Businesses see marketing value in live-streaming apps

Periscope, Meerkat may help spur public to talk up products

New apps allow live streaming of video with just a smartphone.
Alan Diaz/Associated Press
New apps allow live streaming of video with just a smartphone.

NEW YORK — Companies have learned to use Facebook, Instagram, and other social media to drum up business, and now they’re finding ways to exploit two new apps.

Periscope and Meerkat allow users to stream live video using just a smartphone. Wendy’s used streaming for the first time in June to spotlight its summer beverages. Frito-Lay used its first streams to introduce viewers to its Doritos Roulette chips.

This form of social media is in its infancy. Periscope, owned by short-messaging service Twitter, and Meerkat, owned by the startup Life on Air Inc., were both launched in March. Meerkat’s investors include the cable and entertainment company Comcast.


Ordinary attention seekers use the apps to show friends what they’re doing. Companies are using them to connect with social media-savvy customers. When businesses plan a stream, they give a heads-up on other social media like Twitter and Facebook; when the stream starts, tweets automatically go out to their followers.

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T-Mobile had a light-hearted stream last week. CEO John Legere showed T-shirt-clad executives preparing for a conference call about earnings. T-Mobile also has almost daily Periscope streams, including some starring product manager Des Smith, who demonstrates new phones.

‘‘Video is really what consumers are looking for and long for, and now you’re able to give it to them in real time,’’ says Peter DeLuca, T-Mobile’s senior vice president for marketing.

Wendy’s June 18 streams showed the comedy duo Rhett & Link chatting with Periscope viewers. More than 4,400 people visited a website advertising the event and the hamburger chain’s iced tea drinks, Wendy’s said. The company had more than 1,200 posts on social media the day before and the day of the event. That’s the kind of attention Wendy’s wants, says Brandon Rhoten, a vice president.

Wendy’s is thinking about more streamed events. ‘‘People liked the fact they could get a glimpse behind the curtain with these guys,’’ Rhoten says.


Frito-Lay streamed video six times on June 30, staging a game show that gave the company an opportunity to publicize Doritos Roulette, a mix of regular and spicy chips. The company, which counted more than 15,000 viewers, is also considering more streamed events.

Companies have used live streaming for years with video conferencing, online services, and smartphones. But by linking it to social media, they can instantly reach their hundreds, thousands, or millions of followers.

Marcus Lemonis streamed as he toured Walmart headquarters in June, carrying his phone in front of him as he chatted with employees. Lemonis, who gives viewers a look at small companies on CNBC’s program ‘‘The Profit,’’ wanted to do the same at Walmart, where he was giving a presentation. ‘‘Why not have people be able to experience it with me?’’ he says.

It costs little or nothing to stream, but thousands of dollars or more when a company stages a big publicity event.

Marketing successes with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram encouraged companies to try the apps.


‘‘Any time you can stay ahead of the curve on technology, it’s important,’’ says Toby Srebnik, at Fish Consulting in Hollywood, Fla., which has used Periscope to stream events for Dunkin’ Donuts. Many streams aim to get people talking about a product or service. Some companies stream events like speeches. ‘‘We want to communicate with them in the way that they prefer,’’ says Hannah Grove, chief marketing officer at State Street Corp., which has streamed from news conferences.

But companies are still figuring out the most effective ways to use live streaming. Audiences can be small — State Street had 33 viewers for a recent event — but companies expect viewership to increase as Periscope and Meerkat become more popular.