Periscope Proves Great for Intimacy But Bad for Sharing

Despite its promise of enabling brands, journalists and influencers to make meaningful connections with audiences, Periscope still has some bugs to work out.

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Ever since Periscope launched in March, the app has become a darling tech world darling, with many holding high hopes for its impact on social media, marketing and journalism. Jack Smith IV, a technology reporter for Observer’s Innovation blog, took to Periscope to see how the app works and he made some interesting discoveries on his path to become “Periscope Jesus.”

After an impromptu stream earned him more than 200 viewers, he decided to use the app with purpose. His two-and-a-half hour “ask me anything” stream resulted in 3,000 views. Reddit has demonstrated the popularity of the AMA format, so it’s no wonder that viewers would flock to a video-based format on Periscope.

Since rocketing to popularity on Periscope, Smith has learned that Interactivity is perhaps the most important thing that the service offers. He noted:

What streaming apps are really for is interaction, and as much of it as possible. The appeal for most viewers is that ability to reach through the stream and affect you from their remote perches, hidden behind their phones thousands of miles away […] If a broadcaster never responds to comments, that person begins to hemorrhage followers.

Smith was also surprised by the level of intimacy that occurs between the streamer and the users, especially when the streamer is answering personal questions. He wrote:

A lot of times, they want to go deep, partially because it’s exciting to elicit intimate statements from a stranger, but partially because familiarity is why they keep coming back […] Many Periscope broadcasters engage with commenters, but leave their viewers disappointed when they don’t go deep, have strong opinions or answer sensitive questions. And their audiences turn on them for it.

However, Smith also discovered numerous problems with the app: Organic content discovery is woefully bad, the platform is bad for long term interactions with others, the app is slow and glitchy and even when users do discover good content, it’s difficult to share it. Smith racked up a lot of followers on other networks every time he called out his handles, because people felt the need to use other services to stay updated or in contact.

Thus far, It’s unclear if Periscope will become a dominant force in the social media world. The app is still new, and based on Smith’s assessment, there is a great deal of work to be done just to make it functional. Brands are already trying Periscope, but if users are unable to find long term value in the service, adopting Periscope might be pointless.