Spotlight: A Look at Video Engagement's Viability

Real-time video streaming platforms Meerkat and Twitter's Periscope are giving rise to a new form of engagement that's gaining a lot of buzz. Is video the shiny new object or sustainable, long-term marketing medium?

Today's video landscape looks vastly different from 10 years ago and it will change even more in the coming years. In 2005, YouTube was just getting started, Apple's iPhone didn't exist yet, and people were still talking about MySpace.

Fast forward to today where viewers are watching TV shows on a smartphone and sharing videos on Facebook and Twitter. These changes give marketers fresh opportunities (and challenges) to capture consumer attention. Here are three ways that video is transforming the marketing landscape.

1. Making Mobile even Stickier

Whereas content creators were once warned to keep their videos short or lose viewers, mobile screens are being increasingly used for streaming longer-form video, according to a survey conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) of consumers from 24 countries who watch smartphone videos. Thirty-six percent of the respondents said they watch videos that are five minutes or longer on their phones daily or more frequently.

And when mobile video viewers do watch traditional television, 22 percent are regularly doing so while watching video simultaneously on their phones. The ability to watch movies, TV shows, and other digital content on a phone or tablet means people are spending even more time on mobile devices, making it essential that brands tailor their content appropriately, such as by allowing users to share the videos or let others know what they're watching.

As for platforms, 62 percent of the respondents said YouTube was the number one way they discover video to view on their phones, followed by social media platforms (33 percent), search results (20 percent), and advertising (14 percent). And mobile apps were the main method for viewing digital videos. Nearly half (48 percent) said that they "only" or "mostly" leverage mobile apps to stream video on their phones and 18 percent said they "only" or "mostly" use mobile websites to view video.

Creative content is crucial for engaging consumers across an increasingly fragmented media landscape, observed Ashu Garg, general partner at the venture capital firm Foundation Capital. "Linear TV is on its way out; [people] now choose what they want to watch, where, and on what device," Garg told attendees at the Digital Video: IAB Marketplace conference last week.

The fragmentation of audiences and devices, Garg continued, presents brands with new opportunities to be creative in communicating with consumers. "The important thing to remember is that this isn't a static environment. Brand advertising will become more like search advertising-it'll be textual and in real time and the best brands will unleash that creativity across new formats."

2. You're on Live Video
Startups Meerkat and Periscope (acquired by Twitter) are generating a lot of buzz with technology that lets users broadcast live video streams to their followers via smartphones. Early adopters including Katy Perry, Jimmy Fallon, and brands like Mountain Dew and DKNY are dabbling with the platforms to promote their content and connect with a young audience base.
Katy Perry promoted her Epix concert movie on Periscope by streaming footage of celebrities arriving for the film's premier, encouraging followers to tweet along with the hashtag #PerryScope. On Meerkat, Jimmy Fallon livestreamed the rehearsal for The Tonight Show and Madonna tried to launch her "Ghosttown" music video. It appears the platform was quickly overwhelmed by users, though, since fans attempting to watch the music video received an error message for several hours. Additionally, brands like Mountain Dew, Spotify, and DKNY have been among the first companies to experiment with these platforms, mainly to provide behind-the-scene glimpses and to stream events.

Meerkat versus Periscope
Meerkat and Periscope are the frontrunners of live video streaming with a few key differences. Meerkat and Periscope users both have the option of broadcasting their content immediately or scheduling the stream. Followers can watch the content on a mobile device or PC by clicking on a link, whereby the video fills the screen of your device. Neither platform places a time limit on how long you can stream content. However, streaming video can eat up a lot of data and battery power.

If you miss the broadcast on Meerkat, you're out of luck. Meerkat doesn't allow users to rewatch videos or save them-further reinforcing the idea of immediacy and urgency with live streaming. With Periscope, users can save, upload, and watch live streams from the past. Periscope was also acquired by Twitter, which gives it additional resources for engaging users.

When Twitter acquired Periscope in March it quickly limited Meerkat's access to Twitter users. Meerkat users, for example, can't automatically sync their Twitter followers to live broadcasts on the platform. Unsurprisingly, Meerkat now works with Facebook. Users can publish Meerkat alerts directly to Facebook, and sign into the video app with a Facebook login as well as Twitter. There's no guarantee though that Facebook won't limit Meerkat's access to its followers too and so Meerkat is also encouraging users to connect with others on its own app.

Livestream video sounds interesting, but are people using it? Periscope garnered 1 million users within 10 days after Twitter launched it and Meerkat founder Ben Rubin claimed in May that Meerkat has nearly 2 million users. It's unclear though whether usage rates will continue to grow after the novelty of livestream videos fade. For companies that are considering using Meerkat or Periscope as a marketing platform, a good first step is to find out if customers are already using it, advises Andrew Jung, corporate marketing associate at Blue Fountain Media.

"You can easily download one of these programs to see if a large percentage of your Twitter followers have accounts, and then base that as the deciding factor for investing your time and efforts into the app," Jung notes. "If you're looking to do live video for events, seminars, or demonstrations-it may be a great marketing channel to leverage."

Brands should also be careful to not invest too many resources into these platforms, especially when the video streaming technology is still developing. If video streaming takes off, other companies could easily offer similar features, Jung adds.

"While the market holds a great deal of potential-especially with the critical role social media plays today-it's hard to see users gravitating towards multiple live streaming platforms," Jung says."While many users have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat-and may use all of them regularly, each of these channels really does offer something different. In terms of functionality, Meerkat and Periscope offer very similar features."

3. Shoppable Videos
Companies are experimenting with other video formats as well. Visa teamed up with Williams-Sonoma on a four-part "shoppable" YouTube video series to promote Visa Checkout (Visa's online service that lets users store their payment and shipping information) and Williams-Sonoma's summer line. The videos were created in partnership with Tastemade, a food lifestyle network for digital platforms, starring influencers who provide viewers with tips and tricks for hosting summer parties.

Using YouTube's shoppable video technology viewers can buy showcased products by clicking directly from the video. Viewers will see a prompt in the upper right hand corner of the videos that, when tapped or clicked, reveals cards for showcased products. Clicking on a card takes shoppers to the item's product page on the Williams-Sonoma site. The videos will be launched over the next few weeks.

"We're trying to up the ante on consumer engagement," says Caroline Capers, director of global innovation marketing and communications at Visa. "We want to provide people with creative ways to see merchant's products, even while they're on the go."