Looking down the Periscope - a social media phenomenon / by Crispin Thorold

As a comms director, who is promoting an event for teenagers and young people in their early 20s, I am constantly on the lookout for platforms that will capture the imagination of this generation. 

Meerkat wins the war of the logos but not of the apps

Meerkat wins the war of the logos but not of the apps

The democratisation of live video streaming presents great opportunities - dynamic apps like Periscope and Meerkat allow anyone with a camera on their phone and a data connection to broadcast live video..so that’s pretty much everyone except my Mum.  

At their best these broadcasts have the immediacy and excitement of live TV, without its complexity or expense.  It really is as simple as pointing and shooting with your iPhone or Android device.  

The video and audio quality can be variable, especially if in your excitement you forget to consider background noise and lighting, which is something you couldn’t get away with in TV.  But I wonder if picture/audio quality is such a major issue on mobile?  In a recent Periscope broadcast for WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 we found the format to be forgiving.  

Broadcasting on a whim

Felipe Menhem, who led digital comms for WorldSkills São Paulo, and I decided on a whim to go to the Abu Dhabi stand at WorldSkills São Paulo to play with Periscope.  There was no planning and it certainly wasn't beautiful TV, but what followed was 16 minutes of generally lively (and we thought engaging) broadcasting. 

Yes, it was a bit ragged and included a chunk of time where Felipe had to go for a wander with the camera while I tried to find people to interview, but all in all I was pretty pleased with the results.  Take a look at this edited version and tell me if you agree or not?

At the heart of the action

As you can see in this video the genius of Periscope is that it puts you right in the heart of the action, and the format is so easy.  And that really excites me as I think ahead to WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017.  

Think of the potential - we could take you behind the scenes of the competitions, or to listen in to speakers at the main conference.  You could ask questions at press conferences.  

Or perhaps there could be a more fly-on-the-wall approach - how do you fancy following around the CEO for a couple of hours to get a sense of the decisions he has to make?  You could even see the production of the opening and closing ceremonies in action - this approach has been used really well by some TV news programmes in the US who have used the app to take viewers into the gallery during a live show.  So on one screen you can watch the studio output whilst on another you see how it is being made.  

Letting my imagination run away with me what’s to stop Periscope or Meerkat being used for “citizen journalism” at the WorldSkills competitions?  Individuals could walk around the venue giving their perspectives on the drama that they see.

What's the impact?

Periscope is all the more potent for its relationship with Twitter, which amplifies its reach (Twitter purchased Periscope earlier this year and broadcasts are linked to your Twitter feed).  Given that Twitter is the location for breaking news simply reinforces the immediacy of the platform. 

Of course, Periscope/Meerkat are not without their downsides.  This is live broadcasting and mistakes are to be expected, which carries an inherent reputational risk.

Also, I have to question the impact of the Periscope broadcasts - the maximum number of followers we had at one time during our Periscope broadcast was around 40.  And after 24 hours the Periscope broadcasts are gone although this can be mitigated by saving the segments to your phone and then uploading them to YouTube to be promoted through all the usual social media channels.

What do you want to see at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017?

All in all though I am a convert to these new platforms.  I am also keen to hear what you think?  And in particular what you would like to see on video-streaming apps during WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017?  As always you can reach me via the comment page or can simply comment directly on this article.