Is Meerkat the future of video social media or a species of rodent?

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It’s a question you’re likely to have pondered on since the launch of the platform last month. Or not, as the case may be.
Here at Manchester’s Best Consumer PR Agency (not our words, Michael, but those of the folk at PR Moment), we’re always keen to get involved with latest digital trend, fad and revolution, even if it is simply to work out whether an innovation merely falls into the former two categories, or is destined to be described as the latter. As such when a brand new video social media platform arrived in February we took it upon ourselves to do some digging. Or at least mess about with the network in question.
If you’re unaware, we’re talking about Meerkat, which, thankfully, isn’t Comparethemarket.com’s latest effort to have us all switching insurance providers. Instead it’s a somewhat bizarrely Christened start up that some have touted as the next big thing in citizen journalism. Only time will tell whether that becomes a reality or not, but either way it’s probably wise for us to fill in some of the gaping blanks that you may have noticed in this blog’s introduction.
So, what on Earth does Meerkat do? Well, on the face of it there are huge similarities between this and YouTube. Alarm bells ringing aplenty, taking on one of the biggest web brands in the business at its own game may sound like a terrible idea. Meerkat users sign up for an account through their Twitter details, Meerkat automatically links this to your established contacts on Twitter, and automatically tweets a link to view a video stream whenever one becomes active.
Hardly life changing stuff. Then you read the bit where it says ‘videos cannot be saved to watch at a later date’, and it all begins to get a little more interesting. Because on Meerkat content is not stored, but instead streams, For One Night Only-style, direct from whatever device is being used to record the video. That means unless you save it to your phone, tablet or camera, once you stop that stream the footage is lost forever.

As Stuart Heritage wrote for MediaGuardian yesterday:
You suspect that, one day, a live-streaming app similar to Meerkat will become very important. An enterprising citizen journalist – previously afraid of the ramifications of uploading permanent footage to the internet – will stream an event that the mainstream media has either ignored or can’t access, and help to bring it to wider attention. The next time there’s a Ferguson or an Arab spring, Meerkat will almost certainly be a defining voice.
But that hasn’t happened yet, because the majority of smartphone owners tend not to have regular access to agenda-setting uprisings. Which means that, in my experience at least, the main role of Meerkat right now is to demonstrate just how colossally mundane our lives are. I’ve just moved to a small town not known for its broiling undercurrent of political tension. It’s so small that people here still point at aeroplanes. Late last year, someone threw some yoghurt at a police car and it actually made the news.
Needless to say, though, this hasn’t stopped a number of brands taking up positions as early adopters. Here’s a quick overview of a few names currently in the mix…
*CNN- The global news giant has been filming behind the scenes footage, streamed onto Meerkat.
*Red Bull has been broadcasting snowboarding trials.
*Several celebrities are courting their fans via the network- Ashton Kutcher, U.S. weatherman Al Roker, and Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, to name but three.
With SXSW well underway in Austin, Texas, it will surprise few to learn that the number of Meerkat-related discussions has increased exponentially in recent days. Since the platform went live in February it has garnered over 100,000 users, and that number is rising- an impressive figure made possible thanks to all that handy Twitter integration.
Whether this initial success is destined to continue is up for debate, but there’s clearly much potential in this digital rodent given Twitter has now stopped Meerkat accessing its social graph (which would automatically point you in the direction of other Meerkat users’  Twitter details), a move that coincides with the announcement that Twitter is set to launch its own live video stream outlet. From little cousin to potential future competitor in one fell swoop says a lot about how seriously this idea is being taken by the big guns.
For the time being, though, it’s all a bit too soon to predict what’s around the corner,  either for Meerkat or any other similar network. But, from a brand perspective, it’s always useful to know about things as they are blowing up, and prepare your company for possible involvement before the vast majority have even heard about the platform.
Consider this you’re quick fire brief then; do with it what you will.