As Business Tools, Meerkat and Periscope Fall Way Short Of Google Hangouts On Air

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

There was big news from the Twitter-world last week. The social media giant released a new video streaming app called Periscope and a bunch of celebrities including Jimmy Fallon to Jared Leto jumped on board to broadcast live messages to their followers. The application was in response to the hugely popular Meerkat, another Twitter-based streaming service used by the likes of Madonna and Al Roker. What fun!

I’m not condemning Periscope or Meerkat (or Madonna). But, at least for now, these services are just pop culture. They’re toys being used by individuals and celebrities at SXSW. They’re not business tools. And they are certainly not in the same league as Google Hangouts on Air.

That’s the streaming service from the search firm that has been around now for a few years. It does what Periscope and Meerkat does. Only much, much better. Particularly if you’re running a business. Big or small. With Google Hangouts on Air you can stream your event, or anything else, live and to the general public. People who are in your Google “circles” can participate and anyone with a Gmail address can watch it, just like anyone with a Twitter account can watch something streamed on Periscope and Meerkat. So what’s the difference?

Here’s an example. World Kidney Day was earlier this month. Kidney disease affects 600 million people around the world and kills approximately 2.3 million people every year just due to lack of available treatment. Davita, a leading provider of kidney dialysis and treatments, wanted to raise awareness. So it held a Google Hangouts on Air eventwith a panel of specialists and educators.

They could not have done this as professionally on Periscope or Meerkat.  DaVita scheduled its Hangout on Air event in advance, so it could issue press releases, have conversations, write blogs and promote it on other channels. DaVita used Google’s development tools to create a landing page for the event so people could register in advance and DaVita could track those attending with more detailed information than just their Gmail address. The company was able to setup a panel in a professional manner with experts and a moderator. And the big thing: With Google Hangouts on Air, all events can be immediately saved to DaVita’s YouTube page for future viewing and comments. The content lives on.

DaVita’s not the only organization using Google Hangouts on Air to educate its audience.  Check out this conversation with Manchester United players orHuffington Post’s live streaming service or tips from clothing retailer ASOS or a discussion on how to manage projects in middle and high school from faculty at the Buck Institute for Education.  This is not Madonna or Jimmy Fallon.  These are companies using this service for professional reasons.

I’ve been using Google Hangouts on Air frequently for my business over the past year. My company does monthly training on it for our products. I’ve moderated panel groups and held public discussions with my people and clients about issues in the industry. Other companies I work with have used the service to offer live certification, tips on using a piece of equipment, safety advice for products, interviews with internal employees or onsite visits to customer sites. These companies, like mine, promote the live events in advance to our followings. But more importantly we save the events to our YouTube pages so that we can continue to promote it and build our social media presence. I know some companies who have customized landing pages in order to take payment for an online event. I need to also do that!

But I won’t be able to do this with Periscope or Meerkat. There are yet no significant developer tools to allow users to create their own landing pages or even accept payments for an event using Google Wallet, for example. You can’t easily schedule things in advance and invite people – they just have to find your event somehow. And, most importantly, you can’t save your videos long term like you can with Google Hangouts on Air. That’s not to say that Google’s doing everything right. The service has had a reputation for latency that causes streaming issues and it definitely needs some type of TV Guide showing upcoming events because just finding these streaming events is still a challenge. I’m sure some start-up will figure out an awesome app for searching upcoming online “shows’ on all of these services soon enough.

The introduction of Periscope and Meerkat has confirmed to the world that live streaming online is here to stay and will only get bigger and more important. If you’re looking for news about Madonna, or a funny little live stream from your friends then by all means have fun with Periscope or Meerkat. But if you’re more interested in educating the world about kidney disease or just building a community for your business my recommendation is to stick with Google Hangouts on Air. For now.

 

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