Entrepreneurship Marketing

Periscope: Should You Use It?

For entrepreneurs who are wisely taking advantage of social media, it seems like there’s always a hot new app being released that promises to revolutionize the way you connect to your audience. However, not every app is the next Instagram. How do you know which apps are a good investment of your time? Lately, there’s been a great deal of buzz surrounding an app that does something undeniably cool. The app is Periscope. But is it right for you and your business?

Periscope is an app that works through Twitter, which we can all agree is still a relevant, almost mandatory tool if you really want to utilize social media. The enhancement is that it allows you to stream live video feeds through your phone, bringing your audience right to wherever you are in real time. Your followers can interact, leaving Hearts (Twitter’s version of a “Like”) and comments. Because of its connection to Twitter, all of your Twitter followers get a notification and can be seamlessly added to your Periscope audience with minimal effort on their part (there’s no real “registration” to speak of for Twitter users).

This app is making a big splash so far, including among my own friends and colleagues. With its slogan “Exploring the world through someone else’s eyes,” Periscope promises a window into the life and experience of the user for whoever cares to follow them- including potential customers. So how useful might it be to you? Is this something you need in the way most businesses need a website and an email list? Are you missing out if you aren’t Periscoping? Is that even a verb?

The answers to those questions are: it depends, it depends, not necessarily, and no. It is the fastest growing app I’ve seen in a while. It’s not the only app that allows you to livestream from your phone (Meerkat, for example, has been offering that for a while now), but it is the most buzz-generating. It’s seemingly tailored for today’s cutting edge social media users; it’s fast, it’s fairly unstructured, it’s mobile, and it’s generally used on the fly. It may represent the next step towards a world in which we are truly always online, and any second of the day or night can be put immediately to the purpose of selling whatever it is you sell. It’s perhaps the most intimate connection you can make to your audience.

That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.

It doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, either. For those of us in business, any form of outreach and connection to your audience is an opportunity, but some opportunities are better than others. Periscope is a truly great way to connect and foster the kind of personal relationships that breed trust and credibility. Its uses as a business tool, however, are limited.

Compare a live streaming phone-feed to a webinar, for example. It’s no secret that I’m a strong advocate of using webinars to sell your product, and that’s because good webinar platforms come with a whole host of features that enhance your presentation and allow you to showcase your passion and expertise. You could argue that a live feed can do that, and it can- but that doesn’t mean it will translate to sales. A webinar is carefully prepared, purposefully structured, and includes any number of visual aids, screen-sharing, and interactive features like chat. All of this is designed to produce sales conversions, and they produce them phenomenally well.

Streaming live from your phone, on the other hand, is a more seat-of-your-pants approach, and in my opinion, one that’s not likely to lead directly to sales. Besides the total lack of features, a live streaming app like Periscope lacks one key thing: registration. Your audience can simply watch you do whatever it is you do on Periscope without giving an email address or even a name. Since email is still the king of online marketing strategies (no matter how many pop-up ads you may see), it’s hard to see how Periscope can generate you sales. With no way to continue the conversation, there’s no opportunity to make a pitch.

The best way to use Periscope, then, is as a supplement to your online marketing. Don’t think of it as the way to build your audience in a conversion-conducive way any more than you do Twitter itself. In fact, that’s all Periscope is: Twitter Live. And just as Twitter and other social media marketing has its place, so does Periscope- on the periphery of your overall marketing scheme.

My advice is to experiment with Periscope, and use it when it’s convenient. Whenever possible, show what you would Tweet, rather than just Tweeting it. For audience engagement and for infusing your brand with a real human personality, it can’t be beat. There’s nothing wrong with helping to grow your audience with interesting videos. Just remember that all you’re doing is growing it- you’re not selling to it. Anything that decreases the distance between you and your target market is a bonus, if not a real marketing plan in itself.

Periscope is also a great way to get yourself camera-ready. If you’re camera shy, or just inexperienced, Periscope might be the best way to beef up your charisma. Finding your voice, knowing how to move and act naturally on camera, knowing how to film yourself: these things are important skills, and Periscope offers an opportunity to hone them. In fact, your webinars will probably benefit from some Periscope experience the same way an athlete’s game benefits from the weight room. Transmitting your personality to your audience in real time takes practice, and it’s hard to argue that Periscope isn’t good practice.

If you’ve been reading my blogs or listening to my podcasts, you know that I’m usually very cautious when it comes to recommending social media apps. In fact, I see an over-emphasis on social media as a trap that too many budding entrepreneurs find themselves caught in, because a big following often seems like a surefire way to make sales. Unfortunately, it’s just not- or it’s not necessarily. Social media in general can be a great supplement, but if it’s not part of an informed overall marketing plan, it can become nothing but a distraction.

If you’re ever worried about “missing out” on social media opportunities like the one offered by Periscope, simply utilize smart scheduling. Schedule specific times to experiment with things like Periscope and any other tools that may or may not have an impact. As long as you don’t let it detract from what’s most important- your product, your content production, and more proven marketing tools- it can’t hurt. The impulse to stay on the cutting edge is a healthy one. What’s important is accommodating that impulse in a smart way, without taking your eyes off the prize.