Google’s Local Guides program: Get free stuff and nifty trip summaries

Looking for another outlet besides Yelp to rate your favorites or call out those who offer terrible service? Look no further – Local Guides is one program that is worth a look if you like to travel or check out the newest eateries in town. As an added bonus, it is a great place to engage with the #shopNewBern #visitNewBern #dineNewBern that you see all over town.

Just because it’s an Instagram logo doesn’t mean you can use the hashtags on Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Local Guides is an official Google program that creates a global community of explorers who seek out and celebrate local experiences. Through the reviews you write and the photos you add on Google Maps, you help others feel at home in the world, anywhere they go.

But What About the Free Swag?

The Local Guides program reels you in with a quick boost up the ladder. There are five levels, and you ascend in ranking by earning points for reviews, photos, adding/editing places, and answering questions. It’s pretty easy to make your way up to level three, which gives you a snazzy little icon next to your profile to indicate you’re a bonafide Local Guide.

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A Local Guide icon will appear next to your profile image to show that your review is trustworthy.

The first couple of levels are pretty sparse with benefits, offering only a monthly newsletter and invites to an occasional Google Hangout. Google details all the benefits for each particular level on this help page.

The swag really comes in when you hit level four. That’s where you get terabyte of Google Drive storage for two years and an annual mystery thank-you gift <—YES PLEASE. With level five you’re supposed to get proprietary information about what’s coming with Maps and a possible invite to a Local Guides Summit. As I progress up the ladder I’ll let you know how true this is.

How To Climb the Ladder Quickly.

The general idea is pretty simple: add reviews, photos, and new locations in Google Maps. Google wants reviews and star rankings to be fair, so don’t be a jerk just to get your points. No one likes the guy who complained just to complain.

You’ll earn your stripes even faster if you embrace a few of Google’s other services. If you decide to turn on Google Photos and enable Location History in Maps, you’ll start to see some rather cool (yet slightly creepy) integration of your photos everywhere you’ve been with your phone.

Photos will appear along any of the places Google thinks you’ve stopped at. It actually makes a neat trip summary for vacations, as you can see where you went each day and check out what photos you took with your phone <–My Mom LOVES this.

To add images for reviews you just have to tap one of the locations you visited and then you can add write the review and add the pictures. You get more points with both images and reviews together, so when your friends say, hey Bob can you take this? You reply, yuppers!

Another way to get points fast: add new venues to Google Maps. You’d be surprised how often a restaurant, coffee shop, or store hours are incorrect or not listed at all. If you add in the name, address, hours, and other details about the place you’ll get a nice points boost (though these will sit in a review queue before they go live). Plus, you’ll be doing a somewhat altruistic service to your fellow humans. We all get a taco craving from time to time, so add in that new Mexican restaurant that just opened down the street (as I did recently). Your fellow citizens will thank you.

Also, don’t overlook these occasional questions that will pop up about places you’ve visited.


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Add to the Google Maps knowledge database by answering questions about where you’ve been.

You have to answer a lot of them to earn Local Guides points, but they’re pretty easy and will help you boost up your ranking quickly. The questions don’t always pertain to the particular type of locale, though. You’ll sometimes get questions about men’s clothing choices at a houseware store, but just go with it anyway.

How Can I Participate in #shopNewBern #visitNewBern #dineNewBern?

New Bern has an unofficial local guides community where you can reshare your reviews and talk about news relating to the area. Martin Brossman had a hand in its creation and the group currently has 88 members.

To Join you must first become a local guide: sign up at

Once you have become a local guide join the community: New Bern Local Guides

Pretty simple huh?