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Meerkat, Periscope and more: What does the future hold for real-time marketing?

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Ever since Meerkat captured the imagination of this year’s SXSW audience, it has become one of the most hotly-discussed new platforms in recent years among marketing industry experts. The new app has so far divided opinion, and following Twitter’s acquisition of the similar live-streaming platform Periscope, it faces some stiff competition. Is this buzz around live-streaming technology just another flash-in-the-pan fad or can it hope to alter the marketing landscape on the same level as some of its hyped-up predecessors?

It’s been claimed by many that Meerkat is the biggest SXSW breakout product since Twitter in 2007 (sorry, Foursquare.) No one is suggesting that the live-streaming service will have the same impact as the social network phenomenon, but early signs have been encouraging for Ben Rubin’s app, raising an estimated $14 million in funding following its launch in March. Response to Twitter in ’07 was, of course, mainly positive, but that’s not to say there weren’t some naysayers at the festival too. “It’s just a glorified Facebook status,” wrote one blogger at the time. “Well on its way to taking the overhyped crown,” said another, with some ‘experts’ favouring the also-hyped and now-extinct Dodgeball instead – some of you may have to Google this one.

Twitter, though, has of course gone from strength to strength, and is a platform that easily lends itself to advertising, offering sophisticated targeting options and an ability to edit a campaign when it’s live – meaning companies are jumping at the chance to propel their message to Twitter’s 232 million users.

Advertising isn’t the only way brands are able to tap into Twitter’s appeal: if managed well they can use real-time marketing to participate in trending events. The best example of this came during the 2013 Superbowl, when Oreo’s “you can still dunk in the dark” tweet came within minutes of the stadium being plunged into darkness because of a power cut. Oreo had a team at the ready to respond to any events and it paid off, with 15,000 retweets, 8,000 new followers on Twitter, 20,000 more likes on Facebook, and 16,000 more entries into the competition Oreo was running at the time - social sceptics can’t deny that having a platform that offers real-time response greatly improved Oreo’s brand.

It’s examples like this which will make companies sit up and take note of Meerkat and Periscope, as the opportunities for real-time, live video marketing are vast. So far Meerkat has seen an explosion of sign-ups, with developers claiming the number of users has been increasing by about 30% a day since SXSW. Jimmy Fallon and footballer Rio Ferdinand are just two of the celebs who have got on board with the trend to interact with their fans.

Of course, live-streaming isn’t anything new, and the technology has been around for a number of years now. Ustream was founded way back in 2007 and has over 80 million users, but there’s a feeling in the industry that the integration of Meerkat and Periscope with social media will make it more appealing, easier, and - to put it bluntly - a lot more fun for both users and marketers to work with. They’re simple to use, they work with Twitter (although we’ll have to see how much Periscope’s integration with the micro-blogging site will affect Meerkat) and they promote themselves as young and trendy platforms with mass appeal. The main question, though, is whether companies will be willing to spend big bucks on content that essentially ‘disappears.’

There have been early comparisons made between Meerkat and Snapchat in particular. This isn’t just because of the similar logo designs, but also the fact that both offer one-time-only viewings of their content before they vanish forever. Snapchat has been notoriously stubborn with its advertising, charging huge amounts (some sources say $750,000 per day) that so far only major firms have been willing to pay for one-day only content which briefly appear in user’s Recent Updates feed. The demand would appear to be there, though – and if Meerkat and Periscope are willing to charge more realistic fees for ad space, they could well be on their way to establishing themselves as future powerhouses of real-time marketing.

Simon La Band is digital sales director at Media Agency Group.