For those who haven’t already heard, the live streaming space has had a recent explosion with the release of two applications — Meerkat and the Twitter-owned Periscope — both offering a seamless experience for video streaming through smart phones.
With veteran services like UStream and Justin.TV, live streaming video isn’t a new thing, but these apps have made a huge leap in making the technology accessible to all smart phone users. Combine this with the popularity of live tweeting and Snapchat stories as a way of following events in real time, and it’s obvious that the market is primed for the logical next step of live streaming video.
But as with any app that gets labeled the ‘break-out app’ or the ‘next big thing’ by tech journalists, the question has to be asked, where does novelty end and utility begin? Will these apps sustain their honeymoon phases long enough to build genuine user bases?
In the case of Meerkat it appears the novelty has already been given a serious reality-check, with Twitter revoking Meerkat's access to their social graph just days after its latest $14m round of funding. Meerkat was using Twitter’s social graph so people could not only sign up to Meerkat instantly using their Twitter profile, but also have the option to follow the same people they follow on Twitter, essentially duplicating the follower/following relationships users had already built using their Twitter profile.
Worldwide search interest for “Meerkat” over the last 12 months shows it could all be over as quickly as it started.
What’s the secret sauce?
After playing around on both Meerkat and Periscope for the last couple of weeks I’ve been surprised to find some genuinely interesting content, albeit in amongst a lot of junk. There’s one recurring element in any of the streams that are worth watching, and it’s the same theme that determines whether any platform is worth pursuing, particularly for brands.
The only streams that grabbed my attention long enough to keep watching were those that offered new content that I hadn’t already seen before, or a new perspective or insight into an event that’s not available anywhere else.
Whether it be a professional cyclist taking us through his pre-race routine before heading to the start-line…
Or Mashable’s Pete Cashmere divulging insider information about the business to his fans.
Or an artist revealing her creative process as she recreates the Mona Lisa:
None of them are ground-breaking, but each gives a unique lens into a particular topic.
As for the guys ordering drive through at McDonald's? Not so much.
Long term use for brands
The personal nature of these live streaming apps means they aren’t naturally suited for use by brands. However by first asking some key questions companies can determine whether mobile streaming is a suitable format to pursue in the short-mid term.
1. Can you provide your market with a relevant, new, unique perspective not available through other channels?
2. Are you prepared to produce content regularly and resource it as part of your larger content marketing strategy? Frequency is the key for this type of narrow-casting.
3. The format is raw, low-res, and live to air. Are you comfortable relinquishing creative control?
On a broader level, even if both services flop in the coming months and their usage experiences the same decline as the likes of Vine and Viddler, it’s still worth thinking about live streaming video content and how it could fit in with your comms strategy. It will only take Snapchat adding live streaming, multi-user functionality for the whole space to take off for real. If the first mover advantage means something to your business it may be worth getting on the front foot.