How Meerkat Changed Its Product to Avoid Being Crushed by Twitter and Facebook

Our digital landscape is evolving at an exponential pace. Technology is both transforming and disrupting business in equal measure as industry upheavals increasingly become the norm. Meanwhile, household names risk being labeled dinosaurs and face extinction if they fail to adapt to the continuously changing climate.

Last year, live video streaming app Meerkat stole the show at the SXSW show in Texas and were predictably pegged as the next big thing. Only 12 months later, Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin was forced to admit the company had a growth problem after Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope crowded the marketplace.

Meerkat finally came to grips with the brutally fast pace of business change and consumer habits. Their perfect response was a 21st Century business lesson in how small companies can compete with the big boys. Here’s what we can all learn.

1. Narrow Your Niche

The likes of Amazon market themselves as a one-stop shop with an “everything under one roof” ethos. The harsh reality is that any entrepreneur, startup or small online business simply cannot compete and will never be all things to all people.

Meerkat could be credited with inventing the entire concept of live video streaming from your smartphone. But now that tech behemoths Facebook and Twitter’s Periscope are also swimming in the same crowded waters, they have decided to narrow down their niche and once again be the only fish in the pond.

Rather than broadcasting a live video stream to everyone, the Meerkat platform will now concentrate on becoming a niched social network where friends are always online and sharing stories around a virtual campfire.

Possibly the most crucial aspect of running any online business is understanding your niche and not being afraid to narrow it down further. Positioning yourself as an expert in your field will enable your audience to view you as a specialist that they would happily pay a premium for. Many also forget that narrowing your niche is one of the best ways of building an audience

2. Keep Innovating

Simplicity is key to making any technological solution a success. The ability to push one button and broadcast your life and allow an audience to view the world through your eyes is being labeled a game-changer.

Unlocking the power of engagement is a skill that even YouTube has failed to master. Making changes to something that is already established and adding new methods into the mix are the fundamentals of innovation. Technology is notoriously disrupting every industry–a quick look at the success of AirBnB or Uber illustrates this perfectly.

While established large businesses are fighting bureaucracy and struggling to move any new idea forward, smaller and more agile companies are charging ahead by simply moving innovation to the top of the agenda.

Last year Meerkat introduced a unique new feature called ‘Cameo’ that allows a viewer of a live video stream to take over the broadcast for 60 seconds. Grasping that their app should be used as a two-way engaged conversation rather than a dialogue is a perfect showcase of how to innovate.

Rather than just accepting the current way of doing things, we need to understand the problems facing business. Once armed with this knowledge, we can utilize technology to create solutions and deliver value by creating new ways of working.

3. Perfect the Art of the Pivot

It is incredibly easy to find yourself blindsided by challenges that come out of nowhere and affect your business model. Rather than carrying on regardless on the tried and trusted route, companies need to create a more agile environment that allows them to pivot.

When the original plan stops working, don’t let bureaucracy be the final nail in the coffin of your organization. Reacting quickly and efficiently to any changes within your industry will determine your future.

Despite leading the way in live video streaming, Meerkat quickly realized that a battle against Facebook and Twitter was only going to end one way. By merely taking small steps and understanding the current landscape, you can identify any threats on the horizon and adapt to remain one step ahead of your competition.

Whether this plotting of a new course will save Meerkat remains to be seen. But we should not underestimate the importance knowing when to pivot, instead of wasting time heading in a direction that will end in absolute failure.

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