Broadcasting on Periscope: What I Learned Today


I did my first, real Periscope live-stream broadcast today. It was nerve-wracking, distracting, and thrilling.

 Things I learned on my first Periscope broadcast

Things I learned on my first Periscope broadcast

Periscope is a new app that allows its users to broadcast and live stream video from their phone anywhere, doing pretty much anything in front of their followers. Twitter bought the platform and rolled it out at the end of March. There is also another service called Meerkat that made its debut in late February. Regardless of what tech reporters have espoused, Periscope has become the more popular of the two. In part because Twitter owns Periscope and allows it much more functionality on their platform. The difference between the two and which one is better is fodder for another post I'll never write. Instead I want to talk about my experience today and what I learned.

I called today's broadcast my "first real" live stream because I've broadcasted twice before, both somewhat silly, and pet related. The first broadcast I showed my cat eating pet greens for the first time (no shame, she LOVED them!), and the second was a dog walk in the country. Both were super simple and very short. I wanted to check out Periscope quickly, and these activities both seemed like fun, easy ways to check it out. Playing with it gave me other ideas for Periscope, and today I was able to exercise one of them.

I decided to host a 15 or twenty minute broadcast today where I would discuss things that were happening online and in social media as well as take any questions from people about the Internet. I lasted almost 8 minutes. I could have gone longer, but the way my phone was set up was very precarious, and as I mentioned I was pretty distracted and honestly, very nervous.

But I'm so excited by what I learned and I want to share that with you today.

First, let's go over the features before you broadcast on Periscope, because I think they are worth discussing since there are pros and cons to them.

Here's How Periscope Works

Once you decide you're going to broadcast there are a few features to choose from before you start. I was glad I had had the two test runs prior to today to get an understanding of how each feature works. They're not complicated at all, but they're small and easy to miss which in turn makes it easy not use them the way you might want to once you're recording (they disappear once you start broadcasting).

 What I learned with my first Periscope broadcast

What I learned with my first Periscope broadcast

Choosing a Title: This is harder than it sounds. You want to be descriptive, but succinct. I like the idea of sticking with the same title each time and adding something after a colon. Today I went with "Let's talk/office hours: social media & the Internet for artists & creatives." I wanted to create something that tells what I'm up to quickly, and something I can continue to use in the future.

It's also important to choose a title if you are going to choose the tweet option. Otherwise Twitter will send out a generic tweet:

LIVE on #Periscope

— Meighan O'Toole (@meigs) December 6, 2015

 What I learned with my first Periscope broadcast

What I learned with my first Periscope broadcast

Location:Update: You can now toggle on or off to show your general location. I was dubious about this due to privacy, but Periscope only shows the geographic location of where you are located (ie: New York City or United States) and not your actual location (ie: 123 Smith Lane, Anywhere, USA 02155). When it first launched it did actually show your exact location, but that has changed luckily!

Public or Private Broadcasting: What I like about Periscope is it offers the ability to publicly live broadcast, or a run a private broadcast. With a public broadcast your video shows up in the Watch Table (the main feed) and anyone can watch it. A private broadcast does not show up in the main feed, and you choose from your followers who is allowed to watch it. Pro-Tip: This would be a great way to invite community members to a special conversation, or meet up.

I like the idea of broadcasting publicly for a few reasons. First, anyone can watch your stream and get to know you, and in turn follow you, which has the possibility of increasing your community and sharing your work to a wider audience. Whereas privately broadcasting allows you the ability to select who can watch your stream and it also affords a more intimate video -- giving your followers the space to open up and be themselves knowing the whole world isn't watching them.

I chose to broadcast publicly, and it was definitely nerve wracking knowing anyone could be watching -- and it definitely fed into my scattered, clumsiness within the broadcast. But because the platform is new and not many people within my community are online, a private broadcast seemed moot.

Chat Ability: Periscope allows an instant message chat style on the bottom left. This is how people communicate with you. You can decide prior to broadcast to allow everyone to chat or just your followers, or completely turn it off. I like that there are options here. For instance, during my broadcast someone asked if my dog needed to use the restroom. yeah.

I like the idea of allowing anyone to watch but only allowing your followers the ability to chat due to weirdo questions like the above. But, I think either has pros and cons. For instance allowing everyone to talk offers the ability to have a diverse conversation, and again may broaden your community and follower count.

Tweet Option: This feature lets your Twitter followers know you are broadcasting with an automatic tweet. I chose to turn this feature on, and it sent out the tweet below.

LIVE on #Periscope: Let's talk/office hours: social media & the Internet for artists & creatives — Meighan L. O'Toole (@meigs) April 16, 2015

I have over 6,000 followers on Twitter and just over 100 followers on Periscope, because of this difference in follower ratio it made sense to use the tweet option. Plus, Periscope alerts your followers whenever you have a broadcast happening, most people if they're smart turn off these notifications, so tweeting that your live is the only option you have in that moment (unless of course you plan out your scopes and let people know ahead of time on social media).

