Sunday, April 5, 2015

Case Study: Using Periscope at a Trade Show

Can Periscope be adapted for business use, or will it forever be categorized as just a platform for bad homegrown reality television? Last week I decided to test Periscope out as a component of our social strategy at the TRANSACT15 payments conference in San Francisco. The conference spanned over three days during which I streamed twenty (20) Periscope live broadcasts.

Leading up to the show there was solid pre-show social conversation around the #TRANSACT15 hashtag, hugely improved over the 2014 show's social buzz.  I leveraged this social conversation by contributing a few blog posts and several tweets about live streaming and made mention that we would be using Periscope during the conference in our booth.  Even shouted out to attendees that they should stop by and add their elevator pitch to the live stream.  There will be lots of attendees strolling by to try out this (my) new, bright, shiny object. That should do it, right?  Wrong.

Day 1 broadcast time arrives so I kicked it off with the perfunctory tour of our booth, but that can only go so long before your content risks looking like a sales pitch. Nobody was coming by to give me an elevator pitch so I just started "winging it." I highlighted the show's buffet food tables, talked about our neighboring booths, and panned the aisles of people. With the exception of a live stream of the wind tunnel/flying cash machine where a gentleman was shoving dollars in his pants .... my live broadcasts pretty were boring stuff. Thank goodness the conference's Opening Reception was only 2 hours in duration because I realized I was using Periscope as bad homegrown reality television that was adding little value to the event's social media conversation.

When I got back to my hotel room I knew that my body of work that evening was less than stellar so I decided to pull out the best moments from each of the seven (7) Periscope live streams and stitch them together with iMovie into a compilation video, then included the video in a blog post about what I had learned.  I had been talking up this technology, and still truly believed in it, so I had to do something to build some momentum for Day 2 and hoped that video would create some awareness of what I was trying to accomplish with Periscope. First thing in the morning I tweeted out the blog post and started contemplating what I could do better.

I still had some time before the show so I started catching up on the social thread that was taking place during the conference ... and that's when my new strategy for periscope became clear. There are some folks at this show that were contributing some solid value to the social media conversation and I need to seek them out in their booth and ask them to do what they were already doing - adding value to the conversation - and see if I could interview them with Periscope about their social strategy for TRANSACT15.
Bingo, IMHO this strategy was a success and gave me a chance to meet some of our industry's social influencers.  Some were in their booths and gladly agreed to a Periscope interview but others were back at home base handling their social strategy remotely.  With the latter, I sought out a spokesperson in their booth that wanted to "Periscope" their company's elevator pitch.  This Day 2 strategy gave me an easy and enjoyable way to capture some great snack-sized, quality content.

Needing to add a little fun to the mix I also filmed a quirky live steam "goof" on the Periscope phenomenon "What's In Your Fridge" where I took viewers behind the scenes of our booth's margarita bar showing them the ingredients that were going into our tasty libations. At the conclusion of the show we also live streamed the fishbowl drawing of our show giveaway of a Western Mediterranean cruise for two.

Here are a few I learned during my first attempts of using Periscope at a trade show:

INTERNET CONNECTIVITY: Understand that there may be Internet-connection problems if you are using Periscope on a restricted Internet connection. This happened to me twice ... once at an off-site sponsored event at a downtown San Francisco billiards hall where it appears that the connection restricted downloading, and again during my live stream at the conclusion of the event where the convention center appeared to restrict the paid Internet the moment the show ended.  In this situation the live broadcast works out fine, but it fails to completely archive to Periscope leaving only a 2 second video view ... nor does it download to your camera roll.

PORTRAIT MODE: Landscape mode severely degrades the video quality ... when broadcasting in landscape mode I had several in the viewing audience asking for me to switch to Portrait mode. You can see the degradation in the video when the streaming is in landscape mode. Each video live stream is saved to your camera roll, though the comments and hearts are stripped out, but it does leave you with some content for future use.

INTERNET TROLLS: Comments make the use of Periscope as a business tool a little tricky.  Your live feeds are visible to anyone that wants to tune in - not just your focus audience - so you get the "troll" comments too.  Some of the "off topic" comments were humorous and added some lightheartedness to the content stream, but we did get some downright offensive comments that were seen by others in the viewing audience.

SHOW HASHTAG: Before you click BROADCAST NOW remember to use the show hashtag in the title you enter in the field "What are you Seeing Now?" as well as click on the small Twitter icon. This will result in a tweet that is immediately generated when you start your broadcast, and the tweet will include the show hashtag along with the additional information you enter. Attentive show attendees can immediately tune in and watch live, and the broadcast is also viewable online for 24 hours so attendees that search after the fact for the hashtag also see your content stream.

VALUE ADD COMMENTS: Viewers can interact with a broadcaster through comments, which can replied reply to on camera, and viewers can tap the screen producing with colored hearts that let the broadcaster know they approve of the feed.  Videos are stored online for 24 hours, and privacy options can be selected to limit the audience. 

TWITTER INTEGRATION: Periscope has tight integration with the Twitter network.  The trick is to get attendees (and those wishing they were there) to follow your Twitter account so they get instant notification when you start a live broadcast. Effective use of the pre-show Twitter social conversation will help accomplish this, but I also think that more awareness of the Periscope network is required from the business segment for success.  Once folks with an appetite for industry content realize that just like business content is available on YouTube, it can also be found with more immediacy (actually real-time) on Periscope this medium will become commonplace.

Overall I have high hopes for this new live streaming technology.  I still believe it truly has a "wow' factor and you will be seeing it used more and more for business purposes.  The natural evolution of most new communication mediums was initially pushed along by risqué and comedic content which you will find in abundance on Periscope, but business is catching on that these new mediums can be used for a business purpose so I am pretty sure you will be seeing Periscope broadcasts at the next trade show you attend.

About Merrell Sheehan
Merrell is the VP of Digital Strategy at Electronic Merchant Systems, a national provider of payment processing services.  Merrell manages a digital marketing team that that utilizes content marketing and paid social strategies to acquire users for Electronic Merchant Systems' mPOS payment solution, EMS+ (

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