What is Periscope?
Periscope is a form of social media that allows users to both stream live video to the app and allow other users to watch that live stream from their smartphone. The tagline for Periscope is “Explore the world through someone else’s eyes,” (Periscope, 2015) demonstrating the basic ability of the application to allow users to see live video from around the world. Periscope was launched as a standalone application for smartphones that was quickly bought by Twitter. Now users of Periscope can easily link their Periscope and Twitter accounts, and vice versa. Periscope is much like Twitter, replacing tweets with live broadcasts that can also be viewed later. Periscope offers the ability to easily search and follow friends, family, companies, and celebrities. When a broadcaster goes live, users receive a notification and can access the stream so long as they are in an area where they have an internet connection. During a broadcast the audience can interact with the broadcaster by tapping the screen to send a heart that appears on the screen. The amount of hearts that a broadcaster receives is shown to them on a screen that also contains information on how many people viewed the stream, both live and replays. Those who enter the broadcast early have the ability to chat with the broadcaster. Like Twitter, the default setting for accounts on Periscope is ‘public’, meaning anyone can tune into the live streams. However, it is possible to set an account to private, so only select individuals can tune into your streams. To sum up Periscope, it is an application that allows live broadcasting with a system similar to Twitter for viewing and creating content.
What Do You Do (As a User)?
Users have the ability to both view content and create content. The people who are creating content and sharing a live stream are referred to as “Broadcasters” and those whose are watching the stream are referred to as the “Audience” (Periscope, 2015). When creating content, broadcasters use their smartphone that has the app installed and enter the mode which allows them to take a video and share it with whoever is allowed to follow them. The system of making an account private or public is very similar to Twitter. In some cases a broadcaster will make their account private so that only followers that they have approved have the ability to watch their stream. Other users will make their accounts public, so anyone can follow. When an account is public (which is the default on both Twitter and Periscope) anyone who searches for the account can follow and view the stream. This is seen mostly with celebrities. One active user on Periscope is Brendon Urie, the lead singer and frontman for Panic! at the Disco. Brendon uses Periscope to stream videos of himself playing music in his home during his downtime. While Brendon is broadcasting, a notification is sent to followers (who have notifications turned on) to alert them to the stream. Once a user is a member of the audience, if they are within the first few thousand people to enter the stream they have the ability to “chat” with Brendon. These chats scroll up the screen so that both Brendon and anyone else in the audience can see. Audience members also have the ability to mute the chat and just view the broadcast. This type of chat while a live stream is going on creates a parasocial relationship where viewers feel that they can connect Brendon Urie in an informal setting. The Broadcaster has the ability to interact with the Audience through their live stream, but not via chat; actual text chat is a one way relationship on Periscope. The Audience can also show their appreciation for the broadcaster by tapping the screen to send them “hearts” that appear on the screen. The Broadcaster can also see the number of hearts they received after the broadcast has ended. For anyone who missed the live broadcast, videos are able to be viewed for 24 hours after the broadcast.
Interactions: Consumer to Consumer, Consumer to Marketer
While Periscope allows for insight into the day to day lives of celebrities and others, it also has huge potential to provide audiences with as up to date news as is possible with live streaming. German journalist Paul Ronzheimer took full advantage of this capability when he traveled with a group of Syrian refugees from Greece to their final destination of Germany. It turned into a successful campaign. As Ronzheimer says, “At the beginning I had about 1,500 followers, but now I have around 33,000. It became really big: one of the videos was played and replayed more than 90,000 times.” (Dredge, 2015) Likewise, another benefit that Ronzheimer discusses is how it humanized the refugees rather than making them seem out to be a faceless mass, as most of the media coverage was doing, whether intentionally or not. Because Periscope is live streamed, or stored within the past 24 hours, it supports the fact that social media has become the fastest way to exchange new information. While this information is not going to be at the same quality of a news broadcast, as it is uncut, unscripted, and unplanned, it gives a glimpse of what Rohnzheimer calls “. . . the most important scene of the story: that emotional moment,” (Dredge, 2015). In this specific case, the following that Ronzheimer gained began asking questions to the refugees, which they could answer real time as they came in. This is arguably not official journalism, but again it provides a level of humanization and connection that can be so important in a human interest story such as this.
