Meerkat sent the crowds wild at SXSW this year, and became the talk of the show. Now, Twitter has released their competing entitled Periscope, which has largely the same functionality.
So who will win in the battle of the live-streaming app, and could they become the future of social media?
What do Meerkat and Periscope actually do?
Meerkat is an iPhone app that took off at this year’s SXSW, which consists of users live-streaming video to their Twitter followers. Think video selfies, or video feeds of whatever they’re up to.
Live-streaming video is nothing new, but what Meerkat allows is direct engagement with the broadcaster, as you can tweet to ask questions or comment on the video, which they can then respond to.
Periscope is a very similar concept, but this time around comes from a start-up which Twitter themselves acquired. Periscope allows different levels of engagement, but all in all, is a directly competing app in this space.
What makes Periscope different from Meerkat?
Periscope has been in the work for over a year, and is a hotly anticipated release. Periscope began as a start-up, and was acquired by Twitter for $100 million, and so it’s proof Twitter have faith in video as a social tool.
Meerkat has the benefit that it was released before Periscope; becoming the best place to live-stream on your mobile. That, and the launch into stardom at SXSW meant it became one of the hottest apps and social hubs around.
The differences are that Meerkat was built in under 8 weeks; whereas Periscope seems like a more thoroughly thought out app, with a better design, and more functionality.
Periscope is a lot more polished, and a lot faster to navigate and operate. It also has different engagement levels, including a “heart” for users to give to their favourite streams. This is similar to how likes or favourites work on Facebook and Twitter respectively, but it’s a great way for audiences to cheer on the broadcaster.
Also, Meerkat required users to sign up for the service using their Twitter accounts, which allowed it to tap into the social graph Twitter provides. Yet as Twitter was building a direct competitor, it only made sense for them to block this access. However since this occurred, Meerkat has become more self-dependent, and so is back in the race. Periscope does however, offer a lot more to exist as a separate network; whereas Meerkat means comments and replies are shared upon Twitter, which could be too much for some people.
Periscope’s killer function however, is that it offers replays of live streams. Whilst live streams are good and all, many of these social mobile streams tend to fizzle out faster than more dedicated streams via computers and elsewhere. This means you could often find a relevant Meerkat stream, to find it’s over. Periscope means you won’t miss out on these experiences.
Why could live-streaming be the next big thing in social media?
Twitter has already mastered being the go-to place for trending news and discussions; and utilising these apps would mean a new platform and medium for discussing and engaging with events occurring right now.
Meerkat made live-streaming more accessible to mobile users than ever before.
Snapchat has shown how powerful mobile videos and photos can be for engagement and entertainment. 6 second video platform Vine, also from Twitter, has also been a niche hit with young audiences, showing that video content from mobile devices can be very popular indeed. Even Twitter and Facebook are now enticing more users to watch videos in streams, with autoplay videos and wider use of video in general. YouTube is not the only place to now watch popular video content.
Other platforms have made live-streaming popular and widespread; these include Ustream, which is primarily aimed at selling services to businesses, and Justin.tv, of which the team eventually turned their attention to Twitch, another live-streaming service dedicated to gaming.
What Meerkat and Periscope can do, is provide timely content in a viral manner as it is on the go on everyone’s phone. It makes it highly accessible to consumers everywhere, who can live-stream literally anything they are up to. It’s uncomplicated, with less fuss than setting up a live stream from your PC, and could prove to be both informative and a lot of fun on the side. Perhaps the biggest difference, is that it has the fun factor.
What’s the potential for businesses on Meerkat or Periscope?
Many businesses already make use of Google Hangouts to broadcast live videos, and these can continue in the same way on these platforms. Although mobile may not be as easy for many formats, it could be great at events or when otherwise out of the office.
Brands can live-stream many different things in order to push engagement and brand awareness. Some ideas include:
- Product launches
Imagine launching your product via live video feeds, so that people can watch, engage, and see exactly what your new product is like. Google and Apple are no stranger to streaming their product launches, and doing this on a social channel with captive consumers could be great. It could also be used for users to do product unboxing videos.
