Meerkat and Periscope – what’s all the fuss about live streaming?

George PappasLive streaming has made the headlines in recent weeks, George Pappas looks how the two players Meerkat and Periscope compare. 

Up until a few weeks ago the only Meerkat I knew about was the small carnivore belonging to the mongoose family and a Periscope was a tube attached to a set of prisms and used as an instrument for observation. Now they are the latest names to enter the rapidly evolving social media marketplace and right royal battle is being waged between which of these two live streaming apps will reign supreme.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 3.48.49 pmMeerkat was the darling of South by Southwest in Austin, Texas this year and was named as the breakout app of the year. Only days later Twitter, no doubt spooked by the attention lavished on Meerkat, launched their competing app called Periscope. Just last week Meerkat received $14 million in new investor funding.

On the same day Twitter went to market with its alternative live streaming app, Periscope. By Sunday night, the Periscope-Meerkat rivalry had already become brutally unbalanced.

Periscope was a smash hit, making the US iTunes top-30 chart by Friday night. This is ridiculously rare for an app-based social outlet on launch. Contrastingly Meerkat, which relies on the Twitter platform for its delivery and could be susceptible to its vagaries, collapsed to number 523 on the US iPhone download chart.

Both apps are painfully simple. After syncing with your Twitter account, you can broadcast live video of anything you like (yes, anything) straight from your camera to your followers. Already we’ve seen some ‘interesting’ uses of live streaming with a number of people deciding to share with the world, in real-time, the contents of their refrigerators. There’s even a lesser-known challenger, YouNow, who claim some of their broadcasters can earn between $500-$15,000 per month just by streaming live content.

Since the launch of both Meerkat and Periscope, the talk around live streaming of amateur content and the opportunities it opens up for brands has been intense. Irrespective of the outlet used, is live streaming really the next big thing and should marketers and be looking at it as a genuine comms channel?

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 3.49.24 pmOn the plus side live streaming can personify the brand voice. On every social channel a brand is merely a logo with traditional image, video or text-based content. With live streaming, an amateur content piece can create a true, meaningful and personable relationship with a social community. A brand, indeed, becomes a person.

Streaming also boosts engagement by delivering, on the whole, compelling and intriguing content for users. There is an immediacy to it that can’t be matched by any relatable video content. According to video publishing and technology company Ooyala, a live-streamed video is also viewed 10 times longer than on-demand video content. Social media magnifies this engagement, creating rich real-time dialogue.

The live streaming experience has also moved on from low-resolution, stuttering, postage-stamp sized viewing to high quality content shot and viewed on mobile devices. Live streaming has the ability to rival traditional content television delivery and for brands this is a compelling opportunity.

But with all the hype surrounding Meerkat and Periscope and the potential for live streaming, there are potential red flags for marketers. Perhaps one of the biggest is legal issues and in particular intellectual property and copyright considerations.

One thing is clear though, whether it’s Meerkat or Periscope that wins the supremacy stoush, we’re going to be hearing a lot more about live streaming and the opportunities it presents for both users and brands in the weeks and months to come.

George Pappas is campaign director at social media agency G Squared.


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