Is Meerkat the new Snapchat?


Since its release at the end of February, Meerkat, the new social media app, has taken the digital world by storm. Created by Israeli entrepreneur Ben Rubin, Meerkat has managed to drum up an impressive two hundred and seventy six thousand followers in its first month, as users look to take advantage of Meerkat's live video broadcast facility. It seems that everyone is talking about Meerkat, but is it really going to become the new Snapchat?

Meerkat allows its users to live-stream videos through Twitter, notifying your followers via a tweet, when you are broadcasting. Viewers are able to comment as they watch, although once the live-stream ends, you are unable to replay it, which places the new app somewhere in-between Snapchat and Twitter. In fact, the app appears to be very similar to Snapchat with this disappearing video element, but also in terms of look. The Meerkat, which is used as a logo, is placed on a yellow background, somewhat reminiscent of Snapchat's white ghost and yellow background. Perhaps this was an intentional move by founder Rubin, as he believes his creation has what it takes to compete with the likes of Snapchat.

Meerkat's live video facility is certainly catching public attention. Several celebrities, including the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jimmy Fallon and Tony Hawk have all used the app in recent weeks. Pro-skater Tony Hawk, who has 3.87 million Twitter followers, live-streamed a video of himself skateboarding in Iceland.

Not only is the Twitter page gaining an increasing following, but more than one third of users are actually watching the content for two or more hours per day! This certainly illustrates the app is successfully engaging users, but is this high level of interest set to fade once Meerkat has ridden the 'new social app' hype?

In 2007 Twitter went viral, but in the past it has proved difficult for other innovative social platforms to emulate its continued success. In 2009 Foursquare, a search and discovery app that links you to places to visit based on your social activity, also went viral, although it has since failed to reach Twitter's wide-scale level of popularity.

So how does Meerkat differ from its predecessors? Firstly, there is no sign-up process involved, as the livestreaming takes place through Twitter. The ease of using Meerkat is not only appealing to social media users, but also brands too, as they do not need to worry about creating and maintaining a whole new profile. Brands now have the ability to show off their products and services through live marketing stunts, which introduces a level of immediacy, honesty and transparency, which has never been seen before.

In contrast to Instagram's staged and edited videos, brands are now unable to hide behind false pretences, which could have positive as well as negative implications. For example, the combination of transparency and vulnerability associated with live-streaming is very powerful and subsequently, the app could prove useful as a digital storytelling tool for brands. However, due to the 'live' nature of the broadcasts, it seems inevitable that customer rants would be caught on camera, which could be very damaging to the brand. However, this will certainly not hinder Meerkat usage and if anything, surely this 'live' element, with the potential for blunders, will draw people in!

Although the concept of live-streaming itself isn't new, the development of social media sites means that they are now ready to take live video to the next level. In addition, people now feel more comfortable with the 'live' concept as it is gradually being introduced more often. Most recently, Snapchat announced that it was going to launch live sports broadcasts, starting with the NCAA Final Four, which takes place in April. However, the failure of live video on apps such as Google Hangouts and Kyte, illustrates the difficulties associated with live-streaming in the past, in terms of hitting the mainstream. Nevertheless, the difference between Meerkat and other similar apps is that Meerkat brings the live-stream to the audience, a new development that has the potential to make the app a success.

So is Meerkat going to be able to maintain its current popularity, to compete with the likes of Snapchat? This new app certainly has the capability to do so. Meerkat brings the live-stream facility to Twitter, a platform that is already well established, which is why it has so much more potential than any of its predecessors.

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