So you’ve heard of Meerkat, right? If you read more than 2 social media blogs a month, you have. If you don’t, you think the mammal, not the app. Meerkat is an app that lets you stream live video. And it was also this year’s overhyped SXSW darling.
Every 6 months or so, the social media echo chamber goes batshit-crazy over a particular site/tool/app. Identi.ca. Quora. Color. Gowalla. Ello. And the Super Bowl of overhyping shiny objects happens each year at SXSW. This year, it was all Meerkat, all the time. Social media gurus/ninjas/experts were everywhere proclaiming how amazing Meerkat was, and yes, how it was a total ‘game-changer’.
For future reference, whenever you hear that a shiny new social media site/tool/app is a ‘game-changer’, this is the tech equivalent of shark-jumping. It likely means this cool site/tool/app is about to die.
And it looks like Meerkat just did:
The ugly truth that U.S. tech media has declined to mention even in passing is that Meerkat had never been a hit to begin with. All those breathless media reports about “the hot new app” and “the break-out app” were deeply misleading at best — and cynical legerdemain at worst.
Meerkat’s highest daily ranking on the U.S. iPhone download chart was No. 140, on March 20th. At this point, the app had already generated thousands of news stories and blog posts, most of them enthusiastically describing it as a hit. But actual American consumers never showed the slightest sign of warming up.
Meerkat’s “success” was the creation of a handful of West Coast tech bloggers who managed to lure major newspapers into covering a phenomenon that did not exist.
It’s not accurate to say that Meerkat is dying. Moreso, the buzz/hype around it is. This is the problem with sites/tools/apps like Meerkat that get an explosion of hype from social media types: Usually, that hype is driven more by peer pressure than utility. Meerkat and every site/tool/app I listed above all at one time reached a tipping point when buzz was being driven by the ‘social media cool kids’. This A-List tech blogger started claiming it was the next big thing, so this A-List Twitter Power User said the same. Then suddenly almost overnight you either said this site/tool/app was cool or YOU were the one that was uncool. Then another shiny object comes along (Hello Periscope!) and suddenly the cool kids realize that their current love is about to become uncool, so they dump it and quickly move to the next ‘big thing’.
Did I mention that social media is high school? Because it is.
Earlier this month I had people asking me what I thought about Meerkat. I told them to ask me in a month, and this is why. Whenever a new social media site/tool/app gets really hot like Meerkat did, I always wait till the influencers and ‘social media hipsters’ leave before I decide if it’s for real.
Because honestly, the tools are very very boring to me. Painfully so. But the people that use them, and considering why they are and how they could use these tools? That fascinates me. Look at podcasts. I launched my first podcast 8 years ago. I dumped it after about 5 episodes because the creation, the post-production, the distribution, was all a huge pain in the ass. And it was difficult for listeners to take the episodes with them as downloads, they pretty much had to be landlocked to their desktop to listen. But I knew the idea of a podcast was a good one, it was just a matter of the creation and distribution processes becoming easier, as well as making listening to audio files more accessible and convenient for the listener. Eight years later, technology has caught up, and podcasts are hotter than ever. I’ve launched a new podcast and absolutely love it.
Don’t focus on the tools, focus on the connections the tools help facilitate. The tool isn’t cool, what the tool allows the user to do is what’s interesting. Let’s go back to Meerkat and Periscope for a minute. Both apps allow you to stream live video. So think about instances where watching someone’s live video stream could be compelling. Maybe for covering a breaking news story? Or a live event? A concert maybe? A ballgame? Although there may be copyright issues that need to be ironed out in these cases. The point is, don’t get too caught up on whether or not the tool is ‘cool’, think about how users could potentially use it. Why would people want to use a live-video app? Why would they want to use a site that lets them send 140-character messages?
The tool isn’t cool. The behavior of the human being using it is what’s cool.