How destinations are using Snapchat geofilters

How destinations are using Snapchat geofilters

If you are looking for the next big thing for destination marketing, you need look no further than Snapchat’s geofilters. A growing number of DMOs are investing in the pop-up frames launched by the here-today-gone-tomorrow social network in February 2016.

So what actually are they?

If you have spent any time on Snapchat, or have glanced at a teenager’s smartphone recently, then you will know that filters, particularly those of animal faces, that you can overlay over your own image or video are huge right now. Smart marketers have recognised the trend and started using them for their own purposes.

Geofilters are a refinement on this idea. These filters are available only in specified locations and for a limited amount of time. This makes them ideal for associating with events, such as festivals, and is why destinations from Denmark to Philadelphia have started using them.

Using geofilters can be very cost effective. Pricing starts at $5 and increases according to the area which it covers and the length of time it remains active. The geofence enclosing the area you want has to be between 20,000 square feet (around a quarter of a football pitch) up to 5 million square feet (about two and a half times the size of London’s Westfield White City shopping centre). The geofilter can remain in place for anything between one hour and 30 days.

You can be pretty creative bout what to include but certain things are banned, such as URLs, social media usernames, hashtags and download instructions.

Usng them has become easier since the end of August when Snapchat added a tool to allow people using geofilters associated with event, such as birthdays and weddings, to create geofilters without having to use specialist photo editing software.

One of the first destinations to use geofilters successfully was Visit Philadelphia.

Dana Schmidt, Visit Philly’s Director of Social Media, says it started with geofilters in May when the destination soft-launched its Snapchat account.

“We were just testing some of the capabilities but it just happened to be timed with a Snapchat Live Story in Philly which anyone could tune into. We thought it was a good time to get branding around popular locations, such as City Hall, the Love statue and Independence Mall.”

One of the geofilters on Independence Mall, the park which is home to the Liberty Bell and the Old City Hall, associated with an event proved particularly popular with people who were not even part of the event itself.

“We realised there were young kids going through the park all the time. They were giving us a bump. We heard the field trips coming through and they were selecting our filter,” says Dana.

Since launching its Snapchat account, Visit Philly has run 52 geofilters. Although Snapchat’s analytics for geofilters are fairly basic, they can give you some idea of your return on investment.

“We have had four million views of those filters from 16,000 users, which is phenomenal,” she says. “We are averaging 93 cents per use and under 1 cent per view.”

It is hard to track individual uses beyond these statistics but they often get reported on Instagram. “From Instagram, we have seen a lot of families have been using the geofilters but it has definitely been younger than what we have seen with other channels,” says Dana.










One of the biggest uses of geofilters occurred during July’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) in the city in July. Visit Philly’s in-house creatives worked with the DNC’s creative team to create 23 geofilters during the political event.

Visit Philly’s Director of Communications Paula Butler says, “The DNC gave us a great kickoff point.”

“People have embraced our brand over the years,” says Paula, highlighting the popularity of having your photo taken by Philly’s Love and Xoxo statues. “Now it’s great to see people snapping and selecting the Xoxo geofilter.”

You can hear Paula talk about Snapchat geofilters and real-time visitor engagement at World Travel Market on Wednesday 9th November at 12.15 in the WTM Inspire Theatre.

Mark Frary is co-founder of Travel Perspective, a social and digital consultancy working with travel companies and tourism organisations to create successful marketing campaigns He is an author and writer specialising in travel, social media and technology. He writes regularly for The Times and has written for many other publications including the Evening Standard, the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Express, Food & Travel, ABTA magazine, the easyJet magazine and Teletext.  Mark also gives expert advice to leisure and business travel companies on their social media and communications strategies and is the co-founder of Social Travel Market, an annual conference on the use of social media in travel at World Travel Market. He is the author of seven books including The Origins of the Universe for Dummies and is currently working on a biography of the ski pioneer Erna Low. Mark lives in Ampthill in Bedfordshire, UK with his wife and three children.


  1. Cailin says:

    Great write up Mark! Geofilters are around the world yes but unless it is a Community Geofilter (which are the ones that appear in each city you are in and are there all day every day) you currently can’t create any geofilters for special events unless it is in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and Brazil I believe at the moment. So this worked great for Philadelphia of course but I don’t think Denmark could use them exactly in the same way yet. It is coming though. Excited to hear Paula talk at WTM! 🙂

    • Mark Frary says:

      Hi Cailin
      Thanks for the comments. As you say, on-demand geofilters are currently not available in every country. Visit Denmark used their geofilters as part of their participation at the Rio Olympics in Brazil rather than in their home country. Come along to Best of Social Media session at WTM to find out what they did.

  2. It’s crazy how this social platform has grown since it’s launch in 2013. I certainly believe this is the new big thing for the travel industry. It’s just a matter of analyzing marketing goals and target market and making a decision weather or not invest on it. I really enjoyed reading about these successful campaigns. Thanks for sharing!

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