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TikTok’s influence is extending to rival platform Snapchat.
On Monday, Snapchat introduced a feature called Spotlight that will give more prominent promotion to public posts from its users. Spotlight is available in 11 countries including the U.S. and Canada and will roll out in more markets over time.
In a marketing video for Spotlight, Snapchat highlighted the type of short, music-driven videos that have become popular on TikTok. Snapchat users have long posted similar videos for their small circle of friends on the app, but largely had to cross-post those clips onto other platforms like Instagram and TikTok if they wanted to reach a wider audience. With Spotlight, which appears as a new hub within the app, Snapchatters will be able to reach more people with their posts without having to leave for another platform.
Any Snapchatter can opt into sharing a Snap on Spotlight. At first, the post will be shared with a small group of users. Snapchat’s content algorithm will then determine whether a post should be shared more widely by taking into account indicators like how long people watch the video and whether they share it with friends.
“We built Spotlight to be a place where anyone’s content can take center stage — without needing a public account, or an influencer following,” the company said in a blog post announcing Spotlight. “It’s a fair and fun place for Snapchatters to share their best Snaps and see perspectives from across the Snapchat community.”
To encourage users to try out Spotlight, Snapchat is promising to pay $1 million each day to the people who create the most popular Spotlight posts. Earn outs will be available to Snapchatters who are at least 16 years old and will be based on a number of factors, including the number of unique video views a Snap receives and its performance compared to others posts from that same day.
Snapchat popularized the concept of private, ephemeral media when it launched in 2011 as an app for sending disappearing messages to friends. Over the last nine years, the company has introduced features that make communications on its platform more public, launching Stories for people to broadcast their posts to their wider following and Discover for programming from news and media organizations. Meanwhile, social media giants Facebook and Twitter — beset by rampant virulent user behavior and the spread of misinformation — have added Snapchat-like features that prioritize more temporary posts.
Snapchat is introducing Spotlight as it faces new competition for Gen Z users from TikTok, the social video app that China’s ByteDance launched in the U.S. in summer 2018. TikTok has caught on with users in large part because it has made it easy to make compelling and entertaining video clips and then share them with a large audience. The app’s For You page, which is fed with by a powerful algorithm that surfaces curated content to each user, has earned a reputation for turning everyday users into overnight stars.
Feeling the pressure from TikTok, Instagram launched a competitive feature called Reels over the summer. Spotlight is Snapchat’s entry into space. Prior to the launch of Spotlight, Snapchat would push individual posts out to wider audiences via the public Our Stories collections or the Snap Map. But distribution via the Discover platform was reserved for public figures, known as Snap Stars, and other users who had cultivated large followings. Now, with Spotlight, everyday users have the chance to reach more people with their Snaps.
As Snapchat evolves into a platform for broadcasting to many users, it will have to contend more directly with challenges like how to moderate content and keep users safe. A Snapchat representative said that the company will view all posts submitted to Spotlight to ensure that they meet its community guidelines before pushing them out to the broader Snapchat audience and that, at least at first, no posts featuring political content will be permitted.
By default, when Snapchatters who aren’t public figures post to Spotlight, their identities will be hidden. Users can decide to make their profiles public via the settings on the app. Snapchat also doesn’t plan to let people publicly comment on Spotlight posts. Instead, after the launch of Spotlight, it will enable direct replies on public profiles of users over the age of 18, but it will filter out hateful or harmful comments from those replies. People who want to further moderate the comments they receive can filter out messages containing a custom list of keywords.
Snapchat is also addressing how it will promote inclusive content. The company says its algorithm was built with diversity in mind and that it vets its system biases and discrimination. The company adds that its algorithm was designed to ensure that users see new and diverse content based on their interests. “This approach distributes views more fairly to a broad group of creators,” reads the company’s blog post. “And, it teaches our algorithmic models that diversity and inclusion of different views should be part of their native function.”
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