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.