This column should carry a warning label, similar to the chemicals under my kitchen sink. Why? Because although I’m about to introduce you to some bright, shiny new marketing tools, I want you to consider them in context.
So, here’s my warning: Do not attempt without a solid marketing strategy. Consider whether the tool is right for your business. Be sure you have the resources for using the tool effectively, consistently and efficiently. Do not mix with bleach. (Oh, wait … that last one really was from under my sink.)
In other words, make sure you use these platforms to enhance—rather than distract from—your business goals. “The tool itself isn’t cool,” explains social-marketing consultant Mack Collier. “It’s what the tool allows people to do that’s interesting.”
1. Meerkat and Periscope
These are free apps that allow you to tweet live video from your smartphone. Once you start your presentation, the apps broadcast live to your Twitter fan base and to friends you’ve added on the service. Right now, both are available only in iOS, although Android users can watch the streams.
The rival apps launched within days of each other in March. There are subtle differences—since Periscope is from Twitter, it has slightly more robust features—but the functionalities are similar. Both apps allow viewers to comment on the streaming video and to see how many other users are currently viewing. They also allow viewers to signal their approval through a “like” (Meerkat) or a “heart” (Periscope).
Both apps offer “a great way to give a backstage or behind-the-scenes look at your company,” says David Meerman Scott, author of multiple books about marketing, sales and PR.
Car brands Jaguar, Toyota, Mercedes and Nissan have used Meerkat and Periscope to give sneak peaks of their latest models. You could use either app to stream real-time video to your audience or customers; for example, you might want to show what it’s like to work at your company. “It’s also an excellent tool for real-time interviews of employees and customers,” Meerman Scott says.
For public speakers, live-streaming video is a way to extend the onstage experience: A speaker could stream a talk live, or flip the camera to show the live audience to a virtual one. “Or I can deliver a short Periscope live video preview of my talk while I am waiting in the green room,” Meerman Scott adds. “I can use this as an opportunity to share what I’ll talk about and encourage people to attend.”
A social media platform and community for streaming audio content, SoundCloud has been around for seven years or so, embraced by musicians looking to build an audience. But companies like Red Bull and Blue Bottle Coffee, as well as individuals like photographer and author Dane Sanders, have used it to create and share audio. The service offers free and paid plans.
Companies might use SoundCloud as a podcasting platform, or to deliver exclusive audio content to their audiences. It can record companion audio to a blog post or article—in some cases, a user might simply read the post and upload it to the text version, then use the SoundCloud embed capability to publish it alongside the text. I like the way online magazine The Distance uses SoundCloud to publish related (but not identical) audio alongside a longer text article, thus delivering a rich multimedia experience.
Many of your friends on Facebook probably tell you what they’re listening to throughout the day using this streaming music service. Like SoundCloud, Spotify has a freemium model: Freeloaders must listen to ads and don’t have access to mobile downloads; paying subscribers get more perks. But unlike SoundCloud, it’s a streaming-only service, so companies can’t use it to publish their own audio content.
Reebok and BMW have used Spotify to curate playlists to share on other social channels, including Facebook, Twitter and their blogs. They do so to extend their branding, expressing the company’s perspective and vibe in audio. (It’s not unlike how that boy in middle school once made me a mixtape of “our” songs.)
Almost any organization can use Spotify as a branding play. A gym might create a high-energy playlist. Restaurants can get creative, too, as Popeyes did when it put together a Louisiana-inspired playlist to introduce a limited-time-offer menu item.
This free app (owned by Facebook) lets users create videos in collaboration with others, then give them a theme (like #July4). Friends can add clips (up to 20 seconds), then their friends can do the same, opening the possibility for exponential growth. Think of the potential for the next #IceBucketChallenge as one looooong video instead of a bajillion individual ones.
Riff is a stupid-easy way to crowdsource user-generated content by fans or friends of your company. I can see it being a fun collaborative tool for use during live events, meetups, in-store promotions and more.
Twitter’s free competitor to Storify, Curator allows you to curate social posts and stories related to topics of your choice. Select users can combine specific tweets and Vines (and Periscopes!) into an embeddable collection. The idea is that it’s easy—and elegant—to share the spoils of a recent campaign or trending topic, or to highlight a brand story.
So far the feature is open only to certain media organizations and publishers. That might change, however. And if it does, Curator could become a handy tool for businesses looking to curate thought leadership, using their Twitter followers as a built-in audience.