Five months ago, Victoria Fratz was trying to build a social media following, but was having a tough time standing out on platforms like Vine, which had already helped launch dozens of careers a couple of years earlier. That's when a handful of friends suggested she try out an app called Meerkat, which at the time was beginning to gain traction with a new tactic: Instead of posting bite-size clips, people would live broadcast from wherever they were, often for hours at a time. Intrigued, the 28-year-old Fratz tested it out and knew immediately that her social media aspirations were about to take off.
"In one day, I had about three of my viewers on Snapchat say, 'You have a great presence; we'd like to see you on Meerkat,'" she says. "I went home, downloaded the app, hit the stream button and it was an immediate connection."
Branding herself as the "Meerkat Queen," Fratz is now one of the most popular personalities on the app with 35,500 followers and more than 500 videos that so far have been watched by 250,000 people.
She is only one of a growing number of creators hoping to ride the post-YouTube wave of social video influencers emerging over the past nine months as mobile streaming has taken off.
Only weeks after Meerkat was crowned the breakout star at this year's South by Southwest Interactive Festival, Twitter launched Periscope—which now has 10 million users who watch a staggering 21 million minutes of video every day. Facebook is also throwing its weight behind livestreaming with Mentions, a feature that celebrities including Miley Cyrus and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson use to talk to fans. Meanwhile, YouNow, a millennial-focused network founded in 2011, claims that its average user now spends 51 minutes watching live video each day.
Leading brands like MasterCard, Taco Bell and Nestlé have hopped on the livestreaming trend by producing their own videos, but unlike the YouTube and Vine personalities they're accustomed to working with, livestreaming talent pose a slew of new challenges—namely, marketers can't control unscripted video viewed by thousands the minute someone hits play.
Still, the similarity to live programming is why TV personality and early social media adopter Al Roker is betting big on livestreaming. His production company, Al Roker Entertainment, opened Roker Labs in July, an agency that finds the top streamers and figures out how brands can work with them.
"Livestreaming is the missing link between television and social media," says Ronald C. Pruett Jr., Roker Labs' chief adviser. "It's scary because it's dynamic, it's not static, but it [hits] a global audience and it's instantaneous."
Here, we profile eight of the most successful creators on Periscope and Meerkat that every brand getting into live video should know about right now.
410,000 Periscope Followers
Amanda Oleander is Periscope's first self-made hit. After finding YouTube's labor-intensive editing and production tools frustrating, she quickly showed people what it's like to be an artist in Los Angeles.
Instantly, thousands of people started watching her paint, cook and drive around California. Unlike other creators, she didn't have a big social media presence on other apps and built her following from scratch.
"When I started Periscope, I had under 1,000 followers on Twitter and 2,000 on Instagram—[the growth] was really organic on Periscope," explains Oleander.
Today she boasts more than 410,000 Periscope followers—a huge audience compared to her 14,900 fans from Twitter and Instagram combined.
Her social video clout proved to United Talent Agency that she has staying power. Last month, the agency signed on to represent her alongside its roster of big-name Hollywood clients.
15,900 Meerkat Followers / 10,500 Periscope Followers
How did Geoff Golberg become more popular than Madonna on Meerkat? By giving free sightseeing tours of New York from his smartphone.
The digital marketing consultant has built a following on both Periscope and Meerkat by regularly broadcasting from some of the Big Apple's biggest tourist attractions, like the Empire State Building and Times Square.
Applebee's is one brand taking notice of the city-based streams. When the restaurant wanted to make a splash by promoting a new menu, Golberg and a handful of other creators made sponsored streams while standing in the Crossroads of the World. The videos were then embedded into Applebee's website so that people at home could watch.
So, what makes a great livestream? "Provide value with content and interact with all viewers," Golberg says.
Watch Golberg give a Periscope tour of some of NYC's hot-spots in the video below:
The Media Vet
6,900 Periscope Followers
After a 15-year career in television, covering news for Bloomberg, ABC News and HLN, Jon Erlichman saw the potential to turn livestreaming into a media business as soon as Periscope launched in March.
"It just seemed like a no-brainer to explore this world because of the parallels to live television," Erlichman explains. "After months of experimentation and evidence that people are sticking around, it now feels like the next leg of this is ready."
