in Higher Ed

What I’ve learned on Periscope

My record as a early adopter to most platforms is mixed. I had a twitter profile early on and then deleted it before coming back seven months later. In recent years, I’ve been on everything I can get my hands on, just to see how people are using it. Things like Posterous (RIP) actually helped me with my own desire to get words out. Tumblr I didn’t like at first, but after returning to it I found a place for it and managed to build a blog there with over 99,000 followers (albeit over 4 years.)

The problem with most tools is finding a place for them in your life. Ello had this problem. It’s fine, but without a community of people you can reach to, it gets exhausting to share without any feedback. If you’re doing it for a specific purpose — trying to write a book or just need to vent in a semi-public space — then it’s not as bad. But most people don’t have that kind of time.

So let’s talk about Periscope. For those of you who aren’t aware of Periscope or Meerkat — they are live streaming apps. You fire it up — Periscope only available if you have a Twitter account — and can begin streaming whatever you’re seeing.

I began using it in a taxi cab. It wasn’t really scientific, I just wanted to try it and dove in and did it.


I periscoped for screenshot for this post

After three weeks of doing it, I’m at over 4,600 likes which who cares about vanity metrics. But it has given me enough experience to post some takeaways especially since there are more and more institutions asking questions about how best to use Periscope to spam connect with their audiences.

1. Remember that most of the people you’re trying to reach aren’t there yet

You try telling the taxi driver or anyone else really about Periscope and you’re likely to get blank stares. People aren’t using it yet, so you have to remember this is the Wild Wild West of the app. Maybe you can get a few savvy folks to click, but it’s not a tool that you can use religiously to get people to watch all of the time because unlike television, it’s random and it’s all about getting people when they’re doing something else. Or just bored enough to tune into Periscope to see what’s happening.

So don’t view this gold rush as the panacea to your connection issues, it’s likely not.

2. Engagement is about showing people interesting things
When we went to the Seattle Aquarium, lots of people were interested and gave me likes for showing stuff they wanted to see. It was almost a guided experience for them. This kind of uniqueness can’t be bought. So if you have something interesting on your campus you want to show off that people might not get otherwise? Have at it.

Just remember this is an engagement tool, not an app simply to live stream because live streaming tools already exist and can provide much better quality. Periscope is used best for random, ephemeral things that you might not waste the time to get a real camera out to broadcast. So your spring concert probably isn’t a great candidate to Periscope. But having a student Periscoping the student section at a rivalry basketball game? Now we’re talking.

3. When people start leaving, I end the stream
Because it’s just a random event, I don’t tend to spend a lot of time broadcasting if no one is watching. If whatever I’m showing isn’t resonating, then I just kill the stream and maybe come back later. This is just the character of my stream, in part because I’ve been traveling a lot lately so it fit what I was trying to do. I suppose if I had a different pattern, there might be a reason to do it longer, but I haven’t seen any evidence that people start streaming back in at any real number once you start losing them.

4. Showing faces + talking helps unless it’s a truly captivating event
People want to see people. So if you’re not talking or narrating what’s happening, then you need ot be showing something compelling enough to hold people’s attention. I think people just want to reach out to the universe and Periscope gives them a way to do that. So indulge.

5. Ask yourself why

I say this all the time with any platform. Understand your goals and what you’re trying to achieve. I think experimenting is totally cool, but if you’re going to invest energy and institutional resources with this, understand what you want to accomplish from it as you do it at the very minimum.

So if you’re considering Periscope, DIVE IN. The more people on the network, the more interesting it’ll be. Let your students play around with it for a day and see what they come up with. Or just test it out yourself.

While it’s not likely that anyone will initially be watching, you will find yourself trying things outside of the box that you might not on a different platform.