As for consumer to marketer interactions, Periscope is tricky. Although there is live interaction with the audience via chat and live conversation, it is difficult to single out and get in touch with consumers. One interesting tactic that Mountain Dew had was to stream items that they wanted to give away to people watching the broadcast. So when people commented on the stream, Mountain Dew would selected a few and sent them free swag (Edwards, 2015). The problem is that Mountain Dew needed Twitter to get this giveaway going. It may have been easier for Mountain Dew to isolate the contest to their Twitter, where interactions are longer lasting and have potential to be more personal. But this marketing strategy of advertising the brand on another platform would be effective in driving people to that platform, building up Mountain Dew’s followers on Periscope, benefitting future marketing efforts. In addition this does demonstrate the ability to have meaningful interactions with consumers on Periscope.
Cost of Engagement
The cost of engaging in marketing activities on Periscope can range from free to expensive, depending on what approach a firm wants to take. The cost for a firm to create a broadcast and live stream it to their audience is nothing. This allows a firm to live stream whatever they would like to show their audience on a moment’s notice. If a company wants to make an impromptu announcement or a teaser broadcast for a new product, they can do that within their office for zero cost. However if a company wants to attract a larger audience for their broadcast they could enlist the help of a celebrity, as discussed before. This obviously would be more costly, but at the same time it may be a cheaper way of integrating a celebrity with a brand. Jonathan Long, in an article for the Huffington Post, writes that allowing a celebrity to “take over” could be a majorly beneficial move to a firm trying to market a new product (Long, 2015). Because Periscope is so “in the moment” the audience interaction and engagement has the potential to spread quickly, earning the firm a greater amount of earned media through people watching, replaying, and talking about the promotion. The true cost of either method depends on execution. A celebrity take over is of no use if the celebrity is not engaging or the audience does not respond well. It would be up to a firm to decide the proper course of action, but overall Periscope can be a low cost form of marketing.
Marketing Activities: How Marketers can use Periscope
Periscope offers something that marketers and firms love to take advantage of: a new medium and the chance to be on the forefront of the next social media. Taco Bell managed to do just that just a month after Periscope was released. Taco Bell used Periscope to announce “Defector Day” – May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, where they would give away free biscuit tacos in the morning (Jennings, 2015). This is a reference to their campaign of defecting from the normal fast food breakfasts, but really what is most interesting is that Taco Bell chose to use Periscope to announce it, especially since at the time Periscope was (and still is) so new. However, despite this, as Lisa Jennings writes, “Though Periscope only launched last month, it appears that Taco Bell’s fans are using it.The video earned 4,931 hearts – the Periscope equivalent of “likes” – while it was live, and 453 replay views within three hours of the announcement.” (Jennings, 2015).
Twitter said in its recent earnings report that “Periscope had 1 million users within the first 10 days after launch. It has already been banned by the NHL, so it has to be good.” (Jennings, 2015). Alternatively to the NHL, the MLB has announced saying that they will not banning live streaming apps such as Periscope or Meerkat. The biggest issue in this matter is how organizations like the NHL will be enforcing this, as they obviously cannot just take individuals cellphones, and most likely will not have patrols looking to check if people are livestreaming.
This issue aside, the fact that Taco Bell felt there was enough of a market to use Periscope as the medium for their announcement shows they have confidence it will have a positive outcome for their brand. This is the kind of early association that a company would like in order to build brand recognition. Being known as the company that used a new marketing platform first can create a link in consumers’ minds that associates that company with that popular brand. So long as Periscope stays relevant, building brand recognition by using the service effectively is key to marketing success.
Along with being known as the early adapter of a new medium however, the fact of the matter is that if Periscope was to be used for a marketing effort, that effort would need to be supplemented by more traditional marketing activities, i.e. television or print ads. Due to its short term nature, Periscope cannot currently hope to create enough buzz around a campaign or product in its short 24 hour period. However, the hope to be the first brand using ‘the next big thing’ as it were still holds some appeal, assuming that Periscope can gain enough traction as the new social media.
Metrics: Measuring a Marketing Effort’s Impact
The data that a broadcaster receives is not very detailed. The “hearts” that the audience can send to the broadcaster may seem like a good indication of how popular a broadcast was, but it can be deceiving. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, on Periscope the audience can send as many hearts as they want during the broadcast. While Periscope does tell you how many hearts one individual has sent to a broadcast by viewing their profile, finding that out for an entire audience would be a lengthy process (Periscope, 2015). That being said, this may still be helpful during the live stream to show the broadcaster what the audience is enjoying and what they are not. However the numbers can be misleading if a broadcaster is strictly looking at the amount of hearts they received, since one user could be responsible for most of the hearts. This leads to inflated and often misleading numbers. Demographics are also hard to measure on the application. Although a broadcaster can see the accounts of the audience members who have viewed the stream, this is not very useful in making sure that the target audience was reached. Companies are not going to examine every account and make demographic data based on that. This would be time consuming and inaccurate.
