potential customers wander into an area the advertisers get to hash out on Google Maps.

For example, let's say I somehow got our publisher, Pete Mohs, to approve a budget line item to create the Brainerd Dispatch's very own Snapchat geofilter. I could set the perimeter of the Brainerd Dispatch building in beautiful west Brainerd as the boundaries for the geofilter. When the GPS system on a given person's phone tells Snapchat the person is within the boundary—in this case, the Brainerd Dispatch—my brilliant and creative filter will pop up on their screen if they want to send a video or photo message to their Snapchat followers. So not only does my brand's message get to that user within the geofilter boundary, but also to all of the people that receive that person's Snap (a photo or video sent via the app).

Pricing is based on the size of the geofilter boundary and how long a user wants the geofilter to run. My hypothetical Brainerd Dispatch filter that covers the 36,000-plus square feet of the Dispatch building would cost $30.83 for three days over the weekend. If I wanted to do it for the rest of the year, it would cost $1,373.38. The geofilter function gives you price quotes ahead of time, which is nice. But those quotes are pretty darn high for something that only exists in the virtual realm.

To get a geofilter, you can go fully customized by designing one on your own and then uploading it, or you can design it to be semi-custom by using the templates and text fonts that Snapchat gives you in its geofilter design tool.

It's somewhat like paying for an ad in the newspaper, although there's definitely no guarantee your brand's geofilter will go viral. You need people to visit your boundary, and then be willing to send out pictures/videos of themselves and their surroundings with your brand name plastered across their face.

The new geofilter function isn't just for businesses, though. You can pay to set one up for a wedding by setting the geofilter boundary as the reception hall. Although personally, I would just invest that wedding money into more beer.

The Snapchat geofilter tool also gives users a chance to live up to the better angels of their nature. Users can design "community geofilters" for public places like towns, streets and parks, so Snapchatters can extol the virtues of things that make their community special.

Businesses are ineligible for community geofilters, but the tradeoff is creating the geofilter is free to the user. So if a person could make a geofilter encompassing the city of Brainerd that said Brainerd is the best city in Minnesota and all the other cities are dumb, that theoretically would be possible, and free. Not that the author of this column or the Brainerd Dispatch endorses or encourages that idea in any way.

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