Picture this: A woman walks down the beach with a phone in her hand. She records footage of the sunbathers she passes.
Her name is Hayley Thompson, and though she’s on vacation, she’s working hard. The clips she records will serve as her entry for a Snapchat Spotlight Challenge titled #SummerVibes. Thompson’s beachcombing video will ultimately earn her a third-place finish in the #SummerVibes contest and a modest monetary reward.
Thompson’s #SummerVibes success story was not her first Spotlight Challenge win. Throughout 2022, the Pennsylvania native placed in 31 of Snap’s short-form challenges, earning tens of thousands of dollars in prize money. Since the calendar turned over, Thompson has kept up her hot streak. In the first two months of 2023, she’s earned rewards from five different Spotlight Challenge submissions.
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For creators like Thompson, Spotlight Challenges are a sustainable revenue source.
Since graduating from college, Thompson has become a verified Snapchat creator and has made a career out of her Spotlight Challenge submissions. The app launches a handful of short-form contests every month and attaches monetary prizes to each one. The creators who best respond to Challenge themes earn paydays that can range as high as $100,000.
With so many creators on Snapchat, Spotlight Challenges may seem like crapshoots, but Thompson has repeatedly conquered them. She told Tubefilter that she earns money from Challenges “once or twice” a month. She’s won three grand prizes, and her entries have high success rates. She estimated that about 25% of her Challenge submissions earn monetary rewards.
Her strategies for Challenge entries have become so ingrained that they’ve even entered her subconscious. “I’ve literally done it in my dreams before,” she said.
Thompson is part of a new class of creators who are making a living through Spotlight Challenges. Logan Hunter has made about $27,000 from a dozen challenge wins. DeLessa Unique, who won the Netflix reality series The Circle, has delivered six Challenge-winning videos.
When Thompson sees other names among the Spotlight Challenge winners, she uses their victories as motivation. “I definitely look at the winners,” she told Tubefilter. “I go through all of the entries.” She sometimes watches 100 videos in a single day, searching all the while for a competitive edge she can bring to her next submission.
But Thompson’s strategy goes a lot further than mere observation.
She began cultivating her Spotlight skill set during her college years, when she studied multimedia and graphic design. She chose her major and minor with “content creation in mind,” and she has since applied her studies to her professional life. “I just had a thought Snapchat was going to go somewhere like this,” she said.
When Snapchat launched Spotlight as its TikTok-like format, Thompson knew that her prediction had come true. She began posting on Spotlight every day in order to participate in the format’s incentive program.
When Spotlight expanded to include Challenges, Thompson was ready. She knew that her editing skills could set her above the pack, and that’s exactly what happened. “It’s very important where you make a cut and how you make a cut,” she told Tubefilter. “I like to get creative with how I film it. I like to film in slo-mo.”
Submitting to Spotlight Challenges can sometimes feel like “editing bootcamp,” especially when the prompts touch on tricky categories. “Food videos take forever,” Thompson said. Sometimes, she spends up to six hours editing a single 60-second clip.
Despite all that work, Thompson finds fun in her creative process. “I try to be very consistent,” she told Tubefilter. She relies on a regimented schedule so that she can keep up with the pace of Challenges. (Individual creators can submit up to three entries for each Challenge.) Her goal is always to “tell a full story” while creating something “very different” that “stands out.”
She plans her submissions so that they will satisfy all of the criteria Snapchat uses to judge Challenge entries. The platform likes POV videos, creativity, and submissions that use Snap’s proprietary tools. To satisfy the last point on that rubric, Thompson creates her own AR Lenses, which end up not only in her videos but also in Spotlight’s showcases of Lenses from verified accounts.
Those editing tricks add style to Thompson’s ever-growing photo roll. Her audiovisual library forms the base of her Challenge workflow, so she tries to gather footage whenever she can — even while vacationing on the beach.
Snap sees Spotlight Challenges as an “enormous opportunity” for creators.
Thompson has accounts on TikTok and Instagram Reels, but she’s “way more active on Snapchat,” where her public profile has about 82,000 subscribers. Her methodical approach to Spotlight Challenges has helped her turn videomaking into a career.
As Thompson thrives, other creators may be wondering if Spotlight Challenges are a zero-sum game. If individual creators can win dozens of challenge prizes, how much money is left for Spotlight newcomers? How many Hayley Thompson-style success stories can exist on Snapchat at one time?
Thompson admitted that other Challenge entrants could conceivably be “annoyed” by her repeated wins, but Snapchat believes its prize pool is big enough to go around. In an email to Tubefilter, Snap Director of Content and Spotlight Sam Corrao Clanon explained how his company balances its emerging Challenge stars with the format’s new faces:
“We’re absolutely thrilled by the success that Hayley has had with Spotlight Challenges. With multiple Challenges running on any given day, and multiple winners per Challenge, there is enormous opportunity for both new and established creators to create, compete, and win. We love hearing from members of the Snapchat community who, through Challenges, have won prizes for their content for the very first time. Equally, we love seeing creators win a meaningful amount of money through multiple Challenge wins. Ultimately, we want Snapchat to be a platform where any creator can find their desired form of success, whether that’s growing an audience, building a business, finding their voice, or just having fun.”
Not everyone can win Spotlight Challenges, but as Thompson proves, a 25% win rate is high enough to build a sustainable revenue stream. Her victories are rewarding, her losses are instructive, and every video she submits builds her skills as a filmmaker, content creator, and social media star.
“It’s kind of like my portfolio at this point,” she told Tubefilter. And with plenty more Challenges planned for 2023, that portfolio is only going to expand.