Demonstrate how your audience can actually use your products. Perhaps instructional guides, whereby your audience can ask questions or ask for more specific demonstrations.
Perhaps you’re attending a local event that you could broadcast, or you’re hosting a certain event you’d like more people to hear about. At industry conferences or talks you could live-stream what’s going on, and get a loyal community involved in your brand.
- Behind the scenes videos
People may want to see what it’s like to work at your company, or generally get a feel for the more human side of your brand.
Offer your audience exclusive codes or offers through your video, which is great for engagement and encouraging more users to watch your video.
Live question and answers or “ask me anythings” (as made popular by Reddit) could be a great way to get people to engage with your business, and your staff. It could be used as a regular support channel, or a form of entertainment in order for people to ask about your company. Perhaps a scheduled FAQ video stream could be generated.
Perhaps your audience could benefit from tips or guides regarding what you sell. Perhaps they could benefit from general advice that your company has to offer, which could influence to choose your services in the future. All of this could be great for generating more buzz around your brand.
Could Meerkat and Periscope be a temporary fad?
Possibly. But as with anything in social media, some things take off, and some things don’t; often without little explanation or real reasoning as to why.
What you can take away from this hubbub about the two apps, is how important video is becoming as a form of online content, alongside how the internet means people want news and content as it happens.
Becoming a popular app is a very difficult thing; and it is largely based upon chance and whether people jump on board in the early stages. Meerkat certainly looks promising, amassing over 40,000 followers in its first few weeks.
A prime example is Ello; a social network for those sick of Facebook and it’s invasion of our private lives. Touted as the next big thing, it’s faded into obsolescence in a matter of months, possibly even weeks. It’s not written off quite yet, but the hype certainly died down very quickly.
Where can I find the apps?
Currently, the platforms are only available on iPhone. Sorry, Android and Windows Phone users.
For all you iOS users, you can find the apps below.
So, which is best? Meerkat or Periscope?
All in all, it’s a general consensus that Periscope is definitely the better app and service available. But that doesn’t mean it will definitely win the race. And the platform who has the most users, engagement, and daily uses will inevitably be the victor; it’s not about who provides the best app.
Periscope has the advantage that it is owned by Twitter, but if Facebook’s Snapchat competitor Slingshot is anything to go by, this doesn’t count for much, as Slingshot was a failure on every account. However, Slingshot came much, much longer after Snapchat had become an established messaging app; Periscope comes a little over a month after Meerkat took off.
Who will win the live-streaming video app race?
Perhaps the better user interface and options will win this round for Periscope, but it’s difficult to say. Slingshot had a rather nice interface, and was quite pleasant to use. Snapchat on the other hand, had an abhorrent user interface and navigation system when it first launched (and to this day, remains pretty awful), but it is now worth $19 billion. Go figure. Could Meerkat achieve the same?
Meerkat has the advantage that it has already amassed a large following, and users may be loyal and too content to jump ship. There’s always the possibility that Meerkat could rapidly update and improve the app. As Periscope is owned by Twitter, Meerkat could also prove to be more popular as the “underdog” against the big corporation. But Meerkat may have ran before they could walk, and provided a more simplistic platform; whereas Periscope have taken the time to create the best possible experience for users.
The winner could be the app which has the first widespread event or occurrence take place on its platform. If the next viral video, newsworthy event, or once-in-a-lifetime event is captured via one of these apps, and goes viral and widespread on the web, it could become widespread and gain a lot of adoption from users who would otherwise ignore the app.
But at the end of the day, only time will tell which platform takes off. They both achieve the end goal, and there’s no reason why both can’t exist simultaneously. However there’s undoubtedly going to be one winner in the long run, becoming the go-to place for mobile live-streams, and at this stage, it’s far too early to tell. Watch this space.