Today Meerkat announced a major upgrade to its app that potentially puts it leap and bounds ahead of its competitor. It also makes it a compelling channel for brands (more on that later).
What is Meerkat?
Not to be confused with its insurance comparison counterpart, Meerkat is an iPhone and Android app that enables you to do live video streaming over social networks straight from your phone. It gained huge popularity at SXSW and has purportedly got over 2 million users.
Any user can start a live stream. Followers then receive a notification and, if they are quick enough, they can watch it live and like/comment as and when events happen.
To get a good sense of how it works try it out for yourself, or if you're on a computer, visit the Meerkat site and look for the videos at the bottom.
What's it for?
That's a difficult question to answer. Meerkat keep talking about it being used by news gatherers such as Fox and CNN. Realistically though, most of the streams are quite mundane - people taking a drive, getting a coffee etc. The more interesting examples include:
- Behind the scenes footage
- Impromptu performances by singers, extreme sports-person,
- Close and personal chats with chief execs
- Live reporting
- Live fan engagement
Remember, people thought Twitter was bizarre when it started. Equally, Instagram seemed frivilous. There's a chance that, like Twitter and Instagram, Meerkat will end up being for many things. But then that's kind of the point.
Hang on, I've heard of something similar to this.
You might very well have. Meerkat's main competitor is Periscope, which is owned by Twitter. That relationship alone has put Meerkat in a difficult position.
In March Twitter cut off Meerkat's access to its social graph - which allowed the app to automatically use these social connections on the platform. For example, if I posted a video on Meerkat then all my followers on Twitter also on the app would receive a notification.
There almost definitely was competitor motivation given the imminent launch of Periscope in the coming days. Plus it wasn't too well received when it came out that Meerkat was notified just two hours before being cut off.
Nonetheless the move put Meerkat in a dangerous position and set the precedent for their most recent announcement.
Today Meerkat announced a few changes, some of which really took many by surprise.
The first main change was the launch of a new feature called Cameo, bringing a new way to engage viewers. With Cameo, an audience member can take over a broadcaster’s stream for up to 60 seconds. Think about being a celebrity running a live Q&A and being able to allow a fan to take over to ask their question. Or, as Meerkat themselves said, that “the new CNN could develop on Meerkat if reporters on the ground are sending back footage”. That might sound ridiculous, but Meerkat already has Fox, TMZ, The Champions League, and MasterCard, among many others, set up to use Cameo on launch day. This is a big differentiator and something which Periscope can't duplicate without severe scrutiny.
The second change was more indicative of their recent relationship with Twitter. Meerkat will no longer be linked to Twitter at all, and will instead be shifting over to Facebook. By doing so Meerkat is now importing everything on Facebook and, if any of them start a stream, it send you a notification.
Is Meerkat here to stay?
Who knows? There are so many social apps out there and most of them fail. You can see from the chart below that in March its usage took a dip, though this is following a spike in popularity.
But Meerkat still has a more than decent audience, and its news today certainly shows they won't go without a damn good fight.