Meerkat : Quick Thoughts

“Timing is everything” has been common explanation for the frenzy we’re seeing with Meerkat this week…though previous pioneers in streaming video aren’t all that optimistic. I have no clue whether MK will crash and burn like other social app experiments have. But given some snooping on Twitter/reddit for emerging use cases, my own successful MK sessions and a lot of fun watching — I am a bit bullish.

Two things that stand out to me.

1. Ustream vs MK Yes, Ustream and other services had a tough time with mobile adoption due to smartphones and lack of mobile bandwidth. But, the question is why are MK and other players YouNow seeing frequent usage now? You and I had access to a mobile stream for the past 4 years…I even had Ustream ability this past week or past hour…I could’ve downloaded the app, pressed record and tweeted a link. All technically possibly with existing products but not something I remotely even considered doing even as an outgoing digitally native person.

Granted it could all be circumstantial and for a variety of buzz/influencer factors, but I think MK has started to change the context and psychology of which I consider the act of live streaming an event, joke, interview, group or monologue. At least in the very recent days, it’s made it ok/cool/creative to do this whereas previously it was relatively niche or narcissistic to do so. And yet, the technical capability has been there the whole time for anyone with a phone to do it. Analogy? Before foursquare/gowalla- I could’ve easily notified friends of where I was with a text/tweet/email but there wasn’t a social norm around it (I wouldn’t have explicitly thought about it) and with a product/messaging mix it eventually became relatively normal to do so.

Lifecasting in my eyes is a bit like podcasting — it’s a loaded term and to a casual user has a bit of a negative/foreign connotation. I agree that a lot of life is mundane and wouldn’t make for captivating live video. I’d also wager though that if you think back about your week there are probably 2–5 meaningful moments that could’ve been shared with the right frictionless tool and context to do so.

2. Yes, the auto tweet is a bit of grey area growth-engagement hack but almost all operators and VCs condone this in the early days. I think it’s genius, not necessarily for being questionable but for doing two things.
a. MK at a high level allows the app to get broad exposure across hundreds of thousands if not millions of impressions. It not only does this (duh) but it also provides actual value to a follower of an MK user. It’s not a textless tweet exclaiming “I just signed up for XYZ service!” — it provides an app download card as well as a mobile deep link into the app if you have it. It’s essential to get the word out as fast as possible as I’d expect average stream time to be < 3–5mins. b. More importantly, I think leveraging the Twitter graph is a great near-mid term way of creating pleasant experiences as a MK streamer. Because it’s known “in the world” now and it can piggy back off the Twitter graph, it almost guarantees that you’ll have one, two or many watchers of the stream. That’s all you need! This is huge for making the product feel like it works, avoiding embarrassment around getting a big fat goose egg and it puts you in the spotlight. Contrast this to previous spammy social graph hacks where the first time app experience wasn’t enhanced at all or was even potentially degraded.

I hosted an impromptu retail/menswear chat with my friend @lifeofbi tonight and had 20+ people on for the length of the 30min stream with no prep. It was exhilarating and fun, similar in a way I felt with the first odd/interesting/surprising (non-penis) Chatroulette exchanges.

I think as we see creative emerging use cases (celebrity, interviews “Look who I’m with today at lunch”, real time events/scenes, monologues, scenery, vine star-esque live shows) appeal to more “normal” viewers and streamers, the growth tactics of above will fade away. A funny web celebrity narrating a live TV event and a professional athlete using it in the locker room are on the near horizon. Engagement, interaction and notifications will happen within the native app and not necessarily start with your Twitter feed.

That’s all — see you on the Twitters and the next MK stream

@ryandawidjan