Live Streaming Isn’t the Future – It’s Now

It’s no secret that launching a fun new app right before South by Southwest can be good for generating buzz. It doesn’t hurt to have acknowledgement from folks like Gary Vaynerchuk while you’re at it. That’s what Meerkat did. They unleashed their live streaming app, and it immediately set the internet ablaze.

Meerkat

Meerkat founder Ben Rubin said this week on the WhyISocial podcast that Meerkat’s goal is to dissolve the line between the creation and consumption of content. He believes that everyone has a story to tell and that people want to be connected and take part in one another’s stories. Based on my personal observations over the past three weeks, I’d say he is right. And the fact that less than a month after launch they have 400K users is a testament to people’s interest in the app and in one another.

Perhaps the biggest draw for Meerkat is that it is integrated with Twitter. When a user starts or schedules a stream, an announcement and link are tweeted out from that person’s Twitter account. Then during the stream, comments entered in Meerkat by viewers are also posted in Twitter as replies to the originator. This is significant because it amplifies visibility for the app and its users. On the other hand, being integrated with Twitter has its drawbacks. Earlier this month, Twitter cut off Meerkat’s access to its open graph. The result being that as new users registered on the streaming app, their following and followers were not automatically imported. So while the Twitter integration still exists, it’s now more work for users to find one another on Meerkat.

Speculation is in full force now as to whether Meerkat will continue to climb in popularity since Twitter has acquired the Periscope app – seemingly to offer a similar option. Further, the Periscope app is purported to record users’ streams for later viewing whereas Meerkat streams are not automatically recorded. (Note: Originators can save their own Meerkat streams to their iPhones when finished, but the audio synchronization with the video leaves something to be desired. Also, there are third party workarounds popping up now, including Katch, which will save your Meerkat stream to YouTube and tweet you a link.)

So it’s pretty clear that live streaming with social integration is the here and now. What is not clear is who will rule the space. Since Periscope is in beta and I’ve yet to gain access (along with most of the rest of the world), I can provide some insight based solely on what I’ve seen with Meerkat.

Periscope

There are lots of use cases for the streaming app. Here are some example uses that I’ve tuned in for and really enjoyed this month:

Behind the scenes
Gary Vaynerchuk streamed behind the scenes of filming his #AskGaryVee podcast. This was great because viewers could see more of his office, his staff, and the stage for this beloved show.

Fanzo Screenshot

Virtual attendance
Brian Fanzo streamed what he saw and did at South by Southwest. Fans went wild over this because it was an inside perspective for those of us who couldn’t attend the big event in Austin. He has also streamed behind the scenes during some popular Twitter chats that he hosts and has guested on.

A day (or some moments) in the life
Vincenzo Landino streamed everything from karaoke marathons to his morning commute to product giveaways. Vincenzo in particular is a great example of the meritocracy of Meerkat. He wasn’t a celebrity going in, but by consistently streaming, he has stayed high on the leaderboard.

Streaming something original
Gregg Weiss streamed personal thoughts as well as himself singing popular songs with the lyrics re-written for social media. These have been alternately thought provoking and funny.

Scheduled interactive content
Chris Barrows has started a regular Sunday series called #SundaySocial where he breaks out topics relevant to social media enthusiasts and discusses them with the audience. (Note: Chris was also kind enough to jump on Meerkat and do a stream while I was the guest for #BizHeroes chat on March 24. Thanks!)

Just plain fun
Jaymini Mistry streams from the UK and talks about any number of random topics like what she’s making for dinner or what she did at work. But her British accent and her inviting smile make her another leaderboard favorite and usually result in replies from me that include the hashtag #BritEnvy (Note: Jaymini has in turn requested that I start a Meerkat series on “How to be Southern,” as the accent fascination is mutual…. Perhaps I will?)

 

If none of these examples seem compelling, Jim Keenan wrote this Forbes piece explaining how and why Meerkat is a game changer for salespeople, complete with some strategies for success. There’s another great piece on TechCrunch about how Meerkat is connecting people via empathetic transactions. And a quick search on Twitter will render thousands of results, including Meerkat live streams, articles on the subject, and people generally talking about the idea.

 

Periscope Live

***Update: Just as this post was going live, the Periscope app was made available in the iTunes store. Apparently it was launched before full Twitter integration was ready, based on users’ observations and the Periscope Twitter account. The Twitter integration is said to be fully functional later today (March 26, 2015). Experimentation is in full force, as I have downloaded and viewed streams on the app. It does seem to have great potential and is already being adopted by the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk. In particular, comments post faster to the stream and Twitter contacts are imported – both big advantages. Here’s a post Periscope published on launch day: “Up Periscope”***

 

As much as people are talking about and using live streaming capabilities, it’s a trend that businesses and marketers can’t ignore. Whether to use it for customer service, product demos, brand awareness, or simple entertainment, it’s clear that there are a number of options and that the audience is already there.

Do you watch or create or both? If you’re on Meerkat or Periscope I’d love to hear from you! Find me on Twitter!