Saturday 11 April 2015

Periscope and Meerkat lead the way on creating a new kind of shared experience


"What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot-air balloon in Cappadocia? It may sound crazy, but we wanted to build the closest thing to teleportation."

Rather poetically (and much quoted), this is how new live video streaming app provider Periscope describe their service - one of two new high profile launches of live video streaming apps with the other being Meerkat.

This is not a new market, apps such as LiveStream and UStream have been around for a while.  However, with increasing 4G coverage and investment from the likes of Twitter (they recently purchased Periscope for just under $100m 2 weeks after it launched), this sector is hotting up as the next big thing.

Meerkat founder Ben Rubin describes the trend as "spontaneous togetherness” and this to me is the most interesting aspect of it.

In a media world where everything is available at the touch of a button; TV can be paused and rewound; films are available on demand (and sometimes before they're even in the cinema); the “magic” of TV has been lost.  That shared experience we used to have when a new TV show aired is increasingly becoming extinct.  With so much choice, technology and platforms, people are watching it at different times or even not watching it at all.

Indeed, if you’re in the Millennial Generation, there’s a good chance you never even tuned in.  

Something that hasn’t really made the headlines, is that in 2015 there has been a double digit decline in traditional TV viewing for millennials (18-34).  This has been happening since 2012 with a fall of around 4 percent year on year.  However at the end of 2014 this fell an amazing 10.6 percent.  Overall this has translated as almost 20% fewer young adults watching traditional TV than 4 years ago.

Alan Wurtzel, NBCUniversal’s audience research chief is quoted as saying:-

“The change in behavior is stunning. The use of streaming and smartphones just year-on-year is double-digit increases […] I’ve never seen that kind of change in behavior.”

This doesn’t mean of course that they’re not watching video content, it’s just not the content that the media industry wants them to watch.  Instead, they are reportedly watching 11.3 hours of “free” online video per week and interestingly the major ways young people are selecting online content to watch is based firstly on content that has been viewed/liked by a lot of people (59%) and secondly content that was sent by “someone I respect” (58%).  

So no surprise - peoples viewing habits are now more likely to be influenced by their personal social network.

This is where both Periscope of Meerkat have a distinct advantage.  They both tie into twitter as a means of making people aware of live broadcasts and given that tweets are heavily influenced by the people you’ve chosen to follow, these broadcasts are more likely to be relevant to the viewers.

But it goes further than this.  These are not static video feeds like you see on Youtube, instead the audience is positively encouraged to participate, to help direct the production.  

In an article on the Verge they reported that "In their early tests [of Meerkat], they found something delightful in the interactions between the broadcaster and their audience: the audience always wound up helping direct the broadcast with their comments, to the general enjoyment of everyone involved”… and this is where the “spontaneous togetherness” comes in.

There is something powerful about being in the moment; this ephemeral experience which can only happen at that time, which places you at the centre of the action, allows you to take part and which happens within your social network - this could be a truly compelling mix.

Having played with Periscope, it’s funny how much it differs from a traditional pre-recorded video stream.  Even when the vloggers have created tailored content for their audience and speak to them like a personal friend, its still not as compelling as actually being in the moment.

It’s like we’ve gone back to that shared experience, but at a hyper relevant level.

So whats the implications for loyalty marketing?  Well I’ve no doubt that marketers generally will find ways to create “brand engagement” and “brand experiences” through live videos - whether product launches, celebrity moments or just regular brand ambassadors creating content to watch and interact with.

What I think will be interesting though is if that personal connection - that in the moment experience - becomes as common place as the Facebook wall-post or the Tweet.  If that happens, people are going to have greater expectations of their interactions, whether personal or business.  Imagine what online banking looks like through live video streaming or being able to access customer service at your online retailer through video.

In fact, stop imagining it as that’s what Amazon has already done with it’s Mayday button on the Kindle Fire, launched in late 2013.

Described by CEO Jeff Bezos as “the greatest feature we’ve ever made”, they may truly have hit on something at the beginning of a new trend.  As consumers are conditioned by apps like Periscope and Meerkat to want “real” connections, you can imagine them increasingly seeking out brands that provide a similar experience.

Amazon is reportedly fielding 75% of questions from Kindle Fire customers through Mayday with questions ranging from how to beat a level on Angry Birds to singing Happy Birthday to a new Kindle Fire owner.

Loyalty is all about customer experience and it would seem that what Periscope, Meerkat (and Amazon) are showing is that a new kind of customer experience can be created.  One centred around real moments of truth in real time.