Meerkat is as personal as Twitter used to be

screen-shot-2015-03-12-at-3-36-01-pmMeerkat 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.

Colin

Curation vs. Creation

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 11.11.28 PMEarlier this week I read Guy Kawasaki’s book titled The Art of Social Media. I’m not linking to it here because I’d rather you not read it. Harsh, I know, but bear with me.

Guy Kawasaki is undoubtedly a social media guru. He’s written books on computers, tech, and most recently social media, since the 90s and maintains a high social media presence with 1.4 million followers on Twitter and over 200,000 likes on Facebook. Yet despite this, I think he’s preaching everything that is wrong with the internet today.

In the early chapters of his book he defines the difference between content creation and content curation. The definitions are straightforward: creation brings something new and original to the table while curation shares what’s already out there. His advice, and really the theme throughout the entire book, was that if you want to make a splash in social media, the key is content curation. The reason? He advises that you can curate in a fraction of the time it takes to create. It’s much easier to tweet 20 links to funny pictures or interesting articles than it is to actually make a humorous picture or write an interesting article. He’s not wrong.

Let’s take a look at two very different websites: BuzzFeed and The Verge. You’re probably familiar with BuzzFeed – it’s one of the biggest content curators out there right now. You might not be familiar with The Verge unless you’re big into technology. To give you an idea, they cover technology about 80% of the time and current events about 20% of the time.

If you navigate over to BuzzFeed right now you’ll see a host of colorful images, “10 things people who _____ are _____ about” style articles, and more “what disney princess are you?” type quizzes than you could ever take in a lifetime. It’s a way to pass the time. It might even be fun. But I don’t know anyone who would say that BuzzFeed is meaningful, or even useful past being a pop news aggregator. BuzzFeed is the epitome of a content curator.

If you click over to The Verge, you’ll find a trendy website with large pictures, nicely arranged articles, and a tons of tech commentary. The Verge writes a few styles of articles, the most common of which are reviews about apps, websites, or the newest tablets and phones. They also feature a few long-form posts every month which go deep into a topic that often seems off the wall. Sometimes they include a lengthy video to accommodate the article. Here’s an example of one they recently wrote on a new type of cloud called the undulatus asperatus. You probably never cared about clouds, but I think you’ll find this really interesting. The Verge is a great content creator.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to creating content or curating content. In fact, both work if you want to make it big on social media. Content curating is easier for most people because it doesn’t mandate that you are actually good at anything related to computers or the internet – and for some people that sounds great! But content curating never changed the world. It never added any value to a story or conversation. If anything, it can confuse the facts by taking something out of its original context because it is more entertaining that way.

Content creation, on the other hand, has limitless potential. And if you’re one of those people that think you’re not good at anything related to computers or the internet, take a step back and re-evaluate. You have opinions worth expressing and a voice worth adding to the conversation. Maybe you’re great at crafts; it’s never been easier to sell homemade stuff online than it is now with Etsy. Maybe you’re like me and love coffee. The Reddit /r/coffee community can be a great place to share ideas and add your brew recipe to the mix.

Guy Kawasaki has created a small empire, and likely made a small fortune, based around content creation. He’s written books, started businesses, and talks to his followers online constantly. But for some reason, he advocates for curation. Why? It’s easy. It’s approachable. It helps him with book sales.

In his case, I would take a “do as I do, not as I say” approach.

The movers and the shakers in the world don’t merely curate. Sure, they may do it some of the time – they may even do it most of the time. But they are never known for that. Creation has always been what pushes mankind forward. It’s what made the Wright Brother’s successful, it’s what is making Elon Musk successful, and despite what Guy Kawasaki may say, it’s what made him successful too.

Content creation will always be king. If you want to make an impact anywhere – your home, your community, your city, or the world – then it’s time to get creative. Social media is a great 21st century way of making your voice heard – but please, for the sake of everyone who can’t stand seeing another “This mother helped a homeless man. What happened next will shock you!” article on their Facebook wall, make what you say valuable.

Colin