Having fun tools and filters is no longer enough to attract users to media sharing platforms. As we’ve increasingly seen in the past two years, tech companies have decided that the best way to keep users engaged and active is to pay them. Both Facebook and Twitter are looking into new ways to funnel cash at users who create popular content, with Facebook earmarking a whole one billion dollars to be spent across the next twelve months. Other platforms aren’t planning to spend quite that much, but Snapchat is officially getting involved in the “create and get paid” market.
Effective immediately, Snapchat is rolling out a new feature in the United States of America called “Snapchat Challenges,” which offers “spot prizes” to creators who complete specific tasks set out by the platform. Typically, these challenges will include using certain lenses to make videos, performing certain tasks on video, or even using a specific sound. Rather than being part of the “main” Snapchat platform, all of these money-earning tasks have to be performed inside “Spotlight.” That’s a relatively new addition to Snapchat which has been compared – in some cases unfavourably – to TikTok. Every video sharing platform in the world has attempted to respond to the popularity of TikTok in the past year, so it’s no great surprise to see Snapchat finally launching an offensive of its own.
As this is a brand new initiative – one which caught a lot of industry experts off guard when it was announced on October 6th – details are a little thin on the ground. From what little we know, it seems that they will only pay money to the top three to five creators for each task or category. The cash prize pool for each task will be at least one thousand dollars and might go as high as twenty-five thousand dollars, but that’s not reflective of the amount paid to any individual creator. Snapchat says that the minimum amount paid to any creator will be $250, so it’s unlikely that the top prize will be a life-changing sum of money. This should be seen as a way of boosting income for people who already make money through their social media accounts rather than a potential new career.
The criteria for deciding who gets paid and who doesn’t will mostly be decided by popularity, with only the most-viewed videos in each category becoming eligible for payment. This will likely be a frustration for some creators, who know only too well that there’s often no rhyme or reason behind what becomes popular and what doesn’t. From this description, it sounds a little like getting paid through this system will be a little like trying to get paid through playing online slots. If you’ve ever played online slots, you’ll know what we mean by that. If two people play online slots at the same time, betting the exact same amount of money and taking the exact same number of spins, it’s highly likely that one player will win significantly more than the other. There’s nothing wrong with that – that’s the mechanism that drives online slots and most other gambling games, and the uncertainty is part of the entertainment. Most creators probably feel like they’d like a little more certainty when they’re putting effort into making great content, but it doesn’t appear that they’ll find it here.
While Snapchat might not be able to offer certainty, it will at least offer plenty of opportunities to win. The company has promised to run multiple challenges every week for the foreseeable future. While those challenges will only be open to people using the app in the United States of America initially, it’s to be expected that they’ll eventually roll out across the rest of the world if there’s enough uptake and the format proves to be popular. One theory behind the sudden decision to launch the challenges is that Snapchat is trying to find ways to differentiate itself and its Spotlight feature from TikTok. If the videos on both platforms are too similar – which they often are – there’s no reason for a TikTok user to stop using the app and come to Snapchat instead. If Snapchat can generate different content by driving users to take specific actions, it may be able to carve itself a niche. A spokesman for the company has told technology website The Verge that it might introduce sponsored challenges in the future, so there’s also a new revenue stream for Snapchat in the offing too.
With or without these challenges, Snapchat is enjoying spectacular growth at the moment. Figures disclosed at the end of July 2021 revealed that the app now has an average of 293 million active users per day. That’s an increase of almost a quarter compared to the same period of 2020, and the good news doesn’t stop there. There’s been a sharp increase in the number of people who use the Spotlight feature within Snapchat during the same period. That number has gone up by 49% during the same period, and the amount of Spotlight content posted each day is three times as much as it was at the start of 2021. Snapchat has enough users to make a success out of this idea. It all depends on how many of them will be motivated to do things for Snapchat on the off chance that they might make money out of it.
The social media app market is saturated. Between Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, there’s no room for anybody else to make headway. Given the intensity of the competition between those brands, there’s also no guarantee that they’ll all survive for another five years because they’re all chasing the same demographic. If one of them develops a feature that puts all of the others in the shade, it could be curtains for one or more of those other companies. That’s why we so often see cloning and copying of features from one app to another. This new Snapchat initiative isn’t exactly what we’d call original, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be effective. This is something to keep an eye on as 2021 draws to a close and we start to think about how the respective apps will perform in 2022.