Tactics for Marketing on Periscope
A tactic that can be taken advantage of with Periscope is the fact that a live stream can create instant value for a company trying to use the app for marketing purpose. Being a live stream means that anyone watching it is actively engaged with that stream. With a tweet or a Facebook post, you can see how many people have seen it, but it’s more difficult to see if the message really got across. With a live stream on Periscope, a marketer knows that the audience is actively engaged with the stream because they are in the audience and watching. The broadcaster can see live reaction and adjust to what the audience wants in real time. This tactic would allow for a more organic marketing approach where action and reaction drive the broadcast.
Another obvious tactic of marketing on a platform such as Periscope would be to develop an association of one’s brand with a sponsor, such as an athlete, actor, musician, etc. The ideal behind this platform is to ‘see the world through someone else’s eyes’, so the idea of a celebrity promoting a product on Periscope acts like a personal recommendation from a reliable source. Likewise, as mentioned earlier, it will further develop parasocial relationships where an audience can ‘get to know’ the people or places that the audience chooses to tune in on. This also would hopefully serve as a positive association between the celebrity and the product for any audience that witnessed the broadcast.
In addition to brand association, another tactic would be product demonstration. For example, if a brand such as Nike were to produce a new product, Periscope could then be a useful medium for showing off the capabilities or designs that this product offers. Arguably, Periscope could even utilized to post installments during the various production stages of a new product. This could be a way to steadily gain interest and curiosity around the unveiling of a the item, by framing it as a mystery, or showing the development process.
The tactic with Periscope that a marketer can take advantage of is the “in the moment” aspect of Periscope. Everything is viewable live or within 24 hours. This is an advantage because it can lead to a higher rate of engagement at the time of the broadcast. Showing a product that has a far off release date might build excitement, but showing the steps of a product leading up to release will maintain that excitement and increase consumer engagement. The “in the moment” aspect can also assist in driving traffic to the company website, where there can be special offers and other ways to take advantage of the customer’s interest.
As with any social platform, using Periscope comes with risks, both for casual users and for companies trying to use it for marketing purposes. There have already been cases of harassment seen from users who receive inappropriate messages from followers while streaming, a problem that is seen in any realm on social media, but in real time it can be both more hurtful and more frightening (Lorenz, 2015). While a company may not be as susceptible to harassment that the average broadcaster would encounter, there is a risk in running a live promotion. Periscope does not operate on a delay, so if anything goes wrong with a promotion it is being seen live. This could be anything from a simple mistake at the place of broadcast or something occurring during that broadcast that was not planned, such as an accident of some kind. Also in the same vein of “ as with every social platform,” companies need to be careful as to what content they produce on Periscope. When a tweet is deemed offensive or has the wrong effect, it can be deleted. It would be far more serious for someone to do or say something offensive during a live broadcast than for them to simply write it out. Companies need to make sure what they are producing is what they want to happen, and that they can control the environment in which they are producing the content.
Another risk is streaming being banned or limited due to legal issues from streaming content that is not allowed to be streamed (Bedigian, 2015). This can include anything from the public to prototypes of new products that a broadcaster has access to. People may have a problem with broadcasters streaming in public. In this case people may not want to be seen in the video and may take action if they find out they were in a broadcast. Periscope is also being banned by the NHL. Why should you be able to see the view from a front row seat at an arena from the comfort of your home on your smartphone, when someone else had to pay to have that view. This shows that Periscope may not be suitable to be used in all settings, a risk that both casual broadcasters and companies using Periscope for marketing need to consider.
In terms of marketing as a whole, social media marketing is a relatively new field. Periscope is even newer, and is experimenting with a format that has not been seen before. Taking the follower system of Twitter and inputting live streaming of videos has the potential to be a marketing tool that companies can build off of. There are a lot of opportunities that Periscope presents, and how marketers use them will be seen in the future. However, there are flaws and problems that come with Periscope’s system. Public venues have banned Periscope use, metrics are difficult to accurately measure, and Periscope is currently only viewable on smartphones via the app (no laptop computer integration). It will be interesting to see what the future of Periscope holds; how popularity will be maintained and what features will be added, like AppleTV integration (Constine, 2015). Periscope may not be suited for all marketing needs, but if used correctly the live streaming app can make an enormous impact on marketing techniques.
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