I’ve been fixated on the video streaming service Periscope the past few weeks. I wrote about Periscope on my personal blog, but today I want to talk about the genesis of Periscope and what your business can learn from it.
Before Periscope came on the scene, the streaming service flavor of the month was Meerkat. In my industry, Meerkat went beyond buzz. It was the “It” thing of the moment.
After a promotional push at SXSW 2015, Meerkat was defined not just by its streaming service, but by the fact that marketers at every level were all in line pronouncing Meerkat to be a required marketing tool. “If you aren’t live streaming with Meerkat,” they said, “Then you’re going to be left behind.”
A lot of content creators I know jumped on the Meerkat bandwagon because, “You just have to.” A widely read publication hosted a webinar featuring “The World’s Preeminent Meerkat Expert.” A title he undoubtedly received because he had used Meerkat for a whole 60 minutes.
Meerkat is impressive. Or rather was. Meerkat put its chips all in on Twitter as a foundational platform. Meerkat required users to have a Twitter account and relied on Twitter’s Social Graph which allows for deep integration between the app and the Twitter community. It was a match made in heaven. Until it wasn’t.
As it turned out, Twitter had its own streaming service planned called Periscope. In the span of a short time, Meerkat was blocked from Twitter’s Social Graph and Periscope became the new “It” thing that everyone just had to do.
What can be learned from this?
For starters, building your castle on someone else’s land is always risky. Twitter has every right to its Social Graph and every developer out there now knows that Twitter will expose the data in that database selectively to protect its own interests. That’s a wise move. But also a move that made Meerkat entirely uncompetitive.
Meerkat’s identity was so interwoven with Twitter that they were forced to reinvent themselves overnight under duress. The consensus is that Meerkat will never sit atop Mount Olympus again, for there flies the Twitter banner.
But there’s more to learn here. To me the most significant aspect of this story is how malleable modern online marketers are. They bend with even the slightest motion of the wind. One would think that the transition from Meerkat being the absolute best thing in the world to Periscope being the absolute best thing in the world would have encouraged a moment of reflection or analysis, but instead it…
OH MY GOD, PERISCOPE IS AWESOME! ARE YOU USING IT? YOU TOTALLY SHOULD! HASHTAG STREAMING FOR REALZ, YO!
What were we talking about again? Oh, right.
This fiasco shows the major weakness of the modern marketer which is that they are trying to find their footing in an industry undergoing rapid change. Marketers want to differentiate themselves and be the supreme generalists that know everything your business needs to survive.
It’s an impossible goal to reach. The world of online marketing has become so massive and complex that understanding how everything interconnects is becoming increasingly difficult.
As a business owner, when someone tells me that I just have to try this new thing, my mind completely checks out. The same when someone tells me they are an expert in that thing that has been around for 5 seconds.
There’s another element of risk here which is that every new thing that comes onto the scene requires guinea pigs to prove its concept.
That’s usually you.
Most marketers don’t have the luxury of time and an R&D budget to evaluate the benefits and pitfalls of new apps, technologies or frameworks, so they follow the mantra of “do now, apologize later.”
Modern marketers are under tremendous pressure. They are working in an increasingly commoditized field where many advocate giving away labor and ideas for free. Against the background of a still recovering economy, the flow of money does not make for a decent living. This makes the idea of a killer app so alluring.
Marketers need to strive to elevate this industry by not being so reactive. And businesses need to elevate themselves by not being so receptive to unproven tactics.
It wasn’t my intent to make this be such a bummer. What I’m really trying to get at is that good marketing doesn’t need to rely on the new shiny thing. Good marketing has existed since the birth of man. Perhaps if we stopped trying to get ahead of ourselves at such a breakneck pace, we could slow down, take stock of where we are and build better strategies with the proven tools we have at our disposal instead of leaping on the new thing to produce the illusion of innovative marketing.
Then perhaps we will be able to stand united as one collective marketing industry that will work together to provide the best quality of…
OH MY GOD, A NEW APP JUST CAME OUT.
