Riff video app from Facebook - screen shot

Facebook’s new video app – Riff – collaborate on videos with friends

Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of talk (read hype) about the new video apps Meerkat and Periscope. Today Facebook announced the launch of yet another new video app called Riff. So, what’s the difference between them and why should you care?

Riff – the newest kid on the video app ‘block’

Riff is positioned as a collaborative video sharing tool. You can create a video clip up to 20 seconds long and post it to Riff (the video is recorded in Riff, you can’t upload a video to it). A descriptive header is then added to the video to inspire people as to how they can add to your video story. Then your friends can contribute, adding their own clips to your video.

In terms of privacy, all videos and clips can be seen by anyone (so proceed with caution if testing with your friends in the pub at the weekend). However the original ‘creator’ of the video can moderate who contributes and you can also delete clips added by others.

Raising the bar on user engagement

Most people are ‘lurkers‘ online – not creating content but consuming it. Hence the success of passive engagement features, such as ‘liking’ on social networks. With Riff there is no ‘like’ or ‘comment’ feature – the video needs to be shared on Facebook for that – so the ‘ask’ of users is much greater. This may appeal to the ‘Gen-narrators’ – a subgroup of Millennials identified in a recent Economist study who apparently:

“…embrace the role of curator, remixing content to give it their own twist. They are far more visual than their predecessors – partly explaining the phenomenal rise in online video – and want to be actively involved in changing minds and inspiring action.”

So what is Meerkat?

Meerkat launched a few weeks ago and allows anyone with a smartphone to become a roaming video journalist. It is a live streaming app that allows you, with the simple tap of a button, to broadcast live video to your Twitter followers who can watch in the app or on the web. This instant connection to an aspect of someone else’s life has been termed ‘spontaneous togetherness‘ by the creators.

What is Periscope?

Periscope is also a video live streaming app launched last week by Twitter. Although pipped to launch by Meerkat, Periscope has already passed out Meerkat in terms of users. It also has the investor and tech community sitting up and taking notice of Twitter once more (stock is at a six-month high) with a lot of talk around new, targeted video ads facilitated by Periscope.

Twitter isn’t new to video apps as it has been promoting the video sharing app, Vine, since 2012. This allows users to share 6 second videos in the app or on Twitter. In February they also announced they were launching a version of Vine marketed to children – Vine Kids.

In addition to the instant connection to Twitter, Periscope  lets users limit who can see their broadcasts and offers people the opportunity to  show their appreciation to the ‘streamer’ by sending heart icons (similar to Facebook’s “Like” button). Video streams also can be saved to replay later. In contrast Meerkat streams are public-only and live-only.

Opportunity or threat?

Applications like these highlight the amazing content creation power that is now at everyone’s fingertips. However, the thought that anyone can broadcast public and private events at will gives many companies and organisations pause for thought. Many are still struggling with the concept of ‘always on’ social media discussions around their brands and services. The idea of conferences, meetings, conversations being potentially live streamed without your knowledge has already begun to get some people concerned. After all a video camera, or even Google Glass, is conspicuous…a smartphone is much easier to conceal.

Colleges are now considering the impact on student and teacher privacy, whilst others are discussing the licensing and copyright issues that could arise from individuals streaming from concerts and other events.

One thing is certain – regardless of whether Riff, Meerkat or Periscope win the latest ‘app war’ or fade into obscurity – video is here to stay. The volume of video being created by consumers has been growing exponentially since YouTube launched in 2005. As smartphones continue to get smarter this can only continue. Marketers now need to consider the opportunities that this brings, rather than mourning the ever-increasing lack of control.