Livestreaming – all you need to know!

Posted on 28 Jun 2016
Reader Question:

Oh no Doctor Digital, another social media channel I have to understand –what is this Periscope and Meerkat all about and what is it going to do for me and my business?

Doctor Digital Says:

You might have heard about live streaming video and its new must have apps. Live streaming isn’t new, however, and has been around and known as webcasting for years. The innovation with live video streaming in 2016 is that it is now accessed through apps that allow it to integrate with social media channels in real time, creating an interactive live video portal. The other major difference is the mobility of the service on a handset or tablet, allowing the broadcaster (that’s you) to take the audience right into the heart of the action with little more than their phone or tablet and maybe a set of headphones. Add in a hashtag to identify niche interest groups and hey presto, you have a world of citizen broadcasters and a brand new way to connect with your people. 

Currently the two main players in this space are Meerkat and Periscope. Meerkat was launched first, and was the dominant app for a while, with everyone assuming it would be bought by Twitter as it was designed with strong integration for that platform. Twitter shut down their startup dreams by quietly acquiring Periscope in 2015 and removing Meerkat’s access to their social graph. The muscle of Twitter as the parent company, its integration with Twitter’s social media platform along with a massive boost in publicity/notoriety after a punter broadcasted the Mayweather pay-per-view fight for free has seen Periscope leap ahead in users and uptake. They are the main contender right now, although a few smaller fish are beginning to feed around the livestreaming whale shark.

But what are their individual benefits? Well I’m glad you asked. Periscope lets you broadcast live video to the world. It's designed to remove as many barriers between the user and broadcasting live video as possible, and users can view videos and follow popular broadcasters like they were using Twitter. It relies on Twitter as a social anchor for letting people know when a stream is live and uses hashtags for increased visibility. After a broadcast has finished, replays can be watched or reviewed through the app for 24 hours. Periscope is fast, simple, free, and currently runs on most mobile devices. 

Meerkat is similar to Periscope in functionality. Unfortunately, being removed from Twitter’s social graph in favour of their own service has created a barrier for the company and in the battle of the live streaming gorillas Meerkat vs Periscope, there may have to be only one winner. Meerkat has a chat functionality that’s useful for sharing links and comments with your followers and anything posted during a live stream will be automatically posted to your Twitter profile. Meerkat shows the avatars of people who are watching your video at the top of the video screen. This makes it easy to find and connect with relevant viewers, however Meerkat videos are gone as soon as the live stream ends -  so videos can’t be saved or re-purposed for those that missed out in real time.

Google Hangouts didn't start out as a live streaming video service, but it didn't take them long to figure out live streaming was a good idea. Youtube and Google+ are both linked up with Hangouts since they're all a part of the Google suite. Using Hangouts on Air, is done through Google+ and creates an event page. This service definitely doesn't work quite the same as Periscope or Meerkat, primarily because it can only be launched from a computer. This definitely limits what a user can see, and lends itself more towards being a broadcast platform that happens to have live video rather than a service that focuses on live video.

The best way to really get a handle on how Periscope or any other live streaming app can be powerful for your business is to watch some broadcasts and see when the light comes on in your mind as to what the possibilities are for your brand.  Audiences and customers now expect to get responses to their tweets and fan page messages as soon as possible. So as an arm of customer service, the real-time engagement provided by these live streaming apps can be very useful for your business.  As it is a broadcast medium, the rule of thumb is to think like a fan rather than as if you were making comment on static social media. Similar to all forms of digital marketing, the best way to use live video streaming is as part of your brand’s suite of story telling.

If you merge together the two adages that video is sticky and a picture tells a thousand words, you can begin to see the power of being able to broadcast in real time all those moment-to-moment joys of your business. In terms of being able to interact with your customers and clients, it is another way of doing a much more agile and visual webinar, as you pick up the interactivity on the comments, and have the action, excitement, ‘right now’ and visuals of live video.

Want to know more? Then check out the Digital Ready livestreaming factsheet here.