This column is going to focus on Periscope, Facebook Live, and YouTube Mobile Live Streaming. They represent the lions and tigers and bears, oh my, in the live streaming app category. What about Meerkat? Well, if I’d written this column at the beginning of the year, then it might have been titled, “Meerkat, Periscope, and Facebook Live, oh my!” But, the landscape in this category shifted a few months ago, and, with the roll-out of YouTube Mobile Live Streaming, something had to give. Hey, I’ve never heard a joke that starts, “Four people with live streaming apps walk into a bar….”

So, let’s take a close look at Periscope, Facebook Live, and YouTube mobile live streaming. And then, if we have a little extra time, we might circle back to take a quick look at what happened to Meerkat – although this will totally violate the rule of three, an arbitrary, whimsical, and capricious writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.

Periscope: What Video Marketers Need to Know 

Periscope is a free app that enables video marketers to share live video broadcasts from their smartphones. And the experience isn’t one-way; viewers can provide feedback in real-time by sending comments and hearts. There are some other Periscope features that video marketers should know about:

  • Twitter: Video marketers can choose to share their Periscope broadcasts on Twitter by tapping the bird icon before they start broadcasting. When they go live, they can also tweet a link so that their Twitter followers can watch either on the web or in the app.
  • Replay: When a broadcast is over, video marketers can make it available for replay so other viewers can watch it later. Viewers can replay a broadcast with comments and hearts to relive the full experience. Replays currently last 24 hours, but a video marketer can delete a replay at any time.
  • Private: If video marketers want to broadcast to specific people, then they simply press the lock icon before going live and choose who to invite to watch it.
  • Manage notifications: Periscope will suggest people for video marketers to follow based on their Twitter network. Video marketers can always follow new people, or unfollow them if they don’t want those people to be notified when they go live. Video marketers can also adjust their notification preferences in the Periscope Settings of their Profiles.
  • Hearts: Hearts are a quick and easy way for viewers to let a broadcaster know that they are enjoying the broadcast. Viewers just tap their screen to share the fun!

Ross Hoffman, the Senior Director of Global Brand Strategy at Twitter, recently shared some additional tips and examples of brands that are using Periscope. For example, Target used Periscope to tease its Lilly Pulitzer line in April and 90% of the collection sold out in a few days. The brand found Periscope so effective that it used the app again in May to broadcast its Eddie Borgo designer jewelry and handbags.

Features May be Prime Minister, but Content is King!

But, no matter which mobile app you use for live streaming, here are some ideas and best practices that you’ll want to “borrow” from Hoffman. He kicks off his list of tips and examples by saying: “Choose the right content.” In other words, features may be the current Prime Minister, but content is still King (or Queen, depending on where you live)!

So, it may be worth knowing that when you go live on Periscope, it will instantly notify your followers, who can join, comment, and send you hearts in real-time. Oh, it’s probably also worth knowing that the more hearts you get, the higher they flutter on the screen. But, if you really want to make the big bucks, then you’ll want to help your company or clients figure out which types of content are more suitable for live streaming before they go live. And, according to Hoffman, there are seven types of content that you might consider broadcasting:

  • Cross-platform stories: What the heck are these? Well, Hoffman illustrates this type of content with a fresh example. Orange France, a telecom company, recently used Periscope to add an interactive element to a TV campaign. The brand ran a TV ad, then asked Twitter users to cast votes about the ad using the hashtag #HelpVictor. Now, that’s a cross-platform story.
  • Product launches: Okay, we all know what this type of content is, but Hoffman provides another fresh example. In May, Adobe’s network of product evangelists started broadcasting daily Periscopes from around the world to build buzz about upcoming features. And in early June, the brand celebrated the anniversary of the 2015 version of Creative Cloud with Periscopes every hour, on the hour, for 24 hours. Yeah, that’s an idea you could “borrow” for your next product introduction.
  • Special promotions: We all know what this type of content is, too. But, here’s another fresh example that you can mention in your next marketing meeting: In April, Taco Bell hosted a mock press conference to promote “Breakfast Defector Day.” The brand invited viewers to stop by their fast-food restaurants on Cinco de Mayo to enjoy a free Biscuit Taco. Hot idea, right?
  • Customer education: This type of content is self-explanatory. But, here’s an example to add to your growing repertoire of brands that are using Periscope to share how-to videos and tutorials: Benefit Cosmetics Periscoped makeup artist Maggie Ford Danielson sharing beauty tips. I know, I’m not the target demographic, but I’m told by reliable sources that this is a very popular genre.
  • VIP access: Next you can always provide access to exclusive events with your best customers or key influencers. As an example, Hoffman mentioned the luxury fashion company Coach, which gave followers a front row seat to the #coachmens2016 fashion show in London on June 13. The brand also used Periscope to take viewers backstage with the show’s models, and to broadcast an exclusive interview with its creative director. Hey, you can do things like that, as well.
  • Ordinary moments: For example, Hoffman mentioned that Red Bull Periscoped a group of its sponsored athletes “wakeskating” in Austin, Texas. The athletes were enjoying a day off from the X Games. Okay, some people’s idea of “ordinary” looks pretty extraordinary, if you ask me.
  • Extraordinary moments: As an example, Hoffman mentioned Nestlé Drumstick, which recently celebrated the first day of summer with Periscopes from iconic summer settings: Florida beaches, amusement parks, and backyard picnics. Okay, some people’s idea of “extraordinary” looks pretty “ordinary,” if you ask me. But, let’s not bicker and argue.

