meerkat opportunities in legal marketingBy now many of you may have heard of Meerkat. The darling of the SXSW annual digital and music conference held in Austin. It seems that anywhere you turned people were talking about and trying out the new app. Meerkat is a live video broadcasting platform that uses Twitter to connect brands with their followers. The app launched a few weeks back and many of the digerati have been using the app and raving about its functionality and potential marketing value.  Viewers can view the streaming video on Twitter in real-time and can tweet back and have those tweets appear on-screen, allowing for real-time interaction and conversations.

Meerkat’s success relies heavily on its tight integration with Twitter. Twitter saw the potential value of live streaming video and recently purchased a company called Periscope that also has a live streaming video app that has not launched yet.  And now Twitter has begun to cut off Meerkat’s access to its social graph. This means that Meerkat users can no longer rely on Twitter to automatically stream video to a user or brands Twitter followers. Now if you want to use the Meerkat app, you need to build or replicate your Twitter followers inside the Meerkat app.

The founder of Meerkat, Ben Rubin called Twitter’s move “a sad day for the Twitter developer community” but a “small bump for meerkat”. However, it is clearly more than a small bump for Meerkat. While the app has a fair amount of momentum behind it, it is certainly a problem when the platform you rely on just purchased a major competitor.

For legal marketers, the Meerkat story presents both an opportunity and a lesson learned. The opportunity is in the technology. Streaming live video from an app inside Twitter is an exciting new functionality that presents marketers with a wide array of new possibilities. Legal marketers can now live stream CLE conferences, events, and capture legal developments as they evolve. All of this can be accomplished via smart phone. Law firms and legal marketers will no longer be required to spend large sums of money to secure video services when lawyers speak and present at events. This in turn will allow legal marketers to be more nimble and capture more video whenever a lawyer speaks or presents. This type of content, which can now be easily created and shared, gives law firm marketers the ability to deliver highly engaging, visual content to their target audience in a seamless fashion.

The Meerkat story also serves as a lesson learned for law firms and legal marketers. As I wrote in a previous blog post, law firms and legal marketers should not build where they rent. Meerkat decided to build their entire business and strategy around a social network (in this case Twitter) that they didn’t own and therefore couldn’t control. When Twitter recognized the value of live video streaming, they decided to go out and buy a company to add that functionality to their service. The same can be said for law firms. As I previously wrote, law firms are over reliant on services like JD Supra, Law 360 and others as well as the LinkedIn platform to build out their publishing and distribution platforms. This, in my opinion is a big mistake. Law firms should be spending time and effort to build out their own platforms, micro-sites and blogs, where they can own and control their content and their visitors interaction with that content.

There are many lawyers today who are using the LinkedIn publishing platform as the only source to publishing and distributing their content. While the LinkedIn publishing platform is a great platform that allows lawyers and legal marketers to expand their reach, the fact remains that the LinkedIn publishing platform belongs to LinkedIn. If one day, LinkedIn decides to turn off the platform or make changes in the way content is distributed or shared, lawyers and legal marketers will be left holding the proverbial bag.

This is not to imply that legal marketers shouldn’t use content syndication services and social networks to expand their reach. They are certainly useful in that regard. However, law firms and legal marketers should be building and maintaining their own publishing platforms where they have full control over their content and their audience.

From my perspective, I hope that Meerkat ends up being a success despite the Twitter acquisition of Periscope. I think that the innovative app is full of promise and opportunity for marketers. I am sure, however, that Meerkat and other app developers have learned a valuable lesson and I hope legal marketers who are paying attention will also learn and take steps to build out their own platforms.

What is your perspective of the Meerkat story? Do you foresee using the app? How would you integrate the functionality of the Meerkat or Periscope app into your digital marketing mix? Please share your comments with us.

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