Written by Sam Freeze
After bursting onto the scene in a frenzy at the 2015 SXSW, expectations for the live video streaming apps Meerkat and Periscope have since become more realistic. Hailed as the next big thing in social media apps, live video streaming offers a unique angle on real-time event screening as well as social interaction with constant conversation. While live streaming has existed for years with companies like Livestream and Ustream, Meerkat and Periscope brings live streaming to smartphone users (well, just the iOS crowd as of now) via easy-to-use mobile applications. The introduction of streaming social channels poses new and significant challenges for marketers and influencers alike. Still in their infancy, best practices for these apps do not yet exist.
To put it bluntly, live streaming is often boring. Accustomed to digestible, quick pictures and videos, social consumers watching streams on Periscope and Meerkat can find much of the content long and uninteresting, particularly if in streams with little context. Right now, a number of top Periscope and Meerkat influencers use everyday rides in a cab, shopping trips, and even shots of what’s in their fridge as opportunities to stream.
As the novelty for these apps wears off and usage scales, these everyday situations will not easily hold an audience’s attention. Ultimately, social media is about providing value to your followers, and live streaming just to be live streaming offers little to stick around for.
Successful marketing on any social channel requires using its unique capabilities to craft your message and connect with your followers. When deciding whether to incorporate live streaming into your social strategy mix, ask yourself: is there anything my followers would benefit from specifically using live streaming rather than “classic” social channels? Live streaming has many issues that makes marketers uncomfortable. In general, it’s messy and isn’t conducive to creating neatly polished, digestible content. Since it is live, mistakes can be made and not easily corrected. Also, the user base of both Meerkat and Periscope are not currently as large as other social channels. But what live streaming does offer is an opportunity to communicate directly with your audience truly in a real-time, conversational manner which could be beneficial for many brands.
Because of its relative difficulty to do well and (currently) smaller user base, live streaming makes sense for some brands more than others. Many brands have already jumped into the world of mobile live streaming. ESPN regularly has their anchors live stream between commercial breaks just to answer viewer questions, and they even recently interviewed football players Rob Gronkowski and Odell Beckham Jr. exclusively on Periscope in the waiting room before the announcement of the Madden cover vote results. General Electric went behind the scenes of StarTalk Radio with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. Behind-the-scenes glimpses at these well known brands work well to both humanize the brand and engage viewers in their products and identity.
Live streaming should not be limited solely to large brands. Any brand or influencer that believes their behind-the-scenes footage, events, or Q&A sessions would be interesting enough for followers to want to tune in can benefit from adding Periscope and Meerkat into their social mix. But many brands whose followers may not dedicate sufficient time would be better served focusing on channels where their content is easier for their audiences to consume.
Simply stated, showcase your brand’s identity. If you’re a food blogger, try cooking one of your top recipes via live stream so your audience can follow along and ask questions. Take them on your shopping trips as well; show where you get your favorite ingredients. If you blog about beauty, take your audience through your morning routine. Cooking and instructional videos are nothing new, but live streaming allows you to engage with your audience and answer their questions as you go.
It seems that Periscope is in a better position to win the long term battle of live streaming apps. Their purchase by Twitter gives them a significant advantage over Meerkat at least in the short run with both apps depending so heavily on Twitter integration. Periscope’s playback feature also gives brands the ability to keep content available for 24 hours for watching and sharing. As of now, Periscope seems to be the better bet, however it makes sense (and is far from heavy lifting) to have your brand on both apps.
Letting your followers know when you are streaming is important, particularly on Meerkat which has no playback feature. The integration of Twitter into both apps makes it easy to let your followers know when you’re planning to stream. Meerkat will automatically post to Twitter when you begin a stream and Periscope gives you this option, but be sure to let your followers know in advance through all your social channels.