Thursday, April 16th, 2015 | 13 min read
Most social media apps are about sharing the “best-of” slices of life––the photo that captures your most flattering angle; the 20th shot where the sunset finally came out right; the video clip where you didn’t say that stupid thing. They help you feel more connected to your favorite celebrities and brands by offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse, but we all know (at least on some level) that this is still a highly idealized version of reality.
Social livestreaming apps, on the other hand, remove all the filters; there’s no opportunity to edit bloopers or smooth out blemishes. The content is real, live, raw, messy, and highly personal. This is a huge part of their appeal, and it has a lot to do with why both Meerkat and Periscope – the two livestreaming apps currently duking it out to be the world’s favorite – have become so popular so quickly.
Meerkat co-founders Ben Rubin and Itai Danino said it best in an essay penned for Medium:
“Live video over social graphs generates new emotions and feelings that are different from those on existing social networks. Feelings like drama, anticipation, uncertainty, unpredictability, presence and empowerment to change are new.”
Introducing heightened levels of anticipation, unpredictability, and presence into social media is what makes social livestreaming apps so compelling. This also makes them intimidating, especially for companies, but the opportunity that these apps give brands to connect with consumers in a meaningful, personal way far outweighs the risks.
We’ve gotten a lot of questions about social livestreaming apps recently: What’s the difference between Meerkat and Periscope, and which one should we be on? Is this just a fad, or is livestreaming here to stay?
Here are our answers!
In many ways the two apps are very similar, but their differences, however subtle, are important for brands to understand as they decide which to adopt as their main livestreaming app.
One of the features that makes Periscope more appealing to brands is the ability to save and play back video for a full 24 hours after the initial broadcast. Meanwhile, Meerkat videos can only be watched at the moment they’re recorded, meaning that content has a lot less time to gain traction. Contently points out that Periscope’s playback feature is crucial; it makes Periscope a “designated content hub” where users can discover new content, whereas Meerkat is purely a livestreaming app.
However, this shortcoming is countered by Meerkat’s scheduling feature, which allows users to schedule a broadcast for a specific time that same day and then promote it with their audience pre-livestream. This means that brands have more opportunity to ensure that as big an audience as possible watches their broadcast. Periscope does not yet have a scheduling feature, but if it did, this, combined with 24-hour playback, would give the app a significant advantage over Meerkat.
Another difference between the two apps is the quality of the user experience; overall, Periscope feels sleeker, cleaner, and more intuitive. There are fewer elements on the screen during a broadcast, which makes it easier to focus on the content and how people engage through liking and commenting.
Periscope also has an endearing feature that makes engaging with livestreams fun for users: each time a viewer taps the screen during a broadcast, a pastel-colored heart appears in the lower right-hand corner and floats to the top of the screen. Viewers can give out as many hearts as they want during a broadcast, and the flurries of hearts, alongside viewer comments, are recorded and included in the 24-hour playback.
In addition to adding an element of fun and interactivity for viewers, these hearts help broadcasters understand, in real time, which parts of their content are most compelling for the audience. Conversely, in Meerkat, viewers can only give out one like per broadcast (which they do by tapping on a heart at the bottom of the screen that then disappears).
Screenshots of Meerkat and Periscope livestreams
At the start of SXSW 2015, Twitter announced that it would cut Meerkat off from its social graph. People (rightfully) speculated that this move was made in preparation for launching Periscope, which the social network giant had recently acquired.
Without social graph access, Meerkat users cannot automatically find and follow the accounts they already follow on Twitter. Instead, they have to manually enter the Twitter handle of the account they want to follow in Meerkat’s search tool.
This lack of integration makes content discovery on Meerkat a little tedious, and it means that Meerkat users have to build their audience from scratch. Meanwhile, in Periscope, users can easily follow the brands and personalities they already connected with on Twitter by browsing the “Following on Twitter” section.
But Meerkat isn’t completely cut off from Twitter: broadcasters can still automatically push notifications to Twitter when they schedule a livestream and again when it begins, which can help them regain some of the previously built-in Twitter audience they might have missed out on. Viewers can also automatically retweet a Meerkat broadcast they’re watching by tapping the retweet icon at the bottom of the screen.
If your brand decides to have a presence on one or both of the major livestreaming apps, its goal should be to get as many users viewing and engaging with its broadcasts as possible. Here’s how this works in each app.
