The shiny new thing in social media, and brands are already thinking about how to get onboard. Here’s a quick review of the main players, as well as a cautionary note that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Meerkat vs. Periscope

Social livestreaming apps Meerkat & Periscope are the latest thing in “lifecasting”. The apps basically allow users to tweet a link to a live-streaming video straight from a mobile device (iOS / Android).

Like any good free market competition, the apps have been hard at work trying to one-up the other since their initial launch this spring following SXSW. Differences between the two apps are nuanced.

So which is better?

Mostly it’s a matter of personal taste, but a lot of people seem to enjoy the way Periscope directly syncs with your existing Twitter contacts. In addition, Periscope also enjoys the promotional backing it has received via parent company, Twitter. In fact, Meerkat’s overall app usage doesn’t even come close to touching the volume of tweeted video content seen through Periscope.

So why do we need this again?

People are already inundated with content and media channels, and this is increasing as mobile devices keep us connected all the time. According to Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet Trends Report, the average mobile consumer checks their device 150X a day. Not surprising if you consider the socially driven “selfie” culture we live in. The irony is, the effort put into capturing a moment on social media sometimes gets in the way of being in the moment. It’s easy to see how livestreaming apps could only further detract from our ability to be fully present.

When the agony of missing the shot trumps the joy of the experience worth shooting, the adventure athlete (climber, surfer, extreme skier) reveals himself to be something else: a filmmaker, a brand, a vessel for the creation of content. — Nick Paumgarten on “Go-Pro culture”

On the other hand, if you’re the one that can’t actually be there in the moment, social livestreaming also has the potential to enable great, serendipitous shared moments that go way beyond a static image. Would you rather just see a photo of Arcade Fire or actually watch and listen to a live performance from your mobile phone?

Brands Beware Of Bandwagoning

Much as we might like to think people care about what we have to say, there’s danger in the highly interruptive nature of social livestreaming apps.

Mobile phones create the phenomenon Time Inc. refers to as “found time.” Basically, with the internet at our fingertips, time spent waiting in line or walking from point A to point B, becomes new, found time to do other things we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do without the aid of smartphones (check mail, weather forecast, watch video, etc.). In a culture of busy, this found time is precious, and interruptions are unwelcome.

So what’s a brand to do?

For brands this means tighter quality controls are needed for content to avoid becoming part of the clutter and to prevent social burnout where people mute notifications entirely. This is especially true of interruptive social platforms like Meerkat/Periscope.

Ideally, brands are only using livestreaming apps to invite people to VIP or behind the scenes experiences for fans. Livestreamed content should feel exclusive, like a “first look”.

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