April 16, 2015

Chances are by now, you've heard of at least one or both of these new social media apps: Meerkat and Periscope. Both of these live streaming video apps have taken the world of social media by storm. It was all anyone was talking about recently at Social Media Marketing World. And I've seen blog post after blog post on these topics.

Which is why I debated writing about this. Because everyone seems to be. But, I know I promise you my honest opinions on "Trends" so it seems only fair that I tackle this new shiny object.

And, yes, for now, it is another shiny object.

So, is it right for you? Do you need to get an account? Do you need to start live streaming? Well, that's up to you. And hopefully this information will help you figure that out.

Before I get started though, I do want to emphasize that I have not personally used either one of these tools. I am, by no means, in any position to define which one is better or what the benefits of one is over the other (although this is hotly debated elsewhere).

I first heard about Meerkat from Brian Fanzo when he attended SXSW earlier this year. If you're not familiar with Brian, he is one of the big up and comers in social media and millennial marketing. I swear he is a human robot that writes, tweets, and produces videos at a far faster rate than should be humanly allowed! And his content is great. Definitely worth following!

But anyways, he started talking about some weird Meerkat app and his FOMO (fear of missing out) over it. All I could think of was the Animal Planet Show "Meerkat Manor" when I heard the name 😉 I literally had no idea it was a valuable (and obsessive) new social media tool. But I kept my ears to the ground, and heard a lot about it from Brian's posts, finding out more about the value and function of the app.

Then when I was at #SMMW15, and just as Periscope had been released, the buzz around these apps went off the charts. With the competition on between the two, I swear you had to try NOT to hear someone talking about these new tools.

So what are they? They are both live streaming video apps. You can share a link from these videos right to your Twitter account so that others can follow your live video stream. This allows you to connect in real-time and face-to-face with people, completely unedited - it is live from the device you are streaming from. All through a seamless interaction with Twitter.

While live streaming itself isn't "new", it's the way the apps integrate with Twitter and allow for interactions and functionality that are setting themselves apart and creating buzz.

In general, here's what you need to know about these apps and what they do:

  • Both are currently available on iOS devices (links in the first paragraph above to iTunes) and will be available to Android users at some point in the near future.
  • Meerkat is a little more like Snapchat in that when the live video is done broadcasting, it's gone. There is no recording. Periscope will allow recordings to be viewable for up to 24 hours after broadcasting.
  • Meerkat was first to hit the market and immediately picked up a lot of followers and celebrity users.
  • Twitter owns Periscope and is doing everything they can to ensure its seamless integration with Twitter and Twitter users. Who knows if/how they will make it difficult for Meerkat users to integrate through Twitter.
  • Both apps provide push notifications so you can find out when a new live stream video is starting.
  • Periscope allows you to access video details including viewers, duration, and time watched data which could be very beneficial to marketers.

Because I am far from an average user, let alone an expert on either of these platforms, I have found two REALLY good resources that dive into a ton of detail on each platform, how to use them, and all the nuances you need to know.

For insight on using Meerkat, check out this post from Dustin Stout for Weal Media.

For insight on using Periscope, check out this post from Ana Hoffman for Traffic Generation Cafe.

As you would expect, there is already a divide between those who love Meerkat and those who love Periscope. I've seen arguments for both apps and I expect this will only get more divisive - unless one wins out in the long run as the "standard" app to use. And, I don't think one has to "win" - although the rest of the social media blogosphere seems to think someone has to come out on top. But since Twitter owns Periscope, Meerkat will have to work extra hard to keep its audience and users and provide additional benefits over the Periscope app.

Ok, so that's what each one is about. But what does this new shiny toy mean for you?

Well, right now it is a toy. It's a trend. It's something fun to try out. Your audience may not be there at all. But they may be in a month or two.

As with anything in the world of social media, you might want to go ahead and log on to each and register your business name now to ensure you lock it down before someone else takes it. You might want to spend some time trying out each app and seeing if you like one over the other.

How can you use these apps for your business?

Interviews and livecast chats - people love podcasts and interviews so why not make it something live on one of these apps. You can stream from where ever you are and share your content immediately and directly with your audience. Of course, this means you're relying on people being able to tune in live rather than downloading or streaming at their convenience.

Product demonstrations - If you have a new product that you want to demonstrate. Or a commonly asked question about your product. Or tips on how to utilize your products. Live stream videos could address these issues in real time and provide unique opportunities to connect with your customers. But again, you might also want these recorded and available for viewing at a user's convenience so they don't miss this valuable information.

New product launches - this is where I think these apps could be really cool. If you schedule a new product launch for a specific time, you could live stream the launch and details to your network and audience, giving them exclusive (and maybe unprecedented) access to your launch.

Events and conferences - if you're attending industry events or conferences that would benefit your audience, you could live stream conversations and tips from the event. However, be very careful about sharing videos of presentations or sessions that people have paid to attend....

That brings me to the legal issues surrounding these apps and live streaming in general.

Yes, there are SERIOUS legal issues to consider.

First of all, if you attend a live event that people paid admission to gain access to (conference, concert, show, etc.) you run a serious legal risk of copyright issues and more for distributing that content publicly.

Technically, yes, you could walk into a movie theater and live stream the new blockbuster to your audience. But you could also end up in a heap load of trouble for doing this. Now, who's going to monitor and reprimand these actions, I don't know. But it raises a LOT of legal concerns for so many businesses that will need to be addressed more seriously.

Also, if you are live streaming and have people in the background of your shot, you need to ensure that you are not violating their right to privacy (this applies to photography as well). If you are in a public place (parking lot, beach, park, etc.), then there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. But if you are in a privately-owned establishment (restaurant, business office, etc.) there are gray areas about what is defined as privacy expectations. And if you are in a location of privacy (person's home) then there is a definitive expectation of privacy. In these situations, if you are using your content in any way to market a product or service commercially, you run into the realm of requiring releases from anyone in that video (that's why when you watch reality TV, some people's faces are blurred out in the background - they never authorized the release of their image/self to be used).

These are all things to be wary of. And since I'm no legal expert, this article actually has some really good information on the legalities of using these apps. I highly recommend you read this - not only for this, but for the information in general.

So there you have my (minimal but lengthy) thoughts on these two apps. Most importantly, if you are interested in these, please follow the links I've included in this post to get more specific and helpful information for you and your business.

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