Pressing Pause on the New Streaming Platforms

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

video streaming meerkat periscope publishers ebooks social mediaTwo similar apps recently took the social media universe by storm: Meerkat and Periscope. Both allow you to live-stream video directly from your mobile phone to the web. The real difference between them is that Periscope is from Twitter Inc. while Meerkat isn’t, but Meerkat launched first and received $12 million in funding. If you Google those two terms together, you get over 1.5 million results (as of this writing), and they’ve only been out for a couple of weeks.

All that hype is tough to ignore, and in the pressure not to get left behind on social media, plenty of businesses are already thinking up ways to work video streaming into their marketing programs. But for most publishers, a selective approach to existing social media platforms, with a careful eye on emerging ones, is likelier to pay off better than jumping on the latest bandwagon that rolls into town.

That isn’t to diminish the significance of newcomers like Meerkat and Periscope. In some ways, the two apps are game-changers in the social media landscape—anyone can now be a broadcaster from anywhere in the world. As long as you have your phone with connectivity, you can stream your thoughts, travels, anything. I’ve seen some pretty interesting streams, from behind-the-scenes feeds from more traditional broadcasters to a really good singer/guitarist at an open mic night in a bar in Vancouver that I’m listening to as I’m writing this in Florida.

Okay, I lied—sort of. There’s mostly pretty boring stuff, too. Plenty of younger users are on both platforms just talking about themselves. There are sunrises and sunsets, people walking around cities, going shopping, cooking, eating at a restaurant or just sitting around with friends. And even though there’s something that’s occasionally interesting, the main uses for these apps so far leave me unsure what to make of them yet.

But I’m pretty sure that they have changed social communication in a big way and may eventually become part of the ‘traditional’ marketing landscape in the future, just as Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest did when they first came out and marketers didn’t know what to make of them at the time, either. For the present, I tend to agree with this sentiment over at Quartz:

But that hasn’t led to reliably great content on Meerkat and Periscope. In our experience so far, some streams have been pleasant, such as a live view of Tokyo’s Shibuya crossing. Some have been amusing. Others have been grotesque, such as a man using the toilet. None has been worth watching for more than a few moments.

When something new comes out, we all get really excited and try and figure out how we can be one of the first people on it, build a following and sell lots of our products. We’ve all done that, or thought of it.

But most of us in the book world are still trying to make Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest work to their greatest potential.

Here’s the problem with social marketing programs: the vast majority of businesses still don’t have a clue when it comes to social media. Most publishers give very nebulous answers to the question, “Why are you on [Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Google+/any other social platform]?” It’s often “because we have to be there,” “to build our brand,” “to speak to our customers,” “to create a community”—all important goals but ones that break down on a tactical level.

Most publishers are driven simply by the feeling that they need to be there. On the other hand, when I ask publishers why they are using any other type of marketing program, there are usually very specific answers, mostly related to some form of customer acquisition or revenue.

Every single platform you are on, every tool that you use, every channel you fold into your marketing portfolio needs to fit within your overall strategy for selling books.

If publishers cannot clearly elucidate the ‘Why?’ and then the ‘How?’ and ‘Who?’ and ‘What?’ and ‘When?’ followed by the metrics designed to determine success, they are probably wasting their time. Notice that the ‘Why?’ comes first. You have to answer that one before you can answer the rest.

Should publishers be using social media to get the word out about their books and helping to drive sales? Absolutely.

But here’s the secret to having a great social media marketing program: You don’t need to be on every platform. There, I said it. You have my permission to choose the platforms you are on selectively and carefully and choose to not be on others. And then really understand what will be involved in building out a following and driving sales and the most appropriate ways to use that platform for you, your markets, and your business.

If you are on a platform, you should be focused for the long-term with a full understanding of what you are doing, how you are doing it, why it is being done and what return you are expecting. It’s better to do one platform really, really well—and build an audience that will help you sell your books just on that platform—than to do multiple platforms poorly.

So what should you do about Meerkat and Periscope? Aside from downloading them to check them out? Nothing.

Unless you can clearly tell me how these platforms will fit into your overall strategy.

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