Hoffman also provided five additional tips (without fresh examples). They included:

  • Create anticipation: Video marketers can send Promoted Tweets about their company or client’s upcoming Periscopes a few days in advance to create buzz and wet people’s appetites. And when starting the broadcast, they shouldn’t forget to share the link on Twitter.
  • Be real: Believe it or not, there’s no need to write a script before broadcasting on Periscope. According to Hoffman, viewers come to Periscope expecting real-time action rather than a polished performance. And, if your executives or clients still feel the need to rehearse, then remember what Groucho Marx said, “Sincerity is the key to success. Once you can fake that youve got it made.
  • Be responsive: Treat Periscope as an interactive tool – because, well, it is. Broadcasters should acknowledge their viewers, and encourage them to engage by asking them questions and responding to their comments in real time. And, if executives or clients need to duck the occasional question, then they should use the old “let-me-get-back-to-you-on-that” response. (It’s an American classic.)
  • Make the most of your content: Periscopes last for 24 hours – kinda, sorta like Snapchat Stories. So, encourage replays to reach a wider audience as well as to create the Fear-Of-Missing-Out (FOMO). Why? Well, wouldn’t it be nice if even more users tuned in for your next broadcast? Of course, you can also get a bigger audience for your Periscope broadcasts by turning them into Promoted Videos. Yes, that requires buying advertising. But, Twitter needs to pay its bills, too.
  • Evaluate and optimize: I don’t need to tell Tubular Insight readers that examining metrics such as viewer count, average watch time, and number of replays can help you determine how effective your Periscope broadcast was. But, what do you do if your viewer count was low? Well, try promoting your Periscope account in advance on Twitter so users have a chance to download the app and follow you. And what do you do if your average watch time was shorter than you’d like? Well, scour viewers’ live chats for feedback, and brainstorm ways to make your content more interesting. As I said earlier, content is still King (or Queen).

Now, that’s a ton of great advice – and a plethora of new examples – that you can use whichever mobile app you use for live streaming. But wait, there’s more!

Seven tips for using Facebook Live

Let’s take a look some tips for using Facebook Live. When Facebook Live was launched last summer, only “public figures” (aka celebrities) got access to it via Facebook’s Mentions app. And, let’s face it, celebrities don’t really need to worry about building an audience for whatever they stream live. However, as Facebook Live started rolling out recently to everyone in the US using its iOS and Android apps, it is worth noting that “build an audience” was the first tip in a list of 7 tips that the social network shared. Here’s the complete list of Facebook Live tips and a couple of examples:

  • Build an audience: You should let people know ahead of time when you’ll be broadcasting live by posting something on your News Feed. Here’s an example from Mario Batali, a self-described Public Figure. What else can you do? Well, you can always promote the post. Hey, Facebook has to pay its bills, too.
  • Have a strong connection: Yep, you need to check to make sure that you have a strong signal before going live. WiFi tends to work best, but if you can’t find a nearby network, you’ll want a 4G connection. If you have weak signal, the “Go Live” button will be grayed out. I recently got a Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot to solve this problem.
  • Write a compelling description of your live event: A great description should capture your customers’ attention and help them understand what your broadcast is about. Here’s a recent example from President Barack Obama.
  • Ask your viewers to follow you: Tell your audience to tap on the Follow button on your live videos as well as videos that were live to opt-in to get notifications the next time you go live. You don’t want to become yet another one-hit wonder.
  • Use a little schmooze optimization: Your audience will be thrilled if you mention their name and answer their questions when you’re live. This is the essence of schmooze optimization. Here’s an example from Michael Bublé, a Canadian singer, songwriter and actor.
  • Broadcast for at least 10 minutes: Think about it: the longer you broadcast, the more likely people are to discover it and invite their friends on Facebook to watch the streaming video. In fact, Facebook recommends that you go live for at least 10 minutes, and you can stay live for up to 90 minutes. Here’s an example from Jack Jones TV.
  • Test, test, and test some more: You should try different types of broadcasts – and go live frequently – to keep your audience engaged. Here are some examples of experiments conducted by Vin Diesel, Lady Antebellum, and Carson Daly. Remember, these are tests. These are just tests. Hey, you can always visit live.fb.com to find more tips and ideas.

