Have you ever live-streamed? It's not for everyone, and it takes time and practice to perfect, but a growing number of social media users are warming to the option and are taking to live-streaming services to showcase themselves, their brands and their personalities as a means of better connecting with audiences. But how is live-streaming actually doing?
Today, Twitter-owned Periscope - one of the two big players in the live-streaming landscape - has released figures which demonstrate specifically how it's placed. And the numbers are impressive. First off, there are now more than 10 million Periscope accounts. That's an impressive rate of growth for its four months of existence - by comparison, it took Twitter two years to reach its first million users, though probably a better measure, considering the relative maturity of the social media marketplace, would be Snapchat, which took around 16 months to hit 10 million monthly active users (MAUs). And while those 10 million Periscope accounts aren't necessarily 'active users', there is a lot of activity happening on the platform, as highlighted by the further data released in an official post.
Over the Hill
The metric Periscope is most keen to emphasize is 'Time Watched Per Day', which currently sits at the equivalent of 40 years of video content watched on Periscope every 24 hours.
As per Periscope's post, 'Time Watched Per Day' is the most relevant measurement on which to judge the platform because:
"It's most reflective of the value we're creating for people and the world. Success for broadcasters means more time watched on their broadcasts. Success for the audience (viewers who are watching and participating in a Periscope) means more high quality broadcasts in their feeds that they want to watch and participate in. Success for broadcasters and their audience means success for Periscope."
Time Watched, Periscope says, is also valuable because it encapsulates viewership of Periscope broadcasts outside of iOS and Android, something that active user metrics would miss. That said, Periscope has also included a Daily Active User (DAU) chart for transparency - though they re-state that they do not consider it the most important metric for tracking the platform's success.
Even so, that graph is fast approaching 2 million daily active users - again, solid growth within only four months of operation. But the real question is how do those figures compare with that of its main rival, Ben Rubin's rapid adapting Meerkat?
Meerkat doesn't release user numbers, or hasn't released comparative figures in the same vein as Periscope. That said, since losing access to Twitter's social graph, Meerkat has continued to grow, as demonstrated by CEO Ben Rubin via tweet in June.
And while the actual numbers are strategically hidden, as is the context behind them, you can assume Meerkat use is still steady Add to this the addition of new features and it's clear that Meerkat plans to remain a rival for some time to come - yet, one metric we can compare Meerkat and Periscope on doesn't play favorably for Periscope's nimble challenger.
By comparing Twitter links back to Periscope and Meerkat in social search engine Topsy we can get some idea of their relative popularity - most, if not all, broadcasts on these services are also mentioned on Twitter (note: this may have changed slightly due to Meerkat's new relationship with Facebook), so the link numbers would, theoretically, be largely indicative of their comparative popularity.
The trends are somewhat easier to digest in isolation - here's Meerkat:
And here's Periscope:
Other than a significant dip for both on August 10th (not sure of the cause there), Meerkat's numbers are generally trending down, while Periscope's are steadily moving up. If that's to be taken as indicative, then Periscope is winning the streaming battle - not by K.O., but slowly, surely, they're pushing their lead.
But then, of course, the bigger concern for both is the introduction of new competitors in the space. Just recently, Facebook announced their first foray into live-streaming, though it's initially restricted to public figures with verified profiles - read as: celebrities (Jon Loomer wrote an excellent review of Facebook's new feature here). And while access to Facebook's live-streaming option isn't available to everyone, there was a very clear 'yet' built into the announcement - you can expect that Facebook will make this functionality available to all users in good time, and if/when it does, the sheer reach and ubiquity of Facebook could propel it's streaming service into the lead very quickly. For the bigger-backed Periscope, that's a concern, but for Meerkat, such a move could be deadly.
Update: Josh Constine at TechCrunch reported today that Facebook has revealed it'll be opening live-streaming to more users shortly.
On top of that, a new streaming service called Blab.im, which enables multi-user video chats, has proven extremely popular in recent weeks, with many live-stream advocates praising the enhanced community feel and opportunity of having four perspectives available at any one time - and these are only two of the various streaming options seeking to capitalize on the rising popularity of the form.
While the lack of definitive numbers makes it impossible to make a direct comparison between the performance of Meerkat and Periscope, the data we can access puts Periscope in the lead, and has them best placed to withstand the rising wave of challengers lurking at the fringe.
Live-Streaming for the Win?
So should you be live-streaming? As with all aspects of social media and digital marketing, it's down to your individual business and business needs. The rising popularity of live-streaming suggests that there's a clear audience demand for such content, and your brand could tap into that demand to capitalize on this, definitely, but being a successful live-stream presenter does take a certain nous and showmanship that not everyone has. But then, of course, there's the wider opportunity of the medium - recently, Applebees hosted a live-streaming "Taste the Change" event in which members of Applebees' "Stream Team" broadcast via Periscope and Meerkat from Applebees stores across America.
The event showcased the capacity for live-streaming to facilitate live events in multiple locations, with participants in a huge range of locations able to participate and play a role in the wider event, without being physically present. In this sense, Applebees is leading the way in showing what can be done, what possibilities there are in live-streaming beyond broadcasting yourself and your surrounds. With some creative thinking, there's huge opportunity in the medium to utilize it for many connective purposes.
Whether or not live-streaming is for you and your business comes down to your business, but it's worth considering the possibilities of the medium, the various angles you could take to utilize the option. Video is increasingly where communication is at, and as such, increasingly where consumer expectation is heading. Maybe there's a way for your brand to use live-streaming in this context and provide greater utility to your customers by showing, rather than telling, and connecting with them in a new way.