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What the Heck is Meerkat, and What Can We Learn from its Launch?

MeerkatIf you frequent social media circles like we do at All Points, you’ve been hearing a lot of buzz lately about Meerkat, the newest social media app that’s allegedly ready to take the world by storm. Debuted at South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual music, film and interactive festival held in Austin, Texas, Meerkat enables users to live-stream video from their phones. Introduced with Twitter compatibility and exclusively, for right now anyway, available on iOS devices, the videos are not archived – much like Snapchat.

Known as much for its innovative concept as the drama surrounding its launch, Meerkat and Twitter have been locked in battle the last few days – basically, Twitter cut off the startup’s access to its social graph just a few days after its launch. This means that new Meerkat users are unable to quickly auto-follow the same people they follow on Twitter. This hinders user engagement and growth opportunity – people are much less likely to manually search for friends and followers than they are to quickly click a “follow all” button.

But, in spite of this roadblock, the app is still growing steadily. More than 120,000 people downloaded Meerkat in its first day on the App Store, and it’s been adding tens of thousands of users – both at SXSW and outside the festival – daily since. Part of this, of course, could be celebrity endorsement – actor Jared Leto is an active user.

Meerkat begs the question, is this here to stay? For every chart topping, world changing social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), there’s a sad, dejected app that showed all the promise of a blockbuster but failed to display the same kind of longevity (Ping, Highlight, Digg). Is Meerkat something to get excited about? Well, yes and no. Meerkat may go belly up tomorrow and most of the world will never be any the wiser. But, the startup has the power of SXSW behind it – Twitter itself debuted at the festival in 2007 – and it is a huge predictor of a greater trend: live-stream video. If it’s not Meerkat, it’s going to be someone else, and soon.

So how can businesses take advantage of Meerkat and, more importantly, live-stream video? Like Instagram, Meerkat works best if you have a visual brand. It’s an easy viral content creator, and it’s spreading through word of mouth like wildfire. Plus, if your business gets on board now, it is likely one of only a few that is doing so. The far-reaching potential for changing how we consume content is unbelievable – live-stream videos allow news to be viewed across the world in real time, we can watch sports games as they take place and we can even interact with celebrities on a personal level more easily than, say, Twitter or Instagram.

Our takeaway from Meerkat’s buzz is this: live-streaming is here to stay. Social media predictors are saying it will be ubiquitous within 24 months, and it indicates a massive shift in how we take in news and entertainment. The potential for cultural crossover is enormous. As PR pros at a Chicago-area franchise PR firm, it’s more important than ever learn the ins and outs of live-streaming now in order to stay ahead of the curve so we can better serve our franchise industry clients with top-notch social media management services.


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