Meerkat sounds really lame. I tried to explain it to my friend tonight, and I realized this almost at once.
“It’s this app that let’s you livestream whatever you’re doing to Twitter. But it’s like, kinda cool to see normal people live their lives.”
He responded with a blank stare, followed by a shrug – and I can empathize completely. After all, who cares? Does anybody, besides celebrities perhaps, really have interesting enough lives to warrant a real-time stream?
I got Meerkat today to try it out. The concept is simple: download the app (iOS only at the time of this writing), plug in your Twitter credentials, and tap “Stream” to use your iPhone’s camera to broadcast whatever you want in real-time. Rather than having its own built-in social network, like Instagram for example, Meerkat piggybacks on your Twitter account, making it easy to comment and share streams on both the app and Twitter.
There has been tons of press about Meerkat lately, do largely to its wide-scale use during SXSW, and I decided to give it a whirl. I quickly found myself engrossed in a livestream of one guy giving a tour of his small business – a dog care facility. Later this evening I was watching 4 level 9 CPU Ice Climbers duke it out on Super Smash Bros. Melee on somebody’s TV in Tallahassee. I have a copy of Melee sitting on the shelf next to me, so why the heck did I spend 15 minutes watching it on my phone screen?
After spending another chunk of time listening to a Canadian gentleman I had never met discuss Social Media and meaningful interactions online, I was finally able to put my finger on it. Meerkat reminds me of Twitter in the early days.
Before celebrities and presidents joined Twitter, it was a small social media website that was more in-the-moment than Facebook, and as a result completely reliant on relationships between users. To cultivate a useful Twitter account you had to actually interact with people. Sure, there have always been those who have used it as a way to shout into the void that is the internet, but largely Twitter was being used by people to meet like-minded folks from across the globe to talk about current events as they unfolded.
This was all before the #hashtag was even invented. In fact, the hashtag was created as a means to group tweets that would otherwise be unconnected into a searchable, indexable picture of an event or experience that was going on. Searching for #tcot (top conservatives on twitter), for example, would get you a list of tweets about right-leaning politics. After the concept took off, Twitter decided to integrate it into the service itself, making hashtags effectively mainstream. They’ve never been the same since. #timeflies
In many ways Meerkat has the same wild west feeling that Twitter did in the early days. Some well known people have joined, but for the most part it’s void of big-named celebrities. Meerkat is almost completely populated by people like you and me; people with normal lives, work schedules, and opinions. What makes this so intriguing, for me at least, is that interacting with these other normal people has made me realize that everyone has a story. I’m used to seeing the stories of the people I know – Facebook has that base covered in spades. But when it comes to people I don’t know, Meerkat gives a glimpse into their passions and interests.
Still don’t think it’s interesting? Do what I did. Give it a shot.