Meerkat: And We’re Live!

psegura    July 16, 2015

Meerkat App logo

Organisation Name:               Meerkat


Industry:                                      Entertainment


Name of Contacts:                    Ben Rubin C.E.O.


Web References:                       MeerkatTwitter, Wikipedia, Facebook


Description of how social media is used for business performance

 Click. Wearing a blue athletic jacket and black bowler hat, twelve-year-old DJ eFresh stands at the rear of the room, spinning records on the turntables in front of him, swaying to the music.   In the foreground, his sister 9 year old DJ Precious break dances, her long pig tales swinging as she skips and spins.  Click.   A young artist named Elizabeth draws a detailed pencil sketch of Captain America.  It’s very good.  As she holds it up, she talks about the acceptance she’s found for her work online, stopping occasionally to take bites of her dinner.  Click. Pretty pop singer Carlene Laurel is at a recording session.  Between love songs, she chats with her accompanist and offers viewers advice on life, encouraging strength and confidence.

These are all live video streams on Meerkat, an app that allows users to live stream on their mobile devices, connecting users and viewers from across the globe instantly.  The breakdancing crew showed off their moves from their living room in Chicago.  Elizabeth “katted” from her bedroom in Los Angeles and Carlene’s recording session was held in London, England.

Meerkat, was launched in February of this year making a big splash at SXSW.   A month later, rival app Periscope was released , taking a big bite out of Meerkat when it was purchased by Twitter.  Meerkat allows users to live stream video to followers on Twitter as well as strangers via various websites.  Viewers can interact with users by making comments which appear  in real time.  A user can also reach a new audience when followers “push out” a stream by retweeting about it.  The quality of the audio and video are excellent.

The catch with Meerkat is that the feed is only available to viewers when it’s streaming live.  It can be argued that making the video accessible only when it’s live creates an excitement or buzz around an event that helps to draw viewers who want to participate before it disappears. In a clip from this interview shot at SXSW, company CEO Ben Rubin explains why the decision was made to release the app without recording capabilities:

Millions of Facebook and Instagram selfies later, some are asking — is live streaming video the future of social media?  After watching several streams, it’s undeniable that there’s something compelling here.   Forbes contributor Kavi Guppta writes that live streaming on social media is “inevitable” .

In the SXSW interview, Ben Rubin also talked about live streaming as a democratizing force, adding that some of the Ferguson riots were live streamed on Meerkat.   But will the public or authorities “behave” when their actions are being streamed live on line?   Unlike police body cameras , now being introduced in Toronto and in use in the U.K. and some American cities, authorities can’t turn Meerkat streams off when things heat up.  Also, people in volatile situations will not be able to contradict bad behavior or illegal actions seen live on line.

Along with the conversation about democracy and feeds of cute kids dancing, there has also been talk about real time video being a useful tool for business.  Press conferences can be held instantly and in controlled conditions with live streaming — no need to wait for the TV cameras to arrive or work on a broadcaster’s news schedule.  Product rollouts, important announcements, even a Q & A with the boss can happen with the push of two buttons – one to start the feed, and one to tweet about it to its intended audience.

Meerkat may also  be a boon for entrepreneurs.  In this interview, Meerkat Community Manager Ryan Cooley talks about a user who calls himself “Digital Jeff”.  Jeff live streams scheduled Photoshop tutorials on Meerkat.  Cooley points out that because viewers can ask questions while the tutorial is going on, they participate in shaping the content as well as receive a tutorial that is specifically tailored to their needs. In this clip, Cooley talks about users and their viewers creating content together and why this is the future of social media:

But there are concerns that come with live streaming as well.  The most immediate is worry about invasion of privacy.  People rarely ask friends and family for permission to post photographs on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram.  This becomes impossible when live streaming at events where large crowds are present.  Copyright infringement is also a problem.  Many Meerkat streams include music that has not been cleared for use.  Organizations such as the NBA and NFL forbid streaming of games even though it hasn’t stopped fans.

Also, sites like meerkatstreams created by third party developers, have already changed the game by offering recorders to those who sign up.

When Meerkat first launched, the app had a reported 2 million users.  Today, the number of followers is down to 455k on Twitter.  There have been rumours that the app is being considered for purchase by Facebook.  Will this be the partnership that keeps Meerkat alive?  Better shine up the tap shoes or start getting your cat camera ready just in case.


Lessons for Others

 Live streaming is probably the future of social media, but it has to be used responsibly if individual rights and copyright are to be respected.  Businesses are rarely early adopters of technology, but applications like Meerkat which are free and simple to use are always worth trying.  Use is only limited by the needs and imagination of the user.  Meerkat may be especially useful for businesses of all sizes to reach employees, the public or stakeholders directly.


Submitted By:  Pilar Segura

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