27th November 2020

POV: Snapchat Spotlight and Instagram Branded Content


Both Snap and Instagram have launched new features. Snapchat has a new scrollable short video feed called Spotlight and Instagram has updates to its approach to branded content across the platform.

Details and Implications:

Snapchat Spotlight: Snapchat is launching a scrollable feed, called Spotlight, where users can watch short videos, similar to the ‘For You’ page on TikTok. The feature aims to showcase the community’s creative efforts and will include videos backed by Snapchat’s licensed music and other Snaps. It will appear on a prominent tab on the app and will use an algorithm based on users’ preferences to determine which videos are shown – essentially a response to TikTok’s popularity.

The ‘Spotlight Guidelines’ specify content should be vertical videos with sound up to 60 seconds long and they should include a topic hashtag. Content creators will be able to make use of Snapchat’s tools such as Lenses, Sounds and Captions (a new feature designed for Spotlight). Content cannot be repurposed from elsewhere - it must be original and can only use licensed music from Snapchat’s own Sounds library. At launch, the Spotlight feature will not show ads but like most new features on social media, this is likely to come later on.

Snapchat’s development expands the ways users can post content publicly and reduces the platform’s focus on ephemeral content, whilst encouraging creators to stay on the platform. In an effort to entice creators to use the feature and compete with the increasingly popular TikTok platform, Snapchat is funding the services with $1 million a day going to users who create the top performing content until the end of the year.

Instagram Branded Content Ads changes: Instagram has made changes to how much control brands have over influencer branded content. Advertisers will now have the ability to publish posts from users’ accounts. Last year, Instagram released branded content ads to make it clear which posts ere sponsored by brands. The posts look like organic posts but have ‘paid partnership with [brand name]’ at the top. Brands could then launch an ad using this content, but only after the influencer had published it as an organic post.

This is now changing, with a new three-step process in place. First, an advertiser sends a request to an influencer / creator, this can be done via Instagram or through Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager. Secondly, the influencer / creator accepts and the advertiser and influencer / creator work together to create the post. Lastly, the two parties approve the post and the advertiser can then post it direct from the creator’s account - but will not appear on the influencer / creators’ main profile.

Branded content ads are also being extended to Reels and are being testing in Live. Additionally, branded content ads in Stories can now include mentions, location and hashtags, features that were previously only available in organic content and can also use product tags to send users directly to a product. 


TikTok’s meteoric rise is forcing more innovation from the leading social platforms and the rising importance of creators / influencers is behind it all. Snapchat is seeking to build its own TikTok style content – no doubt then moving to monetise it once established. Instagram’s approach is about finding new ways to connect brands and influencers / creators and giving the brands more control in this process. Both developments speak to the power of influence in the platform age and the digital acceleration that we have seen this year with more time spent on these platforms.

Further Reading

AdAge | Search Engine Journal | TechCrunch | The Verge

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