I’m stating it right up front: The recent introduction of Meerkat and Periscope will soon turn the world of #SMEM for emergency response professionals upside down. Let me explain.
Last month I heard about Meerkat, a live streaming app that used Twitter to connect people to the stream. Soon thereafter it became the app darling of the SXSW conference, generating tremendous public interest and downloads. Tens of thousands of citizens, news reporters and celebrities were live streaming interesting (and boring) events in their lives. While the app was still rough around the edges and lacked refinement, the concept captured our imagination. Now we can instantly notify, share and broadcast our life experiences with anyone who cared to watch. Then came Periscope.
Periscope is Twitter’s live streaming app, and was released to the general public late last week. While sitting in SeaTac airport waiting to fly to Mariner’s Spring Training, I played with Twitter’s version of Meerkat. As a much more refined app with more user friendly features, I was struck by the number of people already streaming.
As I flew south, my Hootsuite feed lit up with news of a gas explosion, fire and building collapse in NYC’s East Village. Lots of witnesses were tweeting and posting pictures of what they were seeing, but it wasn’t enough for me. I WANTED VIDEO! Unfortunately, at 38,000′ streaming video didn’t work. Yet, my Twitter feed was lit up with links to dozens of people and news organizations (Mashable for one) already using Periscope and Meerkat to live stream from the scene, asking witnesses what happened, describing the scene and efforts of the FDNY and NYPD.
Whether or not you realize the last month of social media innovation in live streaming and micro blog convergence has forever changed the social media landscape for crisis communication professionals, and the public. The NYC explosion puts an exclamation point on this statement.
Crisis situational awareness for incident responders and command staff has been greatly enhanced by the integration of social media platforms. Yet, many still haven’t wrapped their arms around the capabilities of these tools in crisis response, and the public’s expectation of their use. The marriage of Twitter and live streaming now puts these folks even farther behind the social media power curve.
This new development requires intense effort and focus of forward thinking crisis managers and responders in leveraging this technology by dedicating resources and field experienced digital operators in interpreting these streams to gain and enhance “ground truth”. It will take even more effort by app developers and cell network providers to bolster bandwidth capacity to meet the coming tusnami of video transmissions.
It should also serve as a “warning shot” for public agency leaders and responders in realizing their on scene actions are now being instantaneously broadcast around the world. But, that is a topic for another day.