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The big surprise of 2015 is the sudden emergence of easy-to-use live video streaming apps and what promise they are showing for travel brands, reports Andrew Hennigan.

In March 2015 an unlikely new app took the Internet world by storm - the Meerkat video-streaming app that allows anyone with a smartphone to broadcast live video to the Internet. Just days later Twitter launched a rival - Periscope. Both effectively allow anyone to send a live video stream from the camera in their phone or tablet, sharing the link through Twitter so that anyone, anywhere can watch live.

Hailed initially as a breakthrough in citizen journalism, video streaming is also attracting interest from marketers everywhere.  They hope to benefit from the excitement that Meerkat and Periscope are generating. However, while there are clear opportunities to bring fresh and interesting new ideas to social media marketing, travel and tourism will have to be more creative.

“We are more marketers than media companies but this would definitely be a great opportunity for ‘you should be here’ campaigns, especially with concerts and on-going shows,” says Eric Cortes, social media manager at the destination marketer Atlantic City Alliance.

Travel businesses have always made good use of internet video channels, starting with the popular video hosting site YouTube and later exploiting short video apps like Vine and Instagram for marketing campaigns (Short Video: a shining, rising star on the travel industry horizon, EyeforTravel, 30 October 2013). Destination marketers like Iceland Travel, Visit Scotland and the Atlantic City Alliance pioneered this approach with creative short videos and animations.

More recently some travel marketers have also been testing video apps like SnapChat where content can only be viewed for a limited time before it disappears. In December 2014 Marriott International launched a three-month branded video content campaign using SnapChat, working with content creation partners and Naritiv, a marketing & analytics agency specialised in this field.

But new-generation streaming video apps like Meerkat and Periscope are attracting even more attention. As is often the case, simplicity is the answer – it’s easy to get started and customers are excited by the possibility of seeing live video views that have to be watched in the moment.

Early days, early uses  

Marketers are still exploring the possibilities of these new apps, but already people are experimenting with backstage coverage of events – probably the easiest way to use video streaming. Others are looking at the new medium for exclusive special promotions where you have to be watching when the offer is shared. Some are also beginning to test the video equivalent of real-time copywriting, where social media posts are quickly composed to react to a viral event.

There are other applications in media relations, too.

Atlantic city Alliance sees streaming video apps as a useful piece of armour in its public relations strategy. Says Cortes: “As new opportunities are announced at press conferences and media events this would be a great time to reach out to media, meeting planners and convention sales representatives to view some of the great things being announced through a new platform”.

Other travel marketers are approaching the new channel more cautiously, aware that live streaming is the internet equivalent of live TV. There is no second chance, no editing and no possibility to review the content before it is released! For some PR people, that might seem like a nightmare.

Whether Meerkat, Periscope or another unannounced streaming video app will be the next Instagram remains to be seen. But next time you see someone filming you with their smartphone they might just be broadcasting you live to the entire planet, something everyone needs to be aware of.

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