If you’ve clicked on a Twitter link in the last couple of months that has taken you to a tall rectangle of shaky footage and lots of shouting in a bar, chances are you’ve stumbled on to a friend’s Periscope or Meerkat feed.
Or perhaps you were tempted to watch the premiere of Game of Thrones Season five in a deeply unsatisfying and illegal manner.
Or maybe you saw some distressing footage live-streamed from a citizen journalist who was first on the scene of a natural disaster, a street-level skirmish or a Neil Diamond concert.
If you’re a marketer or are just keeping up with the latest tech or social video trends, live-streaming apps such as Periscope and Meerkat will have certainly entered your awareness in the last couple of months.
Both platforms have made headlines, both platforms have brought with them their various controversies, and despite a few unique features both are virtually indistinguishable from the other.
As the resident social video expert I have a lot of questions about these new apps, as I’m sure you do too, so let’s explore them both, paying particular attention to whether they may be worth your while or not.
What are live-streaming apps?
They’re a window into a world that isn’t your own. A user can film anything that’s happening around them on their mobile phone, without any time limit or phone memory limitation (because its not saved to your mobile phone) and fellow users can log-in and watch your live stream.
The possibilities are as endless as the things you can record. Some journalists are using it to provide immediate live footage of events around the world, musicians are using it to stream exclusive performances, amateur cooks are using it to broadcast their own low-budget cookery shows.
With both Meerkat and Periscope, users can comment during the live-feed, ask questions, ‘like’ the feed and follow other users.
What are the differences between Periscope and Meerkat?
This was an exciting time (this period that was not even three months ago) as it opened up all kinds of new possibilities. By the end of its first month, more than 120,000 people had signed up for it, and brands began using it immediately it for various events, demonstrations and product launches.
However, it didn’t take long at all before Twitter realised it could offer an alternative service, one that could potentially kill off Meerkat.
Originally, Meerkat required users to sign up using their Twitter accounts so that it could tap into the Twitter social graph, but shut Meerkat out after it acquired its own similar live-streaming app, Periscope.
Purchased for $100m in the same month Meerkat launched, Periscope quickly became the native Twitter app of choice for users wishing to use live social video streaming.
Periscope also has a few benefits over its rival:
- Replays: unlike Meerkat where the stream disappears into the ether and isn’t stored anywhere, users of Periscope have 24 hours after the event to access the stream and rewatch.
- Data: after you’ve finished filming a Periscope, you can see lots of information about how well it did in the form of viewers, time watched, duration and retention.
- Instant streaming: Meerkat has a 30 second delay, Periscope has no delay, therefore a user has more chance of an instant reply if making a comment on Periscope.
- The look: Periscope has a much cleaner layout than Meerkat, with far less clutter. It certainly looks the more professional app.
Who is using them?
There are a few conflicting reports ranging from the remarkably optimistic to the woefully pessimistic. Let’s take a look in chronological order.
According to the Daily Dot on 30 March:
On the day of Periscope’s launch, both apps had a nearly identical number of broadcasters going live, both hovering near 20,000. That’s great and also next to no one at all.
According to App Annie in March, Meerkat wasn’t in the top 200 apps in the iTunes App Store and Periscope sat just inside the top 100 overall apps.
Again to quote The Daily Dot:
There are games you’ve never heard of, services you’ve never used, and apps dedicated to nothing but producing fart noises that have more downloads and users than Meerkat and Periscope do.
At the beginning of May, The Next Web proclaimed that people don’t really care about Periscope or Meerkat either. (If you’re a Mean Girls fan, do check out the URL of that link).
Periscope was at number 162 of the App Store chart by 11 May, Meerkat had dropped even further outside of the top 500.
You can also see the level of interest dropping in terms of Tweet mentions per day in this chart by Topsy.
Although the above could be argued as a natural level of interest dropping off after the initial burst of popularity, the drop in popularity on the app store is slightly more worrying.
As The Next Web states: “they’re a niche prospect right now – neither a source of compelling viewing, nor a place where broadcasters can easily build up truly significant audiences.”
However there has been happier news delivered by Nuvi at the beginning of this month. Periscope users shared their live-streams on Twitter 1.5m times in between its March launch and May.
So perhaps the dominance of one platform over the other is far too early to call.
Should marketers bother?
If you’re not too worried about the quality of your live-stream then it’s certainly worth trying. As it’s being filmed on a mobile phone, it will be prone to shakes and glitches, especially depending on the strength of your WiFi/4G connection, so quality control can be an issue.
Also you can’t film in landscape, so everything you film has an unnatural amount of height above it.
If you also don’t care about retaining the footage for future marketing purposes, then by all means give it a go. Think of it like Snapchat. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for a limited amount of people, and that exclusivity can certainly be used as an advantage.
As Periscope is entirely integrated with you Twitter account, you don’t have to build an entirely brand new community. You can promote your live-feeds directly to your existing followers. All those incumbent users is a tempting draw.
Much like I’ve stated before in regards to Vine and Instagram video, both Meerkat and Periscope are cheap and easy tools to use, with little risk and resources needed to give them a go.
It’s certainly worth experimenting with either just to see if you have an audience ready to view your content as an event, rather than on-demand.