Snapchat is giving artists more love.
Starting in late March, Snapchat will feature creator-made lenses in the app’s carousel. The update will display artists’ work in the app’s main screen, only a couple of swipes away from the puppy filter and the dancing hot dog. That means potential exposure to Snapchat’s 187 million daily active users and even more if people choose to share it off the app.
This decision comes a long way from Snapchat’s previous neglect of its most passionate users. For years, Snapchat kept influencers and artists at bay — not engaging them in conversations and not adding tools that would help them better use the app — despite the popularity of doodlers like Shaun McBride “Shonduras.” Snapchat even got in trouble for stealing artwork.
But a lot has changed, like the rise of Instagram Stories as an alternative for creators. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel promised last year his company would do more to help creators. Recently, Snapchat added in-app analytics to verified accounts and other influential users. Snapchat’s recent redesign has frustrated many, including Kylie Jenner, but one of the intentions was to promote creators.
Snapchat’s update is another effort for promote its community. Indeed, Snapchat is calling the effort “creator boosts.” The inclusion will be limited at first, with only a few artists featured periodically. If selected, the lens will show the creator’s Snapchat display name.
Anyone can use Snapchat’s Lens Studio, the company’s tool for building augmented reality experiences, and opt in to have their creations potentially selected for the carousel. Since launching in December, Lens Studio has received 30,000 submissions, and the lenses garnered more than 1 billion viewers from Snapchat users.
No money is changing hands with creator boosts, for now. The lenses also can’t be branded, since that would compete with the promoted lenses already available in the carousel.
But direct payment isn’t the end-all-be-all for every designer. Ralph Barbagallo, a developer focused on virtual reality and augmented reality experiences, has built three world lenses for Snapchat.
“The best thing about [Snapchat’s] world lens is you can just put something in the world. It’s an instant. It’s immediate,” Barbagallo said.
Snapchat provides an opportunity for creators, like Barbagallo, to launch augmented reality experiences without building a mobile app. He said clients have asked him about that opportunity to build for and get exposure in Snapchat, but he was originally reserve due to Snapchat previous resistance to artists outside of their own team.
That’s now changed. Barbagallo also pointed to other distribution channels for Snapchat lenses, such as the subreddit r/SnapLenses. That’s where lenses featuring Elon Musk’s Starman and Rick and Morty, by tech startup SVRF, got attention.
“I see a lot of pieces talking about AR as far as who’s going to build a future platform? Well, if you like Snapchat, they kind of have all the pieces. In my opinion, it started as the dancing hot dog engine. People loved it so much that they opened it up,” Barbagallo said.
With creator boosts, Barbagallo has a chance to get his name and his creations in front of more eyes. Of course, that attention, like most of the experiences in Snapchat, isn’t permanent.