Meerkat and Periscope have dominated recent chatter in the tech world. Meerkat is the grittier tech insider’s choice and SxSW standout (positions previously held by Twitter and Foursquare). Periscope is the more polished app, now validated through a reported $100 million Twitter acquisition.
Stepping back for those unfamiliar, these are live video streaming apps that could be central to mobile’s next era. In short, they allow users to film the world around them and broadcast live to Twitter. Think Vine but live. The technology is useful for everything from impromptu citizen journalism to broadcasts of live events.
One key question: why now? Multimedia social sharing has already reached a healthy stride. Its next evolutionary step leads us right to live. Several factors have recently tipped to create fertile ground for not only the technical underpinnings; but receptivity among mobile masses:
— Mobile connectivity is pervasive enough to make livestreaming tenable.
— Wifi penetration is similarly saturated enough to cover most indoor venues.
— Smartphone camera quality has reached levels that rival some DSLRs.
— Users have developed comfort levels with social sharing, especially increasingly buying-empowered millennials.
— The ephemerality of live video (despite workarounds) is likewise a point of appeal for younger generations
— Piggybacking on existing social graphs enables quick growth via network effect (unless Twitter blocks you).
The other key question is what’s the local angle? In many cases, location relevance will be tied closely to the content. This is similar to the things we’ve predicted for Instagram’s and Vine’s use at the local level, but with more dimension. Think: capturing a night out on the town, a home renovation project, or a wedding.
These are natural fits for native local advertising with the services involved. And like Vine, there will be ability to set creators loose on native brand integrations. It’s also an opportunity for companies like Perch, already optimizing content marketing via Instagram and other social channels.
“The consumer appetite for experience sharing with friends shows no sign of fatigue,” Perch founder and CEO Perry Evans recently told me. “Like Instagram, this is another dimension that reinvents the foundation of how word-of-mouth spreads among friends and to the broader public.”
Another accelerant could be Facebook’s inevitable entry. These apps have so far lived within the Twitterverse, but could be a more natural — dare I say native — match for Facebook, given its auto-play news feed videos. From there, the implications for news feed ads follow.
History indicates that Facebook will enter via acquisition, followed by a standalone app. Or it could be an offshoot Instagram app, a la Hyperlapse. Think: live video, put through filters and projected to one’s Facebook Timeline or Instagram feed. And once again, the native ad implications follow.
Growth will ignite first from live video’s inherent virality, which could find hundreds of millions of users the same way Instagram did. Then we’ll see copycat apps come out of the woodwork. It will follow the standard path: quick industry growth, contraction, M&A, a few winners, maturity, etc..
Somewhere in that progression will be a local play. It will start with multi-location brands, then move to SMBs. Either way, there will be quality control and brand sensitivity issues — already the case with polished Instagram shots, much less live unrehearsed video.
So it won’t be without hiccups, and it won’t apply to all local verticals (live toilet repair anyone?). Evans sees a fit in event or “vibe-centric” businesses like night clubs and trade shows, but mainstream appeal among SMBs overall won’t match that of recorded experiences that can live on as marketing assets.
That makes live video’s ephemerality both strength and weakness. But if kinks can be hammered out, there’s a big payoff for whoever can provide local businesses the keys to the world’s next content marketing engine. Maybe it’s no coincidence that Meerkating is a close anagram for Marketing.
Michael Boland is chief analyst and VP of content at BIA/Kelsey. Previously, he was a tech journalist for Forbes, Red Herring, Business 2.0, and other outlets.