Meerkat: Live Streaming + Twitter

Will it last and is it right for your business?

Meerkat is hot. No, not the furry little mongoose — the newest live streaming app to hit iOS. But is everything really better in real time?

I won’t repeat the backstory. It’s already been written by The Wall Street Journal. Business Insider covered the “what is it,” and NPR followed the trend with a great Meerkat profile.

So why am I writing this? Because Meerkat means big things for socially conscious businesses.

Think of Meerkat as a Twitter “add-on,” since the app is dependent upon you having a Twitter account. Usually building an app that piggybacks on another is a risk, but choosing Twitter is pretty safe since the social network has increased by 50 million users in the past year.

Choose to stream on Meerkat and you’re live in an instant. A customizable tweet is sent out to your Twitter followers with an auto-generated, embedded link to your stream. It’s all seamless. Each “comment” made during a live stream is broadcast as a tweet — all activity in Meerkat is mirrored on Twitter.

Welcome to The Truman Show

I was grocery shopping when I received a notification: “@GaryVee is live now from New York.” At that point, my Meerkat experience had been limited to the 15 minutes I spent on the app after discovering it via ProductHunt.com (shoutout to @RyanHoover). To be honest, I expected Meerkat to collect dust on my homescreen until I needed to free a few megabytes.

I had my headphones on, so I clicked in. There he was; Gary Vaynerchuck streaming from the back of an Uber doing what he does best: answering questions from social media. I watched, listening to him shoutout the Twitter handles he recognized as they joined the stream. The unadulterated voyeurism was uncomfortable, but I couldn’t stop watching. He directed the Uber driver to the curb in front of his office building, jumped out, did a slow spin to show-off New York City, and then with his usual valediction, the live stream was over.

The Truman Show had just come to life before my eyes and I didn’t know how to feel about it.

Many social media gurus love this app. Take Gary Vaynerchuck (@garyvee); he’s not only using Meerkat to stream while Ubering — he’s been using the app to livestream the making of his YouTube show, The #AskGaryVee Show. Meerkat is providing him the opportunity to show off a “behind the scenes” look… for the cost of an employee holding an iPhone. He’s currently the fifth most watched Meerkat-er.

During my short experience with Meerkat, I’ve watched jam sessions, cooking lessons, Adobe Creative Suite tutorials, previews of GeekHut’s newest properties, AMAs (ask me anything); sunsets from San Francisco and Los Angeles, and sunrises from New York.

If I’m a brand, all I see are dollar signs.

Think about it… social media marketing is all about engagement. That means interacting with commenters, thanking new followers, and being a responsive presence on whatever platforms you use. What better way to engage with your fans than by following up in real time?

Before TechCrunch wrote their headline, “Product Hunters” were wondering if Twitter was kicking themselves for not creating this feature. It seems like the obvious next step for the 140-character platform that’s already known for being the quickest way to engage with followers.

Meerkat for Your Business?

Meerkat has huge potential for content creators! Live streaming is the next generation of YouTube videos. It’s easier, cheaper, and live streams demand attention; they’re fleeting, and they poke the “fear of missing out.”

The immediacy, the casual nature of occurrence — at any moment a streamer can go live — that’s where Meerkat has the potential to be first in a new class.

There’s no denying that the app feels uncomfortably voyeuristic. I’m streaming right now as I’m writing this and catching my own movements out of the corner of my eye is a bit awkward. Yet, isn’t this the direction we’ve been heading for decades? Isn’t this the next step in online communication?

For someone like Gary Vee, this app is a goldmine. Well… it has the potential to be a goldmine. Whether Meerkat will catch on, be trampled by Twitter’s own version, or wither into obscurity isn’t something anyone can know right now.

Ambiguous future aside, there’s always opportunity for early app adopters. Meerkat has a leaderboard featuring the most viewed streamers. Imagine your business at the top of that list.

Though the app is embryonic, the potential benefits are anything but conjecture. How much do you pay for that webinar service? A Meerkat webinar is free, it can be hosted anywhere, and your viewer engagement will be mirrored on Twitter. It’s direct to consumer. It gives you the power to create a live conversation without any expensive technology.

How much did that product preview video cost? Struggling with displaying your brand culture? Looking for an easy way to address questions from Twitter? Meerkat it all!

The early adopters are only scratching the surface of what’s possible with this app, and with the popularity of live streaming sites in mind (Ustream, Twitch), it seems quite possible that Meerkat will be a hit.

I guess only time will tell. My advice (as with all the apps I profile): Give it a try and comment below with your experience!

(UPDATE: Twitter has purchased live streaming app Periscope, which is currently in beta. What this means for Meerkat is still undetermined.)


Originally published at blog.ontraport.com on March 16, 2015.