Annotating maps

Annotations offer a way to highlight specific areas on the map and provide additional information about them. They remain fixed on the map so that they move appropriately when the user zooms, pans, or scrolls.

Types of annotations

Social Explorer offers different kinds of annotations to enhance your map. These include: 

Creating annotations

To add an annotation to your map, follow these steps:

  1. In the Change data menu, click the menu button icon for more options.
  2. Select Annotate map.
  3. Select the annotation type that works best for you.

Different annotation types are added in slightly different ways. For example, to add an arrowfreehand, shape, or a hotspot, you need to draw the annotation on the map by clicking and dragging. To add a marker, text label, or an image, simply click anywhere on the map. To add a line or a polygon, click on the map to add each point, and double click to finish drawing.

Customizing annotations

Let’s go through all the annotation types and look at their customization options.


Once you draw an arrow, you will get the arrow annotation menu. You can enter the name of the arrow, as well as tweak its width. There are two ways to tweak the width of the arrow: Enter the starting width in the Start field, and the ending width in the End field. If you use different values for these fields, the width of the arrow will gradually change from the bottom of the arrow towards the tip. You can also set the width of the arrow tip in the Tip field. 

Or, use the sliders for each of the options, Start, End, and Tip, to tweak the width of the arrow and the arrow tip.

After setting the width, you can play around with the fill. By default, arrows in Social Explorer are filled in with black, but you can either disable the fill by unchecking the box or click on the circle to use a different color.

Another element of the arrow you can play around with is the stroke. This is a line around your annotation, and you can set it anywhere from none to extra thick by entering a value from 1 to 5 in the Width field or by using the slider. Click on the circle next to Border to change the color of the stroke.

And lastly, you can tweak the arrow’s opacity. The lower the opacity, the more see-through the arrow is.

Freehand line

After drawing the freehand line, you can edit it by dragging one of the dots on the line.  You can enter its name and set its weight, as well as color. You can also tweak the opacity. Just like with the arrow, the lower the opacity, the more see-through the arrow is.

Shape drawing

Just like with the rest of the annotation types, you can set the title of the shape, enable or disable the fill, and set the fill color. Setting the stroke will affect the line around the shape, and you can play around with its weight, color, and opacity.


Hotspot is used to mark an area of interest on your map. It allows you to set its title, play around with the weight and color of the frame, and set its opacity.


Social Explorer allows you to embed an image as an annotation. After you select the location for the image, you can set its title, upload the file, and tweak rotation and opacity. If you want to resize the image, you can drag one of the corners to resize the image maintaining the original aspect ratio.

Place marker

You can drop the pin and mark any place on the map. Once you place it, you can set its title, and even make the title visible on the map by enabling Show title as label. Furthermore, you can tweak the position, size, and color of the title. We have included a number of different icons for the marker, and you can play around with its size, color, and opacity as well. To edit the icon, click on the icon next to the title.


After you finish drawing the line, you can set its title, weight, color, as well as opacity.


Polygon offers a few more options than the line annotation. You can set its title, enable the fill, choose the fill color, and tweak the weight and color of the stroke. As with the other annotations, you can also play around with the opacity. 


Text annotations allow you to edit the label text, as well as the size and color of the text. You can also add a halo – an option similar to stroke for other annotation types. If you enable halo, a color outline will appear around the letters, and you can set its color, width, and blur level. Also, you can play around with text rotation and opacity.

Managing annotations (edit, delete, copy/paste)

All your annotations will be listed in the annotations menu in the left-hand sidebar. To edit an annotation, click on it in the sidebar, and tweak the settings individually. To delete, click on the Delete button.

To delete multiple annotations click the Edit list button above the annotations list, select as many as you like and click on the Delete button. You can also copy/paste multiple annotations in this manner. Click on the More icon to duplicate your selections.

Customizing annotation legend

If you want to include a map legend, simply enable the Show in legend option for each individual annotation. All annotations will have a default title, so you will want to set the proper title for each.

  1. Click Legend at the bottom of the annotations list.
  2. Enter the title in the text field and click Done.

If you want to hide a certain annotation from the legend, uncheck its box. Bear in mind that the annotation will still be visible on the map unless you delete it.

Exporting annotations

You can also export your annotations in the form of GeoJSON or KML files. Click on the  icon next to the Edit list option to export your annotations.

Save search results as annotations

You can now directly save search results as annotations on Social Explorer maps. This new feature is especially useful for annotating border lines which may be too difficult to draw by hand. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Type in your location of interest into the search box in the upper left corner of the screen.
  2. Select an entry.
  3. Click Save as annotation for your search result.
  4. Clicking the Save as annotation option automatically adds the border for your selected geography with a default line annotation style (a thin light blue outline).

Click View list in the search box to quickly access the Annotations menu and further style your annotations.

Before selecting an entry from the search box, be sure to observe the entry’s geographical category listed in the light gray box next to the entry name. For any of the search results, see the gray box next to the entry name to be sure that you’ve picked the right entry.