Erlichman hosts Tech Trivia, a daily show that quizzes viewers for a chance at winning prizes. Brands like Charmin and Expedia partner with him to plug their messages into the program. When Charmin wanted him to talk about toilet paper, he gave away a year's worth of the product while broadcasting from a bathroom.
He's also the founder of Parachute, a cable TV-like account that pulls together livestreams from 40 creators everyday that specialize in niche content like comedy, food, music and talk programs.
The Hollywood Host
35,500 Meerkat Followers
Fratz's quick rise to fame has already grabbed the attention of brands like Gwen Stefani's perfume line Harajuku Lovers and Hollywood jewelry designer Kyle Chan, which have worked with her to shoot behind-the-scene footage at their events that she then shares with fans.
For Stefani, the "Meerkat Queen" repped the app at an event promoting a line of five perfumes. While interviewing the singer, she streamed from Meerkat.
Forking over the keys to social media for hours at a time is a risky move for brands, but Fratz says the extra time pays off.
"Streaming lasts a lot longer, so you have a bigger opportunity to do a demo for the product," Fratz says. "I can talk a lot more about it than a Snapchat branded deal."
101,000 Periscope followers
From filming songwriting sessions to showing people how she does her makeup before a concert, Katja Glieson is a modern-day pop star on Periscope.
Filming daily slice-of-life snippets have made the app the Australian singer's No. 1 social platform with 101,000 followers, dwarfing her 66,500 Twitter and 35,000 Instagram followers.
What's her secret to growing a fan base so quickly? Responding to the streams of rapid-fire questions and comments that pop up while she's filming.
She's performed covers of songs that fans request. And during last month's MTV Video Music Awards, her followers picked which dress she wore to a party.
"I like to get people involved in terms of asking what they want a song to be about and what resonates with them," Glieson tells Adweek.
The Comedy Duo
Gary and Lindsey Seevers
8,800 Meerkat Followers
People will waste a few minutes watching practically anything on a smartphone, including two boozy puppets talking about pop culture.
With backgrounds in improv comedy, Gary and Lindsey Seevers came up with the concept for their weekly "Drunk Puppets" sketch after receiving two plush dolls as wedding gifts in April.
Now, they get anywhere from 800 to 1,000 people to watch them every Monday night on Meerkat. The puppets—dubbed Glenda and Barry—squabble about everything from HBO's decision to air Sesame Street to their Netflix guilty pleasures.
The off-the-cuff banter is why Lindsey Seevers says that some of the best entertainers on Meerkat "seem to be people who can thrive in an improv environment and can keep a running dialogue."
The Social Scientist
80,000 Periscope Followers
A viral YouTube rendition of David Bowie's Space Oddity filmed onboard the International Space Station made astronaut Chris Hadfield a social media celebrity in 2013.
Now retired—and back on Earth—the former Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot is extending his social media chops to Periscope, where he talks about space and technology.
A huge 1.42 million followers on Twitter gave him a quick 80,000 fans on Periscope. But it's not just a big Twitter fan base that's getting people to watch—Hadfield also creates custom videos for Periscope that help explain the latest space news to the masses.
In May, Hadfield propped up a phone next to his laptop to livestream while watching a SpaceX flight online. He then explained to the audience why it was important for the future of space travel as he ate a bowl of Cheerios.
2,700 Meerkat followers
When Matt Adlard isn't working as a senior planner at London's OMD International, he's moonlighting as Meerkat's "Topless Baker"—a biweekly show where he films himself shirtless whipping up treats like brownies and scones in the kitchen.
The 24-year-old came up with idea for the food show earlier this summer when he decided to combine a passion for exercise with his family's cooking traditions (his dad is a former Michelin star-earning chef).
Within one month of opening an account, Adlard's already racked up 2,700 followers, an impressive feat given that he only streams a few times each week.
But with a background in advertising, don't expect to see any paid endorsements any time soon—unless a product meshes well with his quirky content. "I work in media myself, so I have quite a good understanding of how people work with brands," he says. "I would want to align with a brand that I had similar values to and provide utility to my fans."
This story first appeared in the Sept. 14 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.