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This year’s hot graduation gift: Snapchat geofilters

LOS ANGELES >> Ann Beverly had eyed a set of golf clubs as a college graduation gift for her son. In an impulse buy during commencement, though, she just had to tack on something else.

She was browsing on her smartphone — not on or Facebook, but on Snapchat — when up popped a small graphic congratulating some other Chico State student on graduating.

Beverly, a Snapchat user since her children introduced her to it three years ago, knew that the messaging app offered graphics to decorate photos and videos. But she hadn’t known that she could upload her own artsy stamps. Beverly immediately wanted to make a graphic that would celebrate her son Parker that day and be available for anyone nearby to affix to their Snapchat messages. It ended up costing her $27.

She was far from the only one this graduation season to realize the briefly available graphics, which Snapchat calls geofilters, can be a prize for a generation of young adults who’ve grown up competing for social media likes, hashtags and friendships. To them, virtual novelties are as essential at graduation as posters, funny caps and purple orchid leis.

In the year since Snapchat began welcoming geofilters, paid submissions have increased to tens of thousands per day. Graphics tied to weddings and birthdays are most popular. But graduations, with 15 percent of buys, claimed the No. 2 spot from birthdays last month, according to data from Snapchat’s template library. About half of users design from templates provided by Snap Inc., with the rest turning to their own skills or contractors found online.

Businesses use geofilters to attract customers. But it’s a form of advertising offered to ordinary users too, giving people a chance to call attention to themselves or loved ones.

“He’s 23 and was thrilled,” Beverly said of her son. “It was heaven for him to have his own filter. We got so many comments from friends and family who viewed it saying, oh my gosh, how did you do that?”

Some plan ahead. Lilibeth Torres started on a Snapchat graphic to surprise her graduating friend a week out. It featured a drawing of her friend Arturo, adorned in cap and sash, with a diploma and cash floating about. Torres, who is studying graphic design at San Jose State, spent about four hours crafting the look.

“I wanted to do something cool, but not over the top,” she said.

Purchasers must set the time-and-location availability for their submissions, with greater visibility increasing costs to about $500 for an entire town for an evening. Torres’ geofilter cost $10 for five hours over three small areas. The graphic drew more than 1,000 views.

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