Don’t Believe the Hype: Why Live Streaming Isn’t For Everyone

Periscope this, Meerkat that. Twitch this, YouTube that.  

Though livestreaming services have been around for years, the recent explosion of the two apps has brought it back to the forefront of our minds.

Yes, it’s incredible that modern technology has provided us the opportunities to broadcast our businesses and ourselves with the tap of a screen or the click of a button. The opportunity is great—it’s practically face-to-face communication with a very captive target audience. Your brand is on a podium, and your viewer is an attentive listener that’s plugged in socially. In short, a marketer’s dream.

But as anyone who’s ever created a webinar or a video knows, live events and video production take a lot of time, money and preparation, and live streaming is the paramount of such. On top of that, optimizing production value with a smartphone is not an easy feat.

So I’m here to say: don’t believe the hype. And if you don’t believe me, here’s what AJ Dellinger had to say in the The Daily Dot,  “Even though live streaming isn’t new, it’s never been this easy. But does anyone outside of the obsessive tech community truly even care? Probably not!”

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When Live Streaming Works & Who It’s Best For

In a former life, I worked for one of the top live streaming video services. We saw plenty of great uses of the technology, most of which were B2C and consumer. The power of live streaming allowed for pop stars to do live Q&A’s, millions watched as eagles raised their young and political debates were streamed as virtual drinking games.

B2B was a bigger challenge. Live streaming worked especially well for conferences and events, and even threatened to challenge the webinar business. But in order for a brand or business to really do it well and reach their audience, they had to have the proper technology, technical skill level and marketing budgets. 

This obviously narrowed the playing field quite a bit. Which is where Periscope and Meerkat come in.

The two apps have taken the tech world by storm, and have great use cases. As displayed in Ian Adams’ Slideshare presentation, the following events are perfect for the apps: 

Live streaming usesImage via Slideshare

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The Latest and “Greatest”

I’m not denying that Meerkat and Periscope greatly lower the barrier to entry to live streaming, which is something we constantly dealt with at my previous employer. It was simply too hard and too expensive for many businesses to incorporate into their marketing efforts.

For this reason alone, I think the apps are exciting for business. But here’s the reality: for the time and effort you take to prepare and even market your stream, the viewership might not be what you’re hoping for. Let’s look at the numbers. 

As reported by AdWeek, “Periscope users shared their livestreams on Twitter 1.5 million times through May 22 (1,510,709, to be exact) since… March, according to Nuvi.”

Meerkat streaming looks to be along the same lines, but is actually outperforming Periscope. Via AdWeek: “Meerkat livestream URLs were shared on Twitter 1,521,424 times during the same period.”

These figures sound impressive, but the bigger picture is that viewership and streams are not the same. Viewership numbers are hard to come by, but let’s say that every stream had an average of 100 viewers, which is extremely generous (most I’ve seen hover around 25 simultaneous viewers). That would be about 151 million and 152 million views for each network over a three-month period, respectively. 

Now consider these stats (via the Daily Dot): 

Facebook claims to have 745 million daily active users on mobile alone. 70 million pictures are posted on Instagram a day. The somewhat still in existence social network Path has 5 million daily users. Myspace manages 50 million monthly users who bother to log in and watch a digital tumbleweed roll across their screen. 

In comparison, when you think about the Periscope and Meerkat streaming figures above, they are just a blip of activity compared to other networks. And not only that, there is the challenging quality component of live streaming.

In Conclusion 

My point is not to say that these apps aren’t worth anyone’s time. I think there are people and brands using them in inventive ways, and that’s bound to continue. Meerkat and Periscope are great advancements in streaming technology, and bring about a new age in social media and it’s capabilities. 

That said, I would not recommend dedicating a portion of your marketing budget to your Periscope or Meerkat efforts. As marketers, it’s our job to tinker with the latest and greatest, but we are also charged with the task of evaluating ROI before spending a dime. Until we see that our time and money are met with the potential of a network, anything beyond experimentation should wait. 

What do you think?

Article image via Ian Adams

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