As you can clearly see, using Facebook Live isn’t quite as simple as point and shoot. But, you also don’t need a big budget, weeks of preparation, and a production crew to connect with your followers and create new ones along the way. Which brings us to YouTube mobile live streaming.

YouTube Mobile Live Streaming

Recently, Kurt Wilms, Product Lead, Immersive Experiences at YouTube, announced that YouTube mobile live streaming will be rolling out to all users of the platform. Sounds great and I suspect that many of video marketers will take advantage of this new way to share your company’s or clients’ experiences with their communities. In fact, some YouTube creators already have. Check out what The Young Turks live streamed at VidCon:

Personally, I’m glad that this option will be built right into the YouTube app, because mobile live streaming will have all the features that your regular videos have – your target audience will be able to search for them, find them in related videos and playlists, and protect them using Content ID. And since YouTube mobile live streaming will use Google’s “robust” infrastructure, it should be faster and more reliable than anything else out there. Should be.

But, let’s not drink the Kool-Aid. You will need to do a lot more than just hit the big red capture button, select a thumbnail, and broadcast live to your fans. It’s going to take advanced preparation, a lot of imagination, and a Plan B in case something goes wrong. Why do I know all this? Well, I tried to use YouTube Live back in June 2011 when it was rolled out. And I’ve read YouTube Live’s best practices, that why. Let me just cherry-pick a couple of examples to give you a flavor for what I’m talking about. Among other things, YouTube’s streaming guidelines say:

  • “Begin testing no less than two weeks prior to your event to ensure everything works properly.” Two weeks! How many of you have that kind of lead time on a live video project?
  • “Always encode on dedicated machine with a fast dual core or greater CPU.” In other words, if you’re using your desktop or laptop as your encoder, don’t use it for anything else.
  • “Connect your encoder to a hard-wired internet connection with no less than 1.5 Mbps consistent upstream bandwidth.” Oh, and this connection should be dedicated solely to your live stream. Try getting that in a hotel ballroom.
  • “Whenever possible, you should have complete redundancy.” This means you need two separate encoders on two separate networks streaming to separate entry points – the primary and the backup. That won’t be cheap.
  • “If you decide to incorporate third-party content in a live stream, you must clear the rights to use and monetize this content on YouTube.” What are they talking about? Nine times out of 10, it’s the music.

Now, this was for the version of live streaming that YouTube rolled out back in 2011. And, if you’re planning something on the scale of the Royal Wedding in 2011, Felix Baumgartner’s leap from space in 2012, or a 360-degree live stream during Coachella earlier this year, then this is still excellent advice. But, let’s hope that YouTube publishes some new advice for mobile live streaming in the near future. Otherwise, adoption of YouTube mobile live streaming will be slower than molasses in January.

Meerkat: What Video Marketers Need to Know 

This is why it’s worth taking a quick look at Meerkat, even though this violates the rule of three. Meerkat allows you to live stream video from your smartphone to all of your Twitter followers at once. Just press “Stream” and your live video stream instantly shows up in your follower’s Twitter feeds. When your followers have the app, they’ll also get pushed notifications of your live stream. They can watch, comment, and interact with you using the app. Now, Meerkat has some rules:

  • Everything that happens on Meerkat happens on Twitter.
  • Streams will be pushed to followers in real time via push notifications.
  • People can only watch it live. There are no reruns.
  • Watchers can retweet any stream to their followers in real time.
  • Everyone can watch on web.
  • Be kind.

But, three months ago, Kurt Wagner of re/code reported that Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin had sent an email to his company’s investors, saying, “The distribution advantages of Twitter/Periscope and Facebook Live drew more early users to them away from us and we were not able to grow as quickly alongside as we had planned.” Since then, Meerkat has done what start-ups often do. It has pivoted and is now heading in a different direction.

So, although the Meerkat app still works, there’s a reason why it’s been replaced by YouTube mobile live streaming in this article. Plus, this technically allows me to adhere strictly to the rule of three. Hey, there’s a reason we’ve never heard a joke that starts, “Four people with live streaming apps walk into a bar….”