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Meerkat Wins at SXSW, Proving the Value of Genuine Connections

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Meerkat hit Twitter by storm following a quiet launch one Friday in February—120,000 users just two weeks later, it’s amassed quite a following. The app began as a mere experiment, allowing you to broadcast yourself on Twitter in real time. In Snapchat-like fashion, your stream then disappears. In a way, Meerkat caters to that oh-so-common “fear of missing out.” You know, the reason why you haven’t cut your cable cord or are glued to your Twitter stream during live sporting events and award shows.

Using Meerkat at SXSW. Image by Anthony Quintano.

Meerkat delivers such a powerful experience so simply, it makes one wonder, why didn’t I think of that? In fact, it had some asking, why didn’t Twitter think of that? Meerkat promised great possibilities for consumers and brands alike. Starting with its launch, it opened the floodgates to real-time human connections on an already-built social network. It also had the technology community on the edge of its seat waiting for Twitter’s next move. Soon, Twitter revealed that it had in fact “thought of that” through the acquisition of Periscope. Then, the biggest blow, Twitter shut off Meerkat’s access to its social graph.

Now, Meerkat users have to manually find people to follow and vice versa rather than being automatically connected to their Twitter followings. While it’s not shocking Twitter wanted to give its own solution a leg up, the timing is what’s so interesting. Twitter only gave Meerkat two hours’ notice, and it was strategically executed at the beginning of SXSW. Ironically, the event where some of the biggest social networks got their start, including Twitter.

Over that weekend many of us wondered if the app that was going to let us make more meaningful connections with our audiences, our customers, would be gone in a flash. But, according to Meerket’s CEO and founder, that would NOT be the case. Earlier this week, Ben Rubin stated that Meerkat’s user-base grew by 30 percent after Twitter’s move. And what’s more, the app didn’t lose steam during SXSW. It overtook the conversation at the festival and earned the informal designation of SXSW’s “it” app of the year. Casey Newton at The Verge put it best by explaining “How Meerkat Conquered All at SXSW.”

So, what lessons can we as PR practitioners and drivers of brand awareness learn from all this? For one thing, your audience craves honest, authentic and genuine connections. Take SXSW, for example. Every year thousands flock to the festival and those who can’t make it scan blog and social posts from those lucky enough to hit the show floor for updates. This year, thanks to Meerkat, attendees, including celebrities, were able to bring the event to their audiences in a more meaningful and personal way, through their own perspective—uncut.

Let’s face it, when you’re reading or watching recaps of experiences, even if they’re just minutes behind the real thing, you’re on the sidelines. Despite all obstacles, Meerkat homed in on and earned a following for one undeniable fact: when you’re tuned into what’s happening live—and more importantly, seeing it through the lens of someone you choose to follow—it’s like you’re really there.


An image of PAN's Brand Experience Report on the Potentials and pitfalls of AI for marketers

In our annual Brand Experience Report, we asked marketers and customers how they are using and experiencing AI to better understand how the technology is changing that relationship.