Meerkat, Periscope and Snapchat: Shrinking the World One App At a Time

As if the world couldn’t get any smaller, with the help of apps like Meerkat, Periscope, Snapchat and other related “teleporting” apps, seeing places like Canada or even Saudia Arabia is just a press or click away.

Getting a glimpse into a stranger’s world with apps isn’t anything new. Browse Product Hunt on any given day and you’ll probably find a new social app connecting strangers with one another through some sort of niche capacity (my personal favorite is Be My Eyes, an app that lets you “lend” your eyes to the blind).

Since getting downloads, not to mention engagement, on apps is difficult enough, what about Meerkat and Periscope made people so excited? Just like the concept of connecting strangers from all over the world, live-streaming is an even older concept. With platforms like Twitch, YouTube, Ustream and others like them (the Subservient Chicken sort of counts too), we’ve always been fascinated with being able to interact and be part of someone’s world, even for a little bit.

Remember this darling of the Internet back in 2001?
Remember this darling of the Internet back in 2001?

But mobile has changed all of this. It’s one thing to sit at your desk, maybe turn on some music, and chat with viewers about what’s on your mind, but it’s another thing when you can show people from all over the world your home, your school or your community. With Meerkat and Periscope, you have the ability to see Paris, San Francisco and Los Angeles or be part of a Q&A with the likes of Jimmy Fallon and Ellen DeGeneres all within a matter of minutes.

From what I’ve seen so far, both the Periscope and Meerkat communities are very friendly – comments like “Hi from Portugal!” or “This is great!” showing up on your screen makes the whole experience really fun and tight-knit.

Recently, Snapchat has also joined in on the fun by spotlighting different countries through curated stories.

2015-04-15 09.15.112015-04-16 14.43.292015-04-18 00.24.37

Even though Snapchat isn’t real-time, the curators behind these stories have done a great job so far of creating a sense of oneness among viewers around the world – from teens in Dubai playing 2 Chainz in the car to Norwegian students taking selfies.

Sometimes it’s a little silly, but it’s also really fun to see that we’re a lot less different from each other than we think.

The other night, as I was walking out of a movie premiere in Hollywood, it dawned on me  – how cool is it that I’m in Hollywood right now? I wanted to share this epiphany with someone… so I pulled out my phone and started a Periscope stream.

I was able to get about 120 viewers and maintained good retention when I focused in on a man dressed like Jesus jamming on his drum kit. A viewer commented, “This made my night!”

I walked around Hollywood for a little longer, showing viewers Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Roosevelt Hotel and the Hollywood Wax Museum. I was by myself while I was doing all of this, but even when the viewership dwindled to just four people, I didn’t feel alone at all. There was a subtle yet sheepish grin on my face as I took my time walking around, stopping to watch street performers, waving back at strangers who, seeing that I was recording a video, waved at me.

After all of the times I’ve been to Hollywood, there was something magical about this visit. With Periscope, I was showing people Hollywood through my perspective but, at the same time, I was inadvertently seeing Hollywood through what I imagined to be their eyes – trying to capture the lights, the people and anything I came across as exciting during my 10-minute stream.

When I first heard about Meerkat and then Periscope, I was skeptical. I figured the buzz surrounding these apps would be only temporary and so I ignored what I heard… until curiosity got the best of me. My first attempt at livestreaming a keynote of Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezburger, Inc., was a bit of a flop, but the more I tuned into different streams, the more I understood what interested people.

Like so many products, the amount of viewers you’re going to get depends on how you market your stream. In the case of Meerkat and Periscope, it depends on: 1) Your copy (for the title), 2) the person initiating the stream, 3) your content, 4) your location. If you’re a big brand or a celebrity, chances are that your location or copy won’t matter as much, but in order to retain viewers, you still need good content. If you’re not a celebrity but you’re doing some sightseeing in Florence or live by the Golden Gate Bridge, if you can slap an alluring title onto your stream, chances are that you’ll also get some good viewership.

Not to mention, Meerkat and Periscope offer huge opportunities for brand-user engagement. If you’re in charge of social media for a company, you’re probably already overwhelmed by the InstaPinSnapBook behemoth that you have to tame on a daily basis. But think about it – a fireside Meerkat chat with the CEO? A Periscope tour of HQ? It’s more personal and it brings to life the Instagram photos you would normally post or the #AskOurCEO hashtags you would use.

The Periscope team setting the trend with their own HQ tour.
The Periscope team setting the trend with their own HQ tour.

As much as I love mobile apps, admittedly, I’m also very skeptical about them. Whenever I read something along the lines of “X social app is like Snapchat for Pugs” on TechCrunch, I’ll skim the article, download the app if I’m interested enough… but 99% of the time I end up deleting the app in a couple of days.

I’m very optimstic about Meerkat and Periscope (the argument between the two is another blog post, but I am partial to Periscope at the moment) and I really like where Snapchat is headed (except for their original series Literally Can’t Even).

It’s not too difficult to imagine the advanced versions of what these apps are trying to accomplish. As you probably have already guessed, Facebook is planning to do the same but with a more immersive slant as soon as consumer-friendly versions of Oculus come out. Magic Leap already has its own plans for hyper-immersion and interactivity as well. Will we be seeing social sharing via drones five to ten years from now?

I’m not entirely sure.

But whether or not I can handle the degree of immersiveness that’s about to hit us in the near future is something I’m both excited but also *slightly* dreading to find out.


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