Why You Should Pay More Attention To Periscope And Other Live Streaming Apps (Hint, They Are Not Just “Glorified Video Selfies”)

Admit it. It’s really easy to dismiss the rise of all these new live streaming mobile apps like Periscope, Meerkat, MeVee, etc as just glorified video selfies. It’s the next evolution of a trend that was made popular and mainstream by well Instagram and Snapchat.

As someone who has been fascinated by the surge in live streaming apps since Meerkat debuted a couple weeks before SXSW last year, I think it’s a mistake to write off these apps.

I might have been wrong about Meerkat being the next big thing. 

I’m not completely sold that Periscope, MeVee, Blab, etc will be around in 4 or 5 years. However, I think the larger trend of mobile live streaming is going to play a much bigger role in social media in the next few years.

On the surface, all these apps certainly seems shallow and superficial. Most of our lives aren’t interesting enough to stream all the time. But just like an onion, the more layers I pull back, the more complex and real these sites become. I feel like we are barely scratching the surface on the potential these apps have. There are so many ways that incorporating live video can strengthen and in some cases even kickstart new communities.

While live streaming isn’t exactly new, it’s been around for several years. Livesteam? Ustream? Anyone? I can remember setting up joint livestreams and Twitter chats for panels back in 2011 and 2012 for the ad agency I worked at in NYC at the time. So, what separates this new class of live streaming apps from the stuff that’s been around for years? Why exactly do I think these sites are going to be SO BIG?

1. Smartphone technology is finally good enough to support live streaming on the go.

Today, anyone with a smartphone (which is 64 percent of US adults as of April 2015) is carrying a mobile video studio in their pocket.  As long as you have WiFi, 4G or LTE service, you can stream live on the go. Whether that’s streaming to kill time in the airport, to chat with friends, or to record a protest (think Baltimore or Ferguson), all you need to do is open up the app and press record. Then, tens, hundreds or thousands of people can view and/or share it in a matter of seconds. It’s pretty incredible and powerful if you stop and think about it.

As someone who worked at a local TV news station back in 2008 and then again 2010 (that was less than 10 years ago) to stream live back then required a live satellite truck, a photog, a reporter, at least an hour of setup and no thunderstorms. The antennae on the live truck and lightning aren’t exactly friends.  Nowadays, you can be streaming at the press of a button.  Pretty freaking incredible.

2. Entire communities are springing up on these sites

Look no further than Periscope itself. Periscope is less than a year old.  It reached 10 million users within the first few months of launching.  

What’s more impressive is how tight-knit the core community of livestreamers on the app are. The community NOT Periscope NOT Twitter has thrown not one but two multi-day conferences in the span of less than 6 months. One in NYC and one in San Francisco. Both of those conferences attracted hundreds of community members from diverse backgrounds. Read; It’s not just social media marketers.

3. It’s crazy addicting.
These apps (especially Blab and Periscope) are built well and use all the right hooks to keep users engaged long enough to get hooked and build habits.

I witnessed this firsthand. Whenever a new app catches my attention, I like to spend a couple of hours digging into the app over the course of a few weeks. With Blab, my initial glance at the platform led me to spend the better part of a weekend getting sucked into the app. I actually find myself gravitating towards Blab or Snapchat (that’s for another post) now instead of my Facebook newsfeed when I start to procrastinate or have 5 minutes to kill.

4. There’s less room for fakeness and inauthenticity. 
On Facebook and Instagram in particular, everyone only posts the highlight reel of their lives. You post the best of the best moments that are probably only 2% of your day to day life. There are countless studies that show how this leads us to compare our lives to all of our friends’ highlight reels. (Not a fair comparison). This can actually lead to anxiety and depression.

With live streaming apps, there is less of this. Sure, you can put on facade and try and fake it. However, if you are broadcasting in real time, there’s so many variables that you can’t control. For example, you can’t control how people are going to comment and react. It’s how you react to all the uncontrollable variables is what will either prove that you are real and authentic or that you are a jerk, phony, etc.

5. Connection and real relationships can form. 
This is no doubt related to the previous point. When you are sharing and connecting over video, it’s easier to develop the initial seeds for relationships to flourish. (i.e. authenticity, vulnerability and trust). It’s not just words on a page. Or avatars on a screen. It’s being able to listen to what someone is saying. see their body language.and respond all in real time.

This is why I think live streaming has the potential to be a powerful tactic for strengthening connections and bonds in existing online communities.