Join the discussion 7 Comments
Great article, but yes I admit it, I love shiny new apps. I’ve always been an early adopter- it runs in the family. My grandad was one of the first to buy a video recorder- but he bought a format that no one has heard of- Video 2000. You’d have thought my dad would have learnt from this experience, but no, he bought a Betamax video recorder. It may have been superior to VHS, but it wasn’t long before it died a sad death. So when Meerkat was announced I was excited, and sad- because it was only available as an iOS app. Us Android users had to wait. It was the same with Periscope. But then I danced a silly dance when Meerkat launched a beta version for Android and I was first in line in the beta testing group. I also downloaded Periscope on the first day. I love the apps a lot, but do you know how many live streams I’ve done? I reckon about 3 or 4 in total!
I think it’s ok to get excited about new things and to test them out. I think it’s especially for us in the marketing and tech industries. But that’s a completely different thing than saying they are vital for all businesses. Streaming video via your mobile device is an exciting new “thing” and it may work well for some businesses, but it’s so important not to get carried away by the buzz.
Make money first. Then play.
Ralph – I think that a marketer needs to keep up to speed on emerging technology. And not get left behind. It is hard to imagine, but there were probably people saying not to start marketing on things like Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc. when they showed up. A smart marketer should be able to try things out, minimize potential risks, and never let others get the jump on them. After all what if you started promoting on Meerkat and everyone jumped to Periscope? Is that a problem? Just follow the audience. Tom
Good points but they’re not relevant to my commentary. I’m not suggesting to never try anything new; just to do it wisely while understanding the risk. Not every new thing has to be adopted by marketers or businesses. The marketer’s responsibility is to help businesses grow, not to to keep them on the cutting edge. Almost every new trend or technology fails. Being ahead of the curve of tech is great for thrill seekers, but you can’t deposit thrills at the bank. A smart marketer knows when to try things out and when to let others do the trying out so that they can go about the business of making money.
Your correlation to Google, Facebook and YouTube ring hollow to me. You are citing the exceptions and not the rule. Each of those properties have had countless competitors and imitators. Ello. Tsu. Redbox. Blockbuster On Demand. No marketer can be a master of all things, but they can chase after every new thing and be a master at none.
Ralph, thanks for the thoughtful reply. Terse is good when you have something to say. My experience in working with really, really big brands out there in the tech and entertainment space is that many times they are too timid about trying out new things. So they can miss the benefits of being an early adopter.
You are right about there being a lot more imitators than innovators out there. The trick is to be able to identify something that is truly new and useful. My guess is that live video streaming is something that fills a space that is not currently occupied with the opportunity for engagement with fans and customers.
But as you correctly point out there is a huge risk of going after every new shiny object out there. Trust me, I have had to implement a ton of things that I knew didn’t have much of a chance of taking off just because someone high up in the company saw their kids using it.
This is a great post, thank you.
The problem, as I see it, is that marketers are human beings. And like most human beings, including business owners, they suffer from the “shiny object syndrome”. If you have ever read Gulliver’s Travels, you may remember that fourth and last volume, where Swift describes how the human-like creatures get all crazy when they see the shining stones in front of them. They fight among themselves to have them. And when it is taken away from them, they get depressed.
This is exactly what we are talking about here. I have heard so many marketers, especially from the Millennial generation, mention that they have a fear of missing out (FOMO). That says it all for me.
It takes so long to be knowledgeable about regular platforms. I have never used Meerkat or Periscope, and I don’t plan to. I have bills to pay and articles to write. Twitter, FB, G+, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are already changing enough as it is.
I listened to this and I disagree a little bit about Periscope and Meerkat – they are adding something genuinely new but they are in the “massively over-hyped” phase at the moment.
The irony is that to me Meerkat does the “new” bit better than Periscope, but is lousy at many of the “not new” bits. The new bit is that they allow people to interact with the host while watching on a mobile. It is the comments that is new. This has obviously been available on Google Hangouts for a while but that isn’t really usable on a mobile.
The idea of interactive Q&A via a mobile video app like Meerkat or Periscope is very powerful, as is allowing people to choose the questions to ask someone in an interview. Periscope comments become increasingly hard to read with high activity making it actually a worse platform than Meerkat for this.
I too am more than a little fed-up with the way that Periscope has become a general video-streaming platform as it makes it much more likely marketers will miss the true value of these platforms where they are genuinely a good idea. Pat Flynn answering questions is a lot more interesting than Pat Flynn eating a packet of Doritos for example.