Why Meerkat is the next big marketing thing in travel [UPDATED]

UPDATE: Twitter officially announced the acquisition of Periscope, a similar app to Meerkat that has been in stealth mode. Meerkat forced their hand, so it seems that the era of mobile livestreaming is truly beginning. There will be new communities and user behaviors developing around this new form of communication, so hold onto your phones — it’s just getting interesting!

If you haven’t heard of Meerkat, then read this article quickly and then go download the app. If you have heard of Meerkat, then read this article quickly and then go download the app.

Meerkat is the next big marketing thing in travel, and your team is already missing out on the immense value of being the first to experiment and play with a platform — especially a platform that is posting unheard-of engagement numbers, with the average user spending 2 hours (!!!) per day on the platform.

What is Meerkat?

The app allows users to live stream video via Twitter. That’s it. You go in and either schedule a stream for a later time or start a live stream immediately. And then you start recording. A link will automatically be posted to Twitter to let followers now that you are streaming live.

The use cases are varied. For example, the following meerkat

The name is perfect because just as a meerkat colony has many meerkats that are constantly standing sentry observing the world around them, the app provides an instant live video view of the world.

It’s genius in its simplicity, and it’s something that is especially compelling for travel marketers. The Meerkat team calls this “spontaneous togetherness,” and while it sounds a bit cheesy, that’s random interaction with strangers is at the essence of the travel experience.

The rules of meerkat

Meerkat does have a set of parameters which make it more sticky and prime for engagement — most especially that there are no recordings  on the network. This mirrors the trend du jour of spontaneous destruction of content, making “appointment viewing” an actual thing on social media. There’s no comfort knowing that a replay is available for later viewing so the content must be consumed immediately. The video will be stored on the user’s phone if they want to post it, but likely these will be quickly deleted given the limits of on-board storage.

The immediacy of the content thus lends itself to exploration of the world through the #meerkat search on Twitter.

Finally, this is thankfully NOT another social network that you need to manage. It is simply a technology layered on top of the Twitter ecosystem, something that uses Twitter as the entry point to its own interface. You just need a Twitter account to engage, which is one key reason why Meerkat has rocketed to popularity in a couple of short weeks.

The full rules are here:

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How can we use this in travel?

Melbourne’s Remote Control Tourist project proved exactly how live video can engage across platforms to create brand awareness and interest. Meerkat has very similar DNA, insofar as it allows travel brands to show what’s going on right now in a destination.

Digital wanderers could be deployed throughout a destination to create live feeds of specific points, or could be directed through the city via live Twitter comments and suggestions. A weekly show could be created by the destination marketer that showcases one specific aspect of the city, and since Meerkat allows scheduling of streams, this could be done in advance to create buzz and excitement.

As in the example above, another great way to deploy this is during events to show status, crowds, lines and general information related to what’s going on.

Spontaneous live interviews are also a fun offshoot of the Meerkat platform, especially with a series of colorful locals offering a unique perspective on the destination. Or restaurants promoting their latest specials. Or tour operators interviewing guests at the end of a tour.

Basically, anyone on the marketing team approved to publish on Twitter now has a new venue for content creation. There are an infinite number of ways that a live stream of a tour, location, destination or activity can be used to showcase, promote and engage around awareness.

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