If there were ever evidence needed that the social media world moves quickly, video live-streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat are it. Both have sprung up out of the blue in the last few weeks alone, and have been causing a frenetic furore online about what they mean for social media marketing.
Live-streaming apps are platforms which allow you to stream live video taken on your smartphone online. While this concept isn’t new (comparable software can be dated back to as early as 2007), Meerkat and Periscope have emerged as the most usable and exciting prototypes, and both are desperately vying for your attention. But what do they do, and why should you care?
Here’s everything you need to know about Meerkat and Periscope, and why live social video streaming is about to change the way you – and your customers – consume information and interact online.
The aptly named Periscope was recently unveiled by Twitter. Available only on iOS (for now), it allows others to watch your lived streamed video feed and comment. This can then be shared on Twitter. You can save videos to watch for later, removing any limitations of purely live content.
Periscope has reportedly been under development for over a year, however Twitter failed to quickly bring it to market, which allowed its main competitor, Meerkat, to poke its head over the parapet.
The Meerkat live-streaming app garnered major attention at the SXSW Texas conference in March. Much like Periscope, Meerkat relies on Twitter for social sharing and at time of writing is said to have more than 400,000 users.
It hit a roadblock recently when Twitter withdrew Meerkat’s permission to use its social graph, which it had previously used to gain momentum and information about followers. It’s also emerged that in order to help secure success for Periscope, Twitter has turned to even dirtier tactics, such as directly contacting celebrities and prolific Meerkat users to tempt them over to Periscope.
Who’ll come out on top?
It’s fair to say that the two apps are more similar than they are different, and both surfaced only weeks ago. While Periscope was comparatively late to the party and therefore hasn’t yet made the same impact as its rival, it does in fact offer the more polished and pleasant user experience. But this hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm for Meerkat; Madonna recently unveiled her new single, Ghost Town, on the platform.
According to Meerkat founder Ben Rubin, there doesn’t necessarily need to be one winner in the livestreaming social sphere.
“We don’t look at [Periscope] as a rival. In fact, we’re very happy to see a big company moving in this space”.
Judging by the crumbling of Bebo and MySpace at the mere sight of Facebook, the truth of these words remains to be seen.
UPDATE: And indeed, Meerkat was discontinued in October 2016 so Periscope is the winner.
Live streaming – what’s the big deal?
Prior to both Periscope and Meerkat, video as a medium was restricted by time – clips could be edited and shortened before being uploaded. This placed an extra step, or a barrier, between creator and viewer. Live video removes this, leading to an instantaneous sharing of information, mirroring the appetite for quick, real-time content on social media.
Social media as a movement has always hurtled toward real time commentary, and live-streaming apps are perhaps its final tactic to move into the current moment. A look into someone else’s life, as it unfolds, becomes just a tap away. You can even influence and change the course of events by interacting with the content creator.
However, just as Facebook, Twitter and even Snapchat have evolved from frivolous consumer playthings into powerful content platforms for brands and news producers, both Meerkat and Periscope show potential for long-lasting value. For example, the apps have already been recognised for their live news broadcasting qualities, as they allow journalists and news channels to stream video straight to consumers from live events as they unfold. Surprisingly, The Economist, which is 171 years old, was one of the first platforms to trial Meerkat for news commentary, while Sky News gave Periscope a go when providing viewers with a behind the scenes look at a pre-election Q&A recently.
These platforms are in such early stages, that it’s near impossible (and probably futile) to attempt to predict their future, especially in terms of business and brand usage. But there’s one thing we can say for certain: the world social media is speeding up more than ever, and live-streaming is one of the most exciting developments we’ve seen in a while.
So there you have it. What do you think of Meerkat and Periscope? Do you think live streaming is here to stay?