Live-streaming video is attracting some serious attention—a trend recently bolstered by the one-two punch of a pair of new mobile apps to hit the market.
Meerkat and Periscope both allow people to broadcast a live stream of the world around them. They’re also both tied to Twitter, one of the top social networks for real-time engagement. But what else do Meerkat and Periscope have in common? What makes each of them unique? And are they tools businesses should be using?
Whether you’re looking to live stream lectures, conferences, panel discussions, press conferences or other big brand events, here’s everything you need to know about the latest in mobile broadcasting technology for business.
Live-Streaming Apps: A Rivalry Begins
Meerkat, the creation of startup Life On Air, got the initial buzz for live video streams. It was one of the tech darlings at this year’s South by Southwest festival and quickly started gaining popularity.
Shortly after the Meerkat launch in Austin, Twitter announced that it had acquired a different live-streaming app. Periscope’s founders created their app because they wanted “to build the closest thing to teleportation,” bringing people from different places into the same world.
Meerkat maintains an edge for being the first mover in the market. But Periscope now has the full backing of Twitter. Because of that, some thought leaders have already deemed Periscope the winner, but the showdown is far from over. Periscope’s big Twitter-supported debut may have given it a momentary spike in Tweets, but according to data from Topsy, after the initial buzz cooled off, the two services have drawn close to even in the number of Twitter updates.
Meerkat & Periscope: The Similarities
It’s easy to see why these two platforms are reaching a bit of a bottleneck in the market. In terms of core technical capabilities, they are basically identical. Below are a few of their major similarities.
Both Meerkat and Periscope display a feed of live broadcasts (Meerkat shows the people you are following on its home screen; Periscope displays a list of broadcasts from all users).
When you’re watching a broadcast on either service, there’s a feed of comments where people can chime in, ask questions and engage with the presenter.
If you’re following somebody on Twitter, you’ll see the link to their Meerkat or Periscope broadcast. Broadcasters also can announce when they go live in a Tweet through the video app, and viewers can share what they’re watching with their followers on Twitter to provide a bit of a signal boost.
Meerkat and Periscope are currently available only on the App Store, with plans for Android forthcoming.
Meerkat & Periscope: The Differences
In terms of interface, features and some core functionality, Meerkat and Periscope have a few distinguishing differences.
Meerkat offers a useful scheduling feature that lets its members set the time for their broadcasts. Scheduled streams also appear at the bottom of the feed, helping brands attract new viewers. Existing followers will get a notification when broadcasters put something on the calendar.
Periscope does not offer a scheduling feature.
On Air Notice
The feed of currently airing broadcast on the home screen looks a little different on the two apps, with Meerkat showing a still image from the broadcast and Periscope listing only the title and description as text.
Both apps offer an aspect of gamification but in different ways. Spending time on Meerkat and attracting viewers contributes to a score for your profile. This keeps people interested and builds a community angle into the tool.
Periscope tracks how many hearts you get and has a leaderboard, but the scores are not as visibly integrated into a person’s live broadcast as are Meerkat’s.
Meerkat’s comments remain on the screen and can be scrolled through during a live broadcast. The heart button to show you like something is static as well. The interface most closely resembles Tumblr in appearance and available actions.
Periscope’s comments fade out after a few seconds, and tapping anywhere on the screen will display animated hearts in the bottom corner of the app.
Periscope’s members can enable GPS to launch a broadcast from a precise location. Meerkat does not offer a GPS feature.
Periscope lets viewers replay broadcasts with a 24-hour window. This is especially useful if your followers can’t tune in to an event at a certain time but might still find the content valuable. Broadcasters are still able to delete the video within that timeframe if needed. Also, while followers can’t browse through all of a broadcaster’s past shows infinitely, the bottom of the main feed does have a section that shows recently ended broadcasts from followed accounts.
Meerkat does not provide an option for followers to watch videos later, but broadcasters are able to save the show to their phone’s photo stream.
Why Live Streaming Matters to Business
From the popularity of YouTube to the creativity of Vine, video adds dimension and personality to brands of all shapes and sizes. Here are a few reasons why live-streaming apps such as Meerkat and Periscope deserve a closer look.
Video chats make it possible for people to have real-time business conversations without being in the same room. People from different departments—sales, advertising, marketing, HR, customer support—know that a face-to-face conversations can make a big difference.
Video is a major draw for marketers, but preparing a clip for your brand’s YouTube channel can take days, if not weeks, to edit and package. Consider this the other side of the real-time coin, leveraging video for content that lets your brand immediately weigh in on timely topics that, up until recently, were relegated mostly to text. With the whole “a picture is worth a thousand words” adage in play, video can make your brand’s voice that much more impactful in social conversations.
Live-streaming apps enable your brand to be several places at once. Previously, you had to be more cognizant about not alienating certain markets with in-person meet-ups. With Meerkat and Periscope, people all around the globe can have a shared experience that leaves a lasting impression.
Businesses might see Meerkat and Periscope as the next step from Google Hangouts. But Hangouts are very much tied to laptops and PCs. Meerkat and Periscope offer more portability to the broadcaster, and they reach audiences on a more ubiquitous medium.
3 Tips for Businesses Using Meerkat or Periscope
Success with Periscope and Meerkat means following the same guidelines you would for any other streaming project. Regardless of which app you choose, bring all of your company’s usual video resources into play when planning your broadcast. Here are some important tips to keep in mind during your preparation:
- Rehearse. When planning a professional broadcast for your brand, test all of your equipment beforehand, including the lighting and audio. If you’ll be broadcasting for a long time, make sure you have a rig set up so that you don’t have to hold the phone for the entire show. Also, make sure speakers run through any scripts to ensure a smooth delivery.
- Be alert to other licensed media. Having copyrighted music or video in the background of your stream could pose a legal issue for your brand down the line. We’ve seen copyright concerns cause content to be muted or completely removed on both YouTube and Twitch.
- Get releases from participants. At times, your broadcasts may include just your own team, but if you want to feature other people in a show, cover your legal bases. Have those participants sign a release form acknowledging that they are appearing in a clip for commercial purposes. A general release works for most cases, but professional actors or models might need more extensive paperwork. If you’re unsure about the rights to any element of your broadcast, check in with your legal team.
Want more tips for integrating video into your social strategy—from writing a script to measuring your success? Watch this recorded webinar from Wistia and Sprout.
The growing popularity of live streaming video is a momentous milestone in the evolution of the Web, but the organizational effort remains scattered and immature. A research project at MIT's Center for Civic Media at the Media Lab, however, strives to enrich the medium by providing a vehicle for contextual information. Called Deepstream, the project also serves as a central platform that makes it easier to find live streams around particular events and topics.