Broadcasting: Periscope uses your phone's camera and it allows you to film with either camera - the back or the front. But its default is the back, whereas the front camera isn't available until you start broadcasting. This was weird to me. In order to access the camera you have to start broadcasting and then swipe down for your front camera to work. This felt really clumsy because people initially first see the back of my wall, then my hand, then my face. Awkward. Because I wanted to film me (my face) discussing the Internet, I needed to use the front camera. The fact that I couldn't check out how I looked or the lighting immediately as well as if the camera angle was in the right position was a drawback definitely.

 What I learned with my first Periscope broadcast

What I learned with my first Periscope broadcast

Hearts: While not a feature per se, the hearts that flutter up from the left hand corner are the 'like' currency on Periscope. They're how your followers let you know they're enjoying your content. Although slightly distracting, they're quite pretty and they're animated! Hearts are used more as a scoring feature as opposed to a like feature, for every heart you get its added to your profile.


What I learned & What I'll Do Next Time:

OK, I am not one to toot my horn often -- but I have to give myself credit for diving in and doing this. I was really nervous and honestly, afraid I would be trolled or I would embarrass myself. I watched the recorded video (which is below - please note it's just the video with none of the features mentioned above) so I could write this blog post to give a clear, and honest take on my experience. Besides being a bit distracted, and unfocused (I really tried!) I think it was a positive broadcast. So yay! It wasn't that bad! I woke up this morning and thought to myself, oh I'll do it next week. But I knew the only way to fully understand the platform was to just dive in.

My experience was really fun despite the nervousness, and I really was able to get a clear idea of how to move forward with the platform in the future. I am looking forward to seeing how this plays out!

Here's what I learned with this experiment and what I took away with me.

  1. The excitement and possibility of a new platform: Because Periscope is such a new platform really anything goes at the moment. No real best practices have been established by the community, there are no "Periscope Stars", and not many people are using it. This is the perfect time to check out a platform and make it yours.

  2. Distracting! It is very distracting! Here's what was going on in the 8 minutes I was recording on my screen: visual cues of people asking questions and chatting as well as people joining populated down to the left of the screen, hearts bubbled up in lovely colors and numbers of those watching (or disappearing) hung out in the bottom right corner, and notifications kept appearing on my phone from Twitter (even though I was in Do Not Disturb mode). This made me really scattered and nervous. I think just getting used to everything will just take time. Taking my time answering (or not answering) questions, and just being calm are key takeaways. I think the way to move forward with the chat feature is to be pretty clear on what you're going to talk about, and then let everyone know that you are moving on. If other questions come in after the fact, let them go or answer them if you feel you can do it in a way that isn't all over the place.

  3. Planning: See above. Because it was so distracting, I'm really glad I planned to discuss a few different topics and was prepared with notes. For next time, I think I will draw up a solid outline of what the broadcast will be about. I'll then post about it on social media to alert people that it is happening, this will give those that want to join a clear idea of what's in store.

  4. Opportunity: I think there are so many options for a Periscope broadcast: tutorials, interviews, reviews, discussions, Q&As/AMAs, showing works in progress (painting, drawing, etc), the list goes on and on. I definitely will be exploring different formats in the near future. This feels really exciting to me.

  5. Awka-Awkward - technical & physical hurdles: Because Periscope broadcasts from your phone there are a few awkward issues. One being the fact that you must start broadcasting to access your front camera. Not only is that just an awkward experience for your viewers, it doesn't allow you the ability to get set up in a way that assures a good look. Yes, you can use your video and do it that way, but it feels clunky. Another draw back is that because of the way Periscope works -- needing to see the screen -- it's hard to find a way to position the phone. This was hard for me. I wanted to have the ability to read from my computer and chat hands free. I ended up rubberbanding my iPhone 6+ to the top of my monitor. Very precarious. This brings up other issues. If you want to sew or paint, etc you'll need to jury rig a contraption or buy a tripod that will work with interesting angles. I'll be exploring this further. Update: Periscope has introduced web profiles making it really easy to log on to your profile so you can see everything and let your phone record - great way to pay attention to questions.

  6. Announcing on Social Media: Now that I've done this once, I plan on mentioning it on social media going forward. I believe I may want this to be something I continue to do on a weekly basis, so I want people to know about it. As I mentioned above creating an outline and posting it to my blog is a good way for people to get a better understanding of how Periscope and my broadcast will run. I also think offering an area (comment section of my blog) for people to submit questions prior may also be a smart way to go for future broadcasts.

Well, that's what I learned today. I'm sure I'll be learning more as I go, and if I do, I will be sure to update this post. I'm pretty excited about the experience and I'm definitely looking forward to exploring Periscope more.

What do you think? Would you use Periscope? What would you be interested in seeing from me? Let me know below or on Twitter!

Meighan O'Toole

Always all in.