Meerkat and Periscope stream into view. Time to add live streaming to the marketing mix?

April 14, 2015
Posted by: Martin Bishop, Vice President, Client Services

And now it’s live streaming’s turn to shine bright in the social media universe. Meerkat, using SXSW as its launch pad, whipped up excitement and investment money for its personal, mobile live streaming app, followed a few days later by Twitter’s Periscope.
Too early to tell which, if either, of these apps will survive and thrive after the explosion of interest dies down. But the time for live streaming may have come; we are living more and more in a mobile-first world where everything and anything is recorded and shared. If technology allows video, then video will be shared too.
What’s the marketing potential of these new apps? The “live” aspect of live streaming is where the appeal lies (and the danger lurks—more on that in a bit). Live means giving up control and editing in favor of real-time action. Brands that put a premium on authenticity, transparency, and dynamism are the ones likely to be most interested and, indeed, the fast out-of-the-gate, early adopters like Red Bull, Starbucks, and Mountain Dew fall into that category.
periscope-logo 2Here are some marketing activities that we think play to the strengths of these live streaming apps:
Competitions: The drama of an unknown outcome—will they, won’t they succeed? Sports, races, record-breaking attempts are activities well-served by live streaming.
Slice-of-life: Office tours, factory visits, what’s going on behind the scenes—these are activities where live streaming can bring a level of transparency and authenticity missing from more polished, edited videos.
Celebrity-anything: Fans’ appetites to follow everything that celebrities are doing seem to know no bounds. If Beyoncé or Taylor Swift is visiting your new store, get the phones rolling.
In-the-know: People love to know what’s happening before anyone else does. Use this to your advantage with product announcements and any kind of newsworthy event.
Perhaps one of the more important benefits of live streaming is the real-time engagement opportunity it creates. As customers watch a live stream, they can ask questions or make comments and brands can respond immediately. And not just respond verbally, but also physically, actually changing the nature of the live stream based on customer input. (For example, someone could ask a question about a new product and the phone camera could zoom in on the feature they want to know more about.)
Now back to the “danger”—what danger exactly? Well the danger is just a mirror of the opportunity. Real-time broadcasting of an event is authentic, raw, and human…but also unpredictable. What takes away the safety net completely is that there’s no way to moderate comments—you can’t protect the brand if, for whatever reason, an individual or a group decides to target you and use your stream to hijack your audience.
For that reason, and despite the interesting ways that live streaming could be used, we can’t recommend these new apps to the vast majority of our clients right now. There’s too much downside. When and if they add moderation, then they will be worth another look. Perhaps, by then, one of these apps will have emerged as the winner.