In case you've managed to avoid all the hype over the last ten months, Periscope is a live video streaming app available for IOS and Android in which users create live broadcasts or 'scopes' which other people can watch live or download to watch later.
In this summary we're going to take a look at how Periscope works and how marketers and businesses can take advantage of it, as well as some well known brands that already are. I will also take a moment to talk about Periscope's main rivals, most notably Meerkat. First of all though, we'll begin at the beginning.
Kayvon Beykpour and Joe Bernstein came up with the idea for Periscope in 2013 during the protests in Taksim Square, Istanbul. Beykpour had turned to Twitter to find out what was happening on the ground but realised he couldn't actually see events unfolding. Hitting on the idea of a live streaming app, the pair founded the company in February 2014, originally naming it Bounty, but later changed this to Periscope.
After $1.5 million in startup funding, Periscope was acquired by Twitter before official launch in January 2015. Purchase price is unknown but investor sources put it between $50 and $100 million. Twitter's acquisition was officially announced after rival video streaming app, Meerkat, was launched in March and became an overnight hit at the South by Southwest Festival.
In April, Twitter's CEO, Dick Costolo, reported over a million users signing up in the first ten days after the app's launch and that was before the app launched on Android. As of August this figure stands at 10 million users.
Periscope vs Meerkat, Google Hangouts, Stre.am
Having launched shortly before it, there's no doubt that Periscope's main rival is Meerkat but this is certainly not the only pretender to the live streaming throne. Below is a brief summary of the big three contenders.
When Meerkat launched at South by Southwest Festival in 2015, Twitter responded by cutting it off from its social graph; a clear indicator of the huge rivalry that would ensue.
But what Meerkat gained in terms of attracting early adopters, Periscope quickly more than made up for with the market dominance of its parent company. There's no doubt that Periscope's association with Twitter has put it at a clear advantage and many consider it the easier to use and more convenient of the two live streaming apps.
Although Meerkat does automatically link up to Twitter and automatically Tweet once you start broadcasting, there is no functionality to turn this off, unlike with Periscope. Android Central clearly regards Periscope as having far more functionality and being less 'clunky' than Meerkat. Periscope's ability to allow you to save live streams and catch up on them at a time that's convenient, also gives it a clear advantage over Meerkat in terms of versatility.
In July 2015, Meerkat announced its biggest update to date with the introduction of its Cameo feature that allows users to hijack another user's stream for a short period of time (with their consent of course).
- Google Hangouts
A lot of the inherent appeal of a video streaming platform comes from the existing social networks that it connects with, allowing you to tap into an existing audience in the form of your followers. Google's Hangouts on Air is therefore probably only going to appeal to enthusiastic users of the Google Plus network. Its main disadvantage when compared to the others is that it needs a computer to set up a live broadcast.
That being said, it still does bring some advantages to the table when viewed as part of a wider social media platform. Hangouts can automatically publish to YouTube and is available to edit afterwards. Clearly the platform is not suited for any kind of outdoors or mobile broadcast though and is best suited to people with established Google Plus and YouTube channel followings.
Stre.am main advantage over Periscope is that it allows you to connect with Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Unlike Periscope, Stre.am allows users to engage in a live chat stream which is displayed down the left hand side of the screen during a broadcast and this can be scrolled through.
Stre.am's main problem is the comparatively small userbase compared to Periscope and Meerkat and for marketers this will ultimately be its downfall.
How It Works
So how exactly does Periscope work? Well, after downloading the app, you're given the option of logging in with your Twitter profile or signing up using your phone number (the Twitter option is by far the best choice here).
Once you're all signed up, you basically have three options available to you.
- Follow People
As with Twitter, following the right kind of people is essential to engagement. Following people will encourage them to follow you back and allow you to comment on their broadcasts, which will appear in your Watch Tab for 24 hours. Crucially it will also allow you to get an idea of what's trending in your industry or niche sector by alerting you to broadcast. Your followers are also able to invite you to private broadcasts and to watch other people's public broadcasts.
- Start Broadcasting
You can begin broadcasting at any time by tapping the camera icon in the bottom centre of the app. You'll be prompted to give a title to your 'scope' and from here can manage your location settings, privacy settings and decide whether you'd like to tweet your live stream.
- Watch a Broadcast
You can watch live broadcasts by tapping the globe icon to see who's broadcasting at that particular moment. During a broadcast you can send 'hearts', which act a bit like Facebook likes, just by just tapping the screen. There is also the option to be alerted with push notifications when those you are following are on air. Another key feature of Periscope is the ability to comment on a live broadcast in real time, making the medium perfect for Q&A sessions and audience engagement.
Periscope For Marketers
In an age of on-demand video content, Periscope's appeal feeds into our natural desire to watch events unfold live, as they happen. No YouTube video can compete with that kind of appeal and so, in this way, Periscope's offers brands a very unique way of creating a dialogue and a sense of involvement with their consumers.
Before drawing up your marketing strategy and planning a broadcast calendar, you'll need to think about what your ultimate goals are. Periscope is particularly well suited to the following marketing objectives:
- Putting a Human Face on your Brand
Periscope is allows you the opportunity to connect and engage with your consumers in real time by putting the people behind your company on screen. Things to try could be a live tour of your offices, product testing or some other exclusive 'behind the scenes' footage. Interviews with execs and other key players in your company can also work well.
- Showing off your Products
Allowing your customers to see your products in action, especially before they've even launched can really put you ahead of the pack when it comes to image. Allowing your customers to comment will also help you to better understand their expectations. Live streaming from product launches and trade fairs will work well here.
- Market Research
Understanding who your customers are and what they like and dislike is something Periscope excels at. Indeed, even if you don't use it to actually broadcast anything at all, it can be a very powerful market research tool. Try using Twitter's advanced search and the #periscope hashtag, as well as influencer analytical tools like Buzzsumo, to see what your rivals are broadcasting.
Identifying and engaging with popular 'scopers' and building a brand advocate army on Periscope should always form a key cornerstone of your marketing strategy, whatever your ultimate goals are. Building bridges with influential users will allow you to start creating a bit of a buzz around your broadcasts.
An important consideration should also be finding out exactly when to broadcast. Such is the nature of live streaming, that this is incredibly important. Although your followers can watch your content for up to 24 hours after broadcast, ideally you want as many of them tuning in live as possible. Tools like Hootsuite and Followewonk can be very good for this.
A good way to find people to watch, share and engage with your broadcasts is to use the Twitter advanced search feature and use the #periscope hashtag. After you've built a list of enough people who you think will be interested in your broadcast you can either email them or tweet them to let them know about it. Ideally it's better to email but finding their email addresses isn't always straightforward (although this guide from Distilled will show you one way of achieving this).
Five Brands Who Are Rocking Periscope
The world's leading music streaming service was an early adopter of Periscope, using it to broadcast exclusive performances and interviews with guest musicians and bands.
Barkbox is a subscription service for pet products and went straight for the cute factor by broadcasting puppies. Using baby animals to draw in viewers might be clichéd but it still works.
- The Next Web
Next Web CEO Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten garnered a lot of attention by broadcasting an 'Ask Me Anything' session on Periscope. This is a perfect example of using the medium of live broadcast to connect with your customers.
No strangers to using video to show off some of the world's most amazing adrenaline sports, Red Bull was naturally going to be attracted to Periscope.
The BBC sports department seems to have adopted Periscope for engaging with its audience during sporting events. The corporation itself though has been cautious to adopt the app and mostly it is individual journalists using the app independently.
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* Lead image adapted from Jim Makos