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TikTok stars, from left, Joey Rogoff and Cam Casey react while filming at Hollywood Lake Park in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Top performers are raking in cash, as Snapchat seeks to compete against TikTok and similar platforms. (Alex Welsh/The New York Times)In late November, Cam Casey, a TikTok star with more than seven million followers, was relaxing at home when he decided to upload a video of a science experiment that resulted in a Coca-Cola bottle exploding on Snapchat.
Casey, 19, had read that the company had introduced a new TikTok-like feature called Spotlight within the app, in which users could share short videos. He wondered if some old videos he had stored on his cell phone could generate traction.
Two weeks later, Snapchat called: Casey had one of the best performers on the platform and was going to make hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Encouraged by his early success, he began posting more videos – sometimes up to 120 a day – uploading new content just a few minutes apart from 8 am to midnight.
As of Tuesday, the company had paid him nearly $ 3 million for content that went viral.
Casey is one of thousands of people around the world who make small fortunes thanks to Snapchat. The company introduced Spotlight in November and is “distributing more than $ 1 million a day to snapchatters,” according to a spokesperson. (The company did not specify if there is a deadline for distributing that amount of money per day.) Many of those new Snapchat moguls are famous TikTok stars and Gen Z influencers, but average users are also earning cyber gold when their videos go viral.
Andrea Romo, 27, earns $ 12.50 an hour as a merchandise associate at Lowe’s in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He doesn’t consider himself a social media influencer, but he has enjoyed messaging his friends on Snapchat for years. When she noticed the new Spotlight feature on Thanksgiving, she decided to upload a video of her sister frying a turkey.
Two weeks later, Romo learned that his video was so popular that it had earned him close to half a million dollars. “It was a big surprise that you can make money by uploading a video of something totally random,” he said. (The company noted that it determines payment amounts based on unique views of videos and proprietary internal metrics.)
Snapchat has not always been fertile ground for social media creators. For years, the company focused on being a messaging platform and offered no way for internet talents to make money or grow their following. In 2017, the company began to verify creators with large numbers of followers, as well as celebrities, by displaying their public stories on the app’s media portal called Discover, but the platform was not designed to obtain and display viral content. to the masses.
With Spotlight, Snapchat aims to change that. Like TikTok and other TikTok-inspired apps and features, including Instagram Reels, Spotlight is an endlessly updating stream of content (or, more precisely, an algorithmically curated vertical video feed).
The same things that are popular on TikTok are popular on Spotlight: dance videos, prank videos, challenges, and tutorials. The main difference in Spotlight is the absence of public counts or comments. And when the videos go viral, the creator makes money, even if they are not influential.
“You don’t have to ask to be paid, you don’t have to join any program; You just have to post a video and if it goes well, you get paid, ”said Dax Newman, 19, a San Diego potter who has made about $ 30,000 on Snapchat.
Meme accounts and viral aggregators are already trying to manipulate the feature by uploading YouTube and TikTok videos. But payments are already transforming the life trajectory of many young people.
Katie Feeney, 18, a high school senior in Olney, Maryland, said she has earned more than $ 1 million from Snapchat in the past two months by posting videos opening up new products and fun content (in one clip , spins on a hoverboard as he appears in different outfits). Feeney said the money has offered him new opportunities. Colleges that you did not intend to apply to due to financial problems are now an option.
“I think it’s going to take me a while to really process it,” Feeney said. “Now I have the opportunity to go to the university of my choice. For a lot of people, Spotlight is going to change their lives and it’s amazing. ”
Information is released quickly
Professional content creators have been the ones to get the most out of Spotlight. Some small and medium creators have struggled for years to make a living as full-time influencers. They had made money from various brand deals and selling merchandise, but Snapchat hadn’t heavily monetized their platform.
CJ OperAmericano, a 24-year-old content creator from Los Angeles, has been posting videos on Snapchat since 2015. Although he has worked with brands such as Coca-Cola, Walmart and Disney, it had been difficult to build a following and make money. “I was making money mainly on TikTok,” he said. But since he started posting to Spotlight, he has made more than $ 100,000.
The information is already spreading to young people.
“Everybody’s talking about Spotlight,” Feeney said. “He’s definitely well known to all TikTokers and social media influencers.”
Joey Rogoff, a 21-year-old influencer who has made more than a million dollars through Spotlight, believes that more TikTokers will start using the new platform. “TikTok set the precedent for what kind of content people search for. Snapchat has done a very good job recreating that in its own way, incorporating it into its own app, “he said. “It is the platform that pays the most at the moment. Hopefully other platforms will see it and follow suit because ultimately that is what will make creators happier. ”
Casey said her success on Snapchat has provided her with what she considers a ticket to the top of Los Angeles’ hierarchy of influencers. He recently appeared on YouTube star David Dobrik’s podcast to discuss his success. “I think it’s already starting to help me get into the world of social media with all the other mainstream creators,” Casey said.
As TikTok has become a more crowded and competitive space, young people are seeing the opportunities that Snapchat offers, especially considering that they can make money very soon. “I think making money is definitely one reason many high school students want to become social media influencers,” Feeney said.
After the competition
Snapchat is having early success with Spotlight, but it’s going to be a challenge to dethrone TikTok as the platform of the moment. “TikTok is the place to be right now. It’s where all the attention goes, all the energy, ”Casey noted.
In recent weeks, payments on Spotlight have also been reduced as the pie is divided among more users each day. “There is more competition,” Casey said. “It’s harder to get views. More people are posting ”.
In order to keep the momentum going, Mike Metzler, a 33-year-old Snapchat creator and social media analytics researcher from Houston, said that social media creators and those working in the industry have come together to talk about their profit and boost each other.
“We have formed groups on Snapchat where we talk about strategies and what content is working and what we are seeing,” he said. “Every time we find a video of someone from that group we share it with others to increase participation and try to help each other.”
At the moment, Casey and Rogoff, who recently became millionaires thanks to Snapchat, share a room in a cramped apartment with friends in Studio City in Los Angeles. They discuss Snapchat strategies from their separate beds.
After Casey gives some of the money to his family (in gratitude for raising him and supporting him), he said he wants to invest the rest in his work. “Yes, it’s just making videos, but there’s a lot more that goes into creating what you see on camera,” he said. “I want to use the money to invest in my videos and create a life for myself with which I can become one of the biggest influencers on the internet. I have always had great aspirations ”.
“We are in a strange industry where anything can happen at any time.”
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