Yes, I’ve Heard of Meerkat and Periscope, but What Can Brands Do with Them?

Surf technology and social media blogs and news outlets these days, or log onto the top social channels, and you’ll see the words “periscope” and “meerkat” thrown around a lot. Unlike their real life counterparts (a viewing tool on a submarine and a cute desert creature of the mongoose family), these two recently released technology applications are incredibly similar.

They offer the latest video technology for users by providing instant livestreaming from their smart phones. Is your spouse running late to your son’s soccer game? No worries, just push a button and livestream it. See a band playing at a dive bar that you just know your best friend three states away would love? “Meerkat” or “Periscope” it so they can experience it with you in real time.

Meerkat launched at this year’s SXSW interactive conference in Austin, Texas in February and Periscope followed at the end of March. Since that time, while individual users have been livestreaming their drives around town, social media managers and brand marketing teams have been keeping an eye on them thinking “what does this mean for me and my work?” In fact, HubSpot just came out with their guide for marketers.

Of course, here at MRI, we’ve been throwing around ideas in the office for how we can use these emerging tools to deliver memorable and innovative promotions campaigns to our customers.

Many people and companies have entered into the Meerkat vs. Periscope debate from the standpoint of which platform offers more value. We’ll leave that debate alone. For now, we are interested in predicting how these platforms could be used as a customer engagement channel.

Here are a few of our collective thoughts about how brands can integrate them into online promotions:

  • Event-based promotions. The “in the now” nature of these online streaming applications lend themselves perfectly to be used at corporate-sponsored or brand events. By encouraging users to livestream your event, you increase your audience exponentially. Find a way to incentivize that livestreaming, and you further encourage users to be your partner in telling your event’s story.
  • Kickoff to a promotion. Remember the days of asking people to tune in for a code word to enter a sweepstakes? Why not announce that keyword or hashtag during a spontaneous livestream? Not only would it encourage people to tune into the livestream, but they would also need to follow your social media channels closely so as not to miss the livestream itself.
  • Geo-location capabilities. The popularity of social media scavenger hunts is well known. Imagine if other users could tune in and join participants in real time? Utilizing the geo-location capability of these platforms (namely Meerkat at this point) would allow organizers to track users’ livestreams and their location.

The bottom line–this technology is exciting. It’s not entirely new, but many factors converged to make this the moment that instant live streaming applications take center stage. Those factors include a critical mass of users now owning smart phones and a comfort level—aided by preceding technologies like Snapchat and Apple’s FaceTime feature—with using them for instant video.

To be sure, there are still tweaks that need to be made for Meerkat and Periscope to provide true value to brands. For instance, the integration of better tracking capabilities will help them gain traction among marketers. However, the collective excitement shows that something is different about these two applications. They’ve hit a sweet spot for users–understanding that sweet spot is the next step for marketers.

In any customer engagement strategy, knowing your customers and why they use certain platforms is powerful insight— insight that can then be used to interact with them in meaningful ways around your brand. At MRI, we are in the business of knowing your customers, which social media platforms they use and, most importantly, how and why they use them. Because people are excited about these new applications, so are we.

Greg Macek, VP of Digital Strategy at MRI, perhaps said it best. “In some ways, these applications are bringing us back to the days of live TV, before online streaming and DVR. The concept is about the now. It’s about experiencing something together in real time.”