Is Meerkat Poised to be SXSW’s Next Big Breakout App?

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Ready or not: it’s that time of year again—time for the annual tech and social media migration to Austin, Texas for South-by-Southwest (SXSW) Interactive. The latest installment of the festival kicks off later this week and it promises to be the largest one yet.

Twitter exploded at SXSW in 2007 and was followed by Foursquare in 2009. Ever since then, trying to figure out which company will capture the attention of the SXSW digerati has become an annual rite of passage.

In 2012 it was Highlight. While the location-based app generated solid buzz prior to, during and immediately after SXSW, it hasn’t been able to translate that to a massive volume of users a la Twitter in its early days. Last year everyone was talking about and intrigued by Secret, the anonymous social networking app. Unfortunately, the app has been challenged by people seeking to hide behind their anonymity to share negative items about others. Roughly one-year post launch and there isn’t a lot of chatter about Secret anymore.

This year’s most likely breakout? Meerkat.

Meerkat is a mobile app that allows users to live stream whatever they’re doing and interact with their viewers in the process. Whether or not Life on Air (the makers of Meerkat) was aiming for a big breakout at SXSW, it might just happen. This past weekend Variety called Meerkat the “App du Jour.” No doubt, it beautifully blends a simple, easy-to-use interface with just the right amount of narcissism to capture the attention of the digerati.

Over the past week my Twitter feed has been filled with friends and colleagues broadcasting live from driving ranges, chicken coops, their homes and other random places. When everyone gathers in Austin in a couple days, live streams via Meerkat will likely explode—provided it doesn’t turn out to be a massive battery drain. Either way, Meerkat feels like it could have staying power that more recent SXSW “break outs” have not.

Other major themes to keep an eye on at SXSW in 2015:

  • Wearables: This topic has been percolating for the past several years thanks to Google Glass, Oculus Rift and others. Coming on the heels the Apple Watch launch, expect all things wearable to be a big focus.
  • Health: This year SXSW will launch its inaugural SX Health and MedTech Expo due to increased innovation and interest in this area.
  • Content: Now that every marketer on the planet is doing content, there will be dozens of sessions on the “content glut,” how to break through the noise, etc.
  • iBeacons: The official SXSW app will be buoyed by the installation of some 1,000 short range wireless beacons, which are being used as part of an effort to bring back a bit of serendipity to the massive event.

What will you be on the lookout for at SXSW later this week?

Trevor Jonas is vice president of digital strategy at Access Communications, where he develops and implements digital strategies for clients in the financial services, consumer technology and food and beverage industries. Say hello on Twitter and Meerkat @TrevR.

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