Snapchat this week kicked off its global expansion of Spotlight, the TikTok clone of the photo messaging app that’s set to become a bigger avenue for advertising. With the rollout in India, Mexico and Brazil, parent company Snap is looking to increase the popularity of Spotlight, which had around 100 million monthly active users in January.

That’s impressive growth for a feature Snapchat introduced in 11 countries two months earlier. Around this time, the company announced plans to distribute $ 1 million per day to video creators as part of its efforts to get them to try out the platform’s new format. The top-performing payment program was slated to expire in late 2020, but Snap decided to extend the offering, driving an average of 175,000 video submissions per day.

But will Spotlight still be convincing to creators and brands if Snap ends the big wins? For now, he seems to be focusing on long-term stability.

“While Snapchat hasn’t historically been breeding ground for social media creators, Spotlight was created in hopes of changing that,” said Maarten Boon, senior director of product marketing at the management startup. Bynder digital assets. “Snapchat’s Spotlight is another example of how social media platforms are adapting their functionality to deliver the TikTok-like experiences they gravitate to users.”

Build critical mass

Considering that Snapchat’s daily user base – which grew 22% last year to 265 million – sends 5 billion photos per day through the platform, Spotlight has much more potential for growth in the light. of this week’s expansion to other major countries around the world.

“There is a challenge and an opportunity for both brands, as there are more ways than ever to connect with audiences with content created specifically for this platform,” said Bynder’s Boon. “This new approach is also forcing marketers to rethink their traditional approach to creating video content.”

Expanding the variety of content to increase viewership is one of the first steps in opening up Spotlight to advertising. Brands are expected to increase in-app video ad spending by 28% to $ 18 billion in the United States this year as the ad market begins to normalize and demand rebounds more strongly after the pandemic, according to researcher eMarketer .

“Our main goal in launching Spotlight was to create a critical mass of both video submissions and audience in a select set of countries so that we could start to iterate quickly on content ranking and the overall experience. of the product, ”said Snap CEO Evan Spiegel. a quarterly earnings call last month.

During the call, Spiegel did not provide a timeline on when Spotlight would start selling advertising in Spotlight, saying the top priority at the moment was to build engagement enough to support operations at more. long term of the platform. The Creators Incentive Program doesn’t allow sponsored videos or those that sell products or services, although this monetization approach may change if things really start to hit users. Outside of Spotlight, Snapchat offers a variety of video ad formats that vary in length and placement across sections of the app.

“Fortunately, we have a strong demand for vertical video, which is the format we will be using to monetize Spotlight,” said Spiegel. “Spotlight will be a great way for people to expand their video campaigns.”

Video content is particularly popular among younger consumers, with 61% of Gen Z and Millennials reporting watching more videos on social media apps since the start of the pandemic, according to a Snapchat survey and Omnicom Media Group. Fifty-two percent of those polled said they were using their smartphones to watch more videos on streaming apps and platforms, while an equal percentage said they would maintain this increased viewing even after the pandemic. , according to the study.

At the same time, there are signs that Snap is considering expanding its reach to advertisers with the hiring in February of Doug Frisbie as vice president of global business marketing. Previously, he held a similar position at big rival Facebook, where he led small businesses and vertical social network marketing.

Respond to TikTok

Snapchat’s launch of Spotlight in late 2020 came as U.S. social media companies responded to the growing threat from TikTok. Since 2018, the social video app has been installed over 2.6 billion times, and last year was one of the top-rated apps in the United States, according to Sensor Tower analytics. To reap some of TikTok’s growing popularity, Facebook-owned Instagram last year launched a copy feature called Reels, while Google’s YouTube began piloting a feature called Shorts in India. Google announced this week that it will launch a beta version of Shorts in the United States.

“A lot of popular consumer trends on TikTok are also popular on Spotlight: dance videos, prank videos and challenges,” said Bynder’s Boon. “Because Spotlight is currently paying millions of dollars to get people to use the app, now is the perfect opportunity for brands to create content that encourages users to engage with them while everything is new and exciting. . “

In developing a strategy for social video, Boon recommends being open to experimentation and having a system in place to create content quickly when videos start to trending. It’s also important to test content on different social media apps to determine what is most likely to go viral based on their respective, often finicky algorithms.

“Marketing and creative teams need to abandon the idea of ​​the traditional video creation process,” Boon said. “In a world that values ​​authentic and informal content, the polished 60-second video ad is no longer the final deliverable. Instead, easily reusable ‘atomic’ content is the way forward for brands to create fast, informal videos. “

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