By: Sean O’Neill and Joe Velozo
Meerkat is a free mobile app that allows users to broadcast and stream live video through their mobile devices as well as computers. It is a very user friendly and content appropriate social media that anyone thirteen years or older can use. All of the broadcasts on Meerkat are public, so all of your followers as well as anyone who may be interested in a hashtag or title you use will be able to view them. In a sense, the app is like Snapchat, in the way that the video is gone once the stream is over, and only the user can save it. Meerkat gets most of its views due to the pre-scheduling feature, which allows users to schedule a broadcast 24 hours in advance. People can post broadcast links on other social media sites so followers know to watch, and if the original streamer feels like it, he or she can post the saved video of the stream on whatever social media they want for those that missed it. Meerkat was launched in February of 2015, and it gained much traction in March of 2015 from the South by Southwest conference. As a result, they enjoyed a three day period where they saw the most traffic in the history of the app. Since then, the usage has grown to about 2 to 3 million users. Meerkat quickly cracked the top 25 on social media apps, but then fell even quicker once periscope was released. As of now, Meerkat hovers in the three and four hundreds for download ranking on iTunes and the trend is not positive. It should be noted, however, that Meerkat is a standalone app that has directly competed with apps such as periscope, which has twitter as a backer.
Meerkat is somewhat of a surprise app though. Ben Rubin, an employee of Life on Air Inc., was working on it alone as a side project while his team of 10 were working on another app called Air. Air was to be an app very similar to Meerkat, but it was designed as invite only. The idea behind it was an app for close circles of friends to stream videos to one another. Crazily enough, Air was also the successor to another live streaming app created by Ben Rubin called Yevvo. It went similarly viral to Meerkat in 2013, but then interest faded very quickly to the point where Rubin pulled the plug on the app. Rubin believe the timing was right here for the launch of Meerkat and that is why he moved his entire team of 10 workers over to the just 8 week old Meerkat app project. He believed that it had the potential to work because individuals would be able to capture heat-of-the-moment live streams which would involve content that people may feel passionate about. Due to the launch right before the South by Southwest conference, and the hype from Product Hunt, Meerkat quickly jumped out to a great start. Rubin was very optimistic about the results of the Meerkat launch, but hoped the early success was not just early adopters that were going to drop it once the novelty wore off.
Just about any video can be streamed on Meerkat. The categories are countless and range from people like you and me to many famous people. Right now, just going on Meerkat I see a completely random variety of streams that include: 1) Music videos 2) Talk shows 3) Talks about court trials 4) People preaching of beliefs 5) Spiritual streams 6) Funny pranks 7) Lego building 8) People singing or playing an instrument alone 9) Cars racing 10) Cooking. Now those are just 10 of the random streams that I could access right now at this moment, but the content is endlessly changing and constantly being updated with new streams. There are also certain people that come on the live stream at the same time on certain days, almost like a TV show. Most of them have built up their popularity and their hashtag appears at the top of the app with some of the other trending ones. Meerkat has had some very notable users and brands in the past. Some of them include The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Billboard, CNN, Red Bull, and Jeb Bush. With such popular users, the app has potential to be highly influential. Dan Pfeiffer was even quoted in saying that “Meerkat will change the 2016 Presidential election for every campaign.” However, from using the app and looking into it, this has in fact not been true to date, but maybe it can present itself deeper in the primaries or possibly in the actual election.
Meerkat’s biggest competitors are Periscope and Facebook live, both of which have big apps backing them. However, you’d be surprised to know that Meerkat grew 30% after Twitter cut them off. Meerkat has had a tough time matching up with Periscope since their demographics are almost identical: roughly 75% to 25% male to female and about 75-80% of their users are 16-34 years old. Meerkat has a few disadvantages in this market. One is the ease of use, Meerkat is the hardest of the three to learn. The next, and maybe most important aspect, is the ability to rewatch. Meerkat’s video is gone once the stream ends, and the other two have videos that are available for playback multiple times. Also, a very big part is being able to make your streams private so only invited people can see it. Periscope and Facebook live support this, whereas Meerkat is 100% public and out there for anyone to watch (so don’t accidentally start recording while you’re in a precarious position!). Meerkat has been brutally hurt by not having a social media juggernaut backing them like periscope does. More celebrities access Periscope and Facebook live simply because they have the big name link, and more common people will likely use these two apps because of the celebrity endorsement. However, Meerkat does present some advantages that users find helpful. On Meerkat, users can schedule their streams up to 24 hours in advance so followers can be alerted as to not miss their favorite webcasters. Meerkat also has live commenting that all stays with the stream and can be scrolled through rather than just disappear once more comments have been posted. Finding top users is particularly easy, since Meerkat offers a leaderboard based on usage and activity. Overall, the app has a good layout and potential for success.
Meerkat is a great opportunity for businesses to use for overall operations as well as for marketing. This could become a great resource for customer service for many companies. Through Meerkat, live instructions and ‘how tos’ could be done in order to demonstrate product operations and uses. Along the same idea, companies could do a frequently asked question segment in which people provide questions and the company answers them live. From a marketing standpoint, Meerkat could be used to promote a new product ahead of launch in order to build up the demand for it before it even hits the shelves or market. Additionally, flash sales or promotional sales could be done where a special promotional discount code is given out during the stream, which in turn diverts attention to the company’s website and promotes product buying. Lastly, staying up to date is import, and regular video streams can help to keep the consumer feel like they are more involved and personal with the company.
Unfortunately, poor recent performance – alluded to above – has finally resulted in a big change. Meerkat has unfortunately “lost the live streaming war”. CEO Ben Rubin announced over the weekend that the platform is going to be making a big shift. He believes that Meerkat would be better off if they were to evolve into a more social video network such as skype and hangouts. Fortunately, Meerkat still has $14 Million (75%) of its initial seed funding remaining. With these financial resources, Rubin should be able to take Meerkat in any direction he pleases. There is not much room in the live video market, but there is hope.