One way to drive viewership is through the tweets automatically sent out via your account to promote your livestream. These tweets are tagged with “#meerkat” or “#Periscope,” so anyone searching for Meerkat or Periscope-related content on Twitter can easily discover the tweets that link to your broadcast. Be sure to craft compelling headlines for your livestreams to incite more users to click on the link.
Securing a spot on the Meerkat Leaderboard is a great way to draw attention to your content and build an audience. We doubt people will scroll past the first 25 spots, so you better hustle to get to the top! Meerkat users are rewarded with points that add up to an overall score, which determines their place on the Leaderboard.
At the time of writing, Madonna was at the top of the Leaderboard, with a score of 511,682. Media site Mashable and actress Nora Segura were also within the top three. This is a positive shift away from the homogeneity of the Leaderboard when the app first launched; since early adopters were primarily SXSW Interactive-goers, the Leaderboard read like an all-male list of who’s who in tech, and people wondered if the app would be able to gain popularity outside the tech set. The fact that the leaderboard is now dominated by musicians, media sites, actors, and entertainers means that the app is on its way toward mainstream adoption.
We can’t find information on exactly how Meerkat calculates a user’s score, but we assume that it’s based on some combination of overall audience size per broadcast, audience engagement, followers, and how often a user broadcasts.
Periscope’s answer to Meerkat’s Leaderboard is its “Most Loved” section, which lists the users that received the most total hearts during all their broadcasts. However, users will only see this by scrolling past the list of Periscope users they already follow on Twitter, so it’s not as prominent a feature as Meerkat’s Leaderboard.
Periscope’s newest version of the app includes a “Global” section, which displays the most recent, live broadcasts from around the world. It is unclear whether the popularity of a broadcast influences its position in the “Global” section, but it would make sense if it did. This is similar to the “Live” section on Meerkat’s homepage, which displays a selection of “Community Picks” livestreams voted on by a select group of users.
At Sprinklr we believe that livestreaming apps like Meerkat and Periscope will be a big part of the future of social media (in other words, they are not a fad), and we encourage brands to incorporate livestreaming into their social strategy. If your brand has the bandwidth, take a cue from Mashable and publish on both Meerkat and Periscope, at least until a clear winner emerges, in terms of either driving results for your brand or app longevity and staying power.
As of late March, Meerkat had over 300,000 users, and on March 15th it stated that it was growing 30% daily. But, as Topsy’s chart reveals, within 24 hours of launching on March 26th, Periscope matched Meerkat’s popularity on Twitter.
Image via Contently
TechCrunch recently reported that, according to App Annie, Periscope ranks number 165 among all iOS apps in the U.S. and number 22 among social apps, while Meerkat ranks number 120 among social apps and last held spot 1,142 in the overall chart for iOS apps.
Additionally, Periscope’s video playback feature means that your brand’s content has more opportunity to be watched and shared, and it makes the app more amenable to content discovery. And while it might seem a little unfair, Periscope’s full support from Twitter will likely give the app the upper hand as it tries to one-up its main competition with new features.
Keep in mind that neither app offers an API at this time, so brands will have to manage their content directly on a mobile device (rather than through a social media marketing tool). But if the apps continue to gain momentum, opportunities for brands to manage their livestream content, interact with audiences, and analyze the performance of their campaigns through third-party social media marketing tools will most likely surface.
The rise of social livestreaming apps into mainstream adoption represents an exciting opportunity for brands to create social content that is more relatable and human. Brands that jump on the livestreaming bandwagon early are poised to carve out a strong presence in these channels and help set the tone for the newest form of social marketing.
Periscope and Meerkat will likely continue to roll out new features as they try to one up each other. Going forward, we expect to see more advanced content recommendation algorithms, more sophisticated content targeting capabilities, new ways of discovering content most relevant to each user, and, eventually, ads.
In the meantime, the two apps have already begun to fight dirty, with reports of both Periscope and Meerkat attempting to coerce celebrities into abandoning their rival. The rise of livestreaming content superstars, like the ones spawned by YouTube and Instagram, could also influence which app holds more appeal for brands down the road.
What about you: Does your brand have plans to incorporate livestreaming into its social strategy? If so, which app will you start with?
About the Author: This post was written by MaryBeth Murrell, Sprinklr Product Evangelist, and Chloe Mason Gray, Sprinklr Blog Content Manager. When MaryBeth’s not getting excited about various technologies that have the power to impact how people live their lives, she can be found enjoying the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Chloe’s writing on marketing, travel, and career development has been published by Mashable, Forbes, KISSmetrics, Entrepreneur, The Daily Muse, the Human Parts Medium collection, and other sites across the web.