The competition between social media platforms has heightened once again, with the launch of Snap Inc’s new Spotlight program. Designed to showcase longer videos created by its users, Spotlight’s curated feed of entertaining videos is reminiscent of one of its biggest rivals in the marketplace: TikTok. But there are some crucial differences.
Video is increasingly becoming the focus of social media platforms, as it keeps users engaged for longer on the site. It’s also important for platforms to keep up with the marketplace; Instagram recently launched its own version, Reels. For e-commerce, the potential is great: videos can be used to build brand identity, demo product and launch partnerships with influencers.
At Snap, videos have always been part of the offering – but they were designed to be shared peer-to-peer. With the Spotlight function, longer videos can be uploaded to a fifth tab within the app. This “For You” tab will showcase various Snaps to users, based on an algorithm that identifies what’s most interesting to each person. Over time, this algorithm will become more accurate in its recommendations, as it learns more user behavior.
Similar to TikTok, the algorithm will use information to determine what videos each user wants to see, such as how many people have viewed the Snap; how long people spent watching the video; whether the video has been liked or shared. Negative activity, such as users swiping away from a video, is also used to help rank content. However, comments are not enabled, which removes the need for additional moderation.
“We designed Spotlight to entertain our community while living up to Snapchat values, with our community’s wellbeing as a top priority,” said the company in a statement. “Spotlight content is moderated and doesn’t allow for public comments.”
Snap is also hoping to encourage greater creativity from its user base, through two complementary approaches. First, users are only allowed to apply music that is licensed through Snap’s own library and must upload original content; this should ensure that the platform’s offering is unique. However, this may limit the activity of meme accounts that repost content from the web, which have proved popular on Instagram and TikTok.
Secondly, Snap has committed to distribute $1 million during the initial launch period to creators each day, who are responsible for the top performing Spotlight videos. This is expected to increase engagement and help build out a catalog of content on the site, to help it compete with platforms that have been active for longer.
There are still some restrictions on participation; Snap’s userbase includes younger teens. Spotlight has its own moderation requirements and only those aged 18 or above can opt to create a public profile, in order to gain followers. Users between 16 and 18, or who have opted for a private profile, can still upload videos to Spotlight but they will be shared without attribution, to maintain anonymity.
Spotlight will initially launch on Monday for users in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and France. Additional regions will receive the update soon, available on both Android and iOS.