Snapchat’s Spotlight—launched Monday—is similar in content and format to TikTok. But marketers say it does not yet have the star-making setup, like public follower counts and comments, that can create and sustain an influencer economy on the app.
Now, when sending a video on Snapchat, users can submit it to Spotlight. The posts are moderated by humans and use machine learning to make sure they comply with Snap’s content standards. If they do, they can appear on Spotlight. The most successful Spotlight posts are eligible for a slice of the $1 million a day that the company is offering creators until the end of the year. But Snapchat, previously a-friends-and-family focused environment, is raising a few eyebrows by encouraging content creators to now go viral.
“You could argue that this is injecting toxicity into a vain, superficial, eye-roll, influencer culture,” said Giselle Ugarte, director of marketing and communications at Media Bridge Advertising, (who herself has 100,000 followers on TikTok and 22,000 on Instagram). “But for those who know the power of it, and are using the influence for good, this is an opportunity for people of different colors, ages, sizes, sexual orientations, demographics to be given a platform and be put in front-and-center view of people who perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have come across them.”
“People have been craving connection long before social distancing was the way of our world,” she added, “to be able to at least be able to put a—no pun intended—spotlight on creators and letting them know how powerful they are by investing millions and millions of dollars.”
Snap has benefited from an industry-wide backlash against Facebook and other platforms that are seen as too laissez-faire on issues of hate speech and misinformation. While Facebook has come under fire from regulators, civil rights groups and advertisers, 1,000 of whom boycotted the app in July, Snap has positioned itself as particularly brand safe due to its lack of a centralized newsfeed. With Spotlight, and cozying up to creators, Snapchat, along with TikTok, is converging on that broader, mass appeal space that social media marketers want to capture.
Investment in creators is key to achieving those marketing aims. But Spotlight is missing some things that feel intrinsic to the online creator experience, sources say. For most users who appear on Spotlight, there’s no public profile with past videos or follower counts. Verified creators do have a public profile that you can subscribe to, but they aren’t currently the bulk of who is featured on Spotlight. For creators, how many followers they have serves as a foundation for their payment.
“[Money] is not why you post videos online,” CEO of The Influencer Marketing Factory Alessandro Bogliari said. “It’s because you want to become a phenomenon online, you want to do personal branding, you want to become an influencer.”
While Bogliari welcomes Snapchat’s investment in creators, he is skeptical that people might just post on Spotlight to get the money. Ultimately, he wonders what will happen when the funds run out.
Some established creators have already found early success on Spotlight. After a couple of days, Bogliari’s client, Cam Casey, garnered 450,000 views on his first video on Spotlight; his second has about 200,000. It’s unclear whether Casey, who has 6.7 million followers on TikTok and 130,000 on Instagram, will be paid for these videos on Snapchat.
“I do like how Snapchat has committed to paying creators right off the bat, which I think is important and motivating to post quality content,” Casey said.