March 27, 2015 / by Jenny Wittman

What seemed to be an overnight sensation during SXSW just a week ago, live streaming app Meerkat has now caught the attention of the media, music and tech industries. With the ability to tap into a large audience, Meerkat has the potential to be an influential tool for business owners, journalists, digital marketers and everyday Joes. While still in the early stages of implementation, app users are finding creative and engaging ways to expand their brand and tell their story.

Meerkat is designed to allow anyone with an iPhone or an iPad to stream live video which connects through Twitter. At launch, users had the same follows and followers as they did on Twitter. But as the social networking site purchased a similar streaming service, Periscope, last month, it was only a matter of time before Twitter blocked its social graph for the Meerkat app.

Meerkat’s creator and CEO Ben Rubin knew competition was inevitable, and it will be interesting to see how Twitter allows for certain functionality down the line. For now, Meerkat users can still use their Twitter usernames and passwords to connect; it is just a matter of establishing their own network within the app.

When logged in, you will be able to see what live streams are happening in that moment and search by hashtags. Additionally, when streams start, a tweet will be sent out with the live feed link and will be tagged with the hashtag #meerkat. The stream is not recorded, unless viewers archive it under YouTube via #Katch – with users’ approval. Typically though, archiving is not the point. Meerkat is about catching the video in the moment and interacting live with fans and viewers.

Meagan Nordmann, digital marketing lead for @Pay, attended SXSW and was taken aback by how fast Meerkat caught on. She was introduced to the app during the first night’s Startup Crawl and then used it to find where she should go to next at the festival.

“The adoption of Meerkat at SXSW was certainly viral. Several days in, I was on the dance floor of a great band, and realized I couldn’t dance because there were too many people meerkatting the show,” she said.

Shannon Baker, EVP of Public Relations and Social Media at Gatesman+Dave Inc. in Pittsburgh, was also intrigued by its overnight success. “I knew Meerkat app was here to stay – at least for a little while – when heavy hitters like Starbucks, Red Bull and the Today Show began experimenting with it,” she said. “The idea of ‘spontaneous togetherness’ has taken social consumption to another level, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for the app.”

Journalists, politicians, technology and consumer brands are already using the app to broadcast their stories and the easy-to-use interface allows anyone the chance to promote or share an experience.

Chicago musician and music label owner at Mooster Records Brandon Harrod has tested out the app and has plans to utilize Meerkat in the near future. “It’s a great way to get the word out on events that are happening now,” he said. “Some other ideas I have had for my own use is live streaming an intimate performance at home, streaming a band practice for my band or live band interviews after or before the show.”

Meerkat Rules

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How has engagement been thus far? A few Meerkat industry professionals weighed in:

“Even testing it out, we’re seeing this is going to be a fun way to engage with audiences. The more you can interact with people in real time, the better.” – CJ Johnson, head creative and marketing at Buddytruk

“The benefits of Meerkat for marketers and PR professionals are numerous and it’s a great way to engage customers on a day-to-day basis as well as special events. It puts the viewer right in the middle of the action through the eyes of the attendee.”  – Courtney Walsh, founder of Media Darling PR

“This is the fastest possible way to get feedback. You are broadcasting things as you think of them. I think we have an exciting, young brand that I want people to know about. Instead of trying to work out how to communicate this via branding, I can make myself the brand. Communicate my values through my content and resonate with my audience. A lot of brands will live and die by this and it will become clear who is being genuine and who isn’t.”  – Lee Parsons, CEO of Ditto Music

“While Meerkat offers some engagement by way of text comments, in my experiences so far Meerkat still seems like a one way door to share live streams. In loud spaces or fast-moving scenes, it’s difficult to answer questions from fans using the app since you can only reply using audio that can be picked up on the mic.” – Matthew Hurst, New York based social media manager  

“I think both the day to day and live interview capabilities have the possibility to break news and in turn could be a whole new audience for people that already have huge followers, pre-Meerkat.” – James Pearson, EVP Corporate Communications at Grooveshark

“This connection creates brand advocacy and cements the relationship buyers have with a brand – it’s cost effective too! It used to be that brands could only get noticed if they had deep pocketbooks, now with social media and apps like Meerkat, brands can reach millions of people at little to no cost. It’s a win-win for everyone.” – Shannon Baker, EVP of Public Relations and Social Media at Gatesman+Dave


One challenge that that is an obvious concern is privacy and potential for abuse. There’s a gray area that has not yet been defined since it’s hard to tell how the app will progress.

“Are we now all public domain? How do we stop this once it steam rolls?” Parsons wondered. “I like controlling my own content via Meerkat, but I do not want to be filmed by other people going about my daily life, which will undoubtedly happen.”

Another challenge is over-saturation. “I would caution against over-use,” Nordmann said. “Like having bad content, having too much content, even if it’s good stuff is also a turn-off. Some publications are meerkatting every 20 minutes and it’s just overkill.”

With Twitter’s acquisition of Meerkat competitor Periscope, will the app have a lasting presence? Or will it be killed off before it even had a chance to succeed?  Legalities aside, Meerkat has shown that the social media community is ready, and excited, for live face to face interaction.

“I believe keeping an open mind about services like Meerkat is important to further innovation on the Internet, especially on social,” Ryan Vinnicombe Social Content Solutions Associate at Arnold Worldwide said. “Whether it’s Meerkat, Twitter’s Periscope or larger services like Twitch, live streaming is here to stay – what we do with it is the big question.”

Live Streaming for PR

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user @ariskina

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About Jenny Wittman

Jenny Wittman is senior editor and features writer for Cision Blog and oversees the daily media updates on the site. She is also senior media researcher at Cision and joined the company in March 2008. She likes being outdoors, going to concerts, traveling and exploring art galleries. She adores all animals and has a fascination for the cosmos. Find her on Twitter @jennywittman.