It’s difficult to be a startup in the modern social media world. For every Facebook and Snapchat success story, there are dozens of startups that never gain any real traction. Even platforms that seem innovative, like Meerkat, struggle in the early days. Now that Meerkat has paired with Facebook, what does that mean for the future of both?
Meerkat staff have noted the importance of integration into larger platforms in the past, with Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin stating that “we would not be sitting here were it not for Twitter.” Integration with or acquisition by larger networks, can cause explosive growth as early adopters and regular users are exposed to a new way to use their favorite services.
Despite Rubin stating that Meerkat was attempting to decouple from the social graph, and that he wanted Meerkat to stand alone as a social network, it’s clear that without strong social connection it’s hard to grow new services. Early adopters have provided Meerkat with a strong user base, but insularity is terrible for social apps that rely entirely on user connection to grow.
Now that Meerkat has allied with Facebook it can start to expand outside the initial startup phase, that is so often filled with good press and early adopter energy. Services like Snapchat grew in spite of security problems and other challenges because of strong social connection and evangelism among users. Now many users are so dedicated, they can’t see a time when they wouldn’t use it.
Services like Meerkat need networks like Facebook, because early adopter energy can be short lived. If users are exposed to both platforms it could be a win for both companies: as Meerkat expands its user base, and Facebook gets to gauge user reaction to livestreaming content. This deal could put Meerkat into the mass market and make it real competition for Periscope. Or it could give Facebook the data it needs to launch yet another competitor.