Twitter's big 360 livestream reveal makes little splash

The social media platform joins the likes of Facebook and YouTube, which have already launched their own 360 livestreaming video features, albeit on a limited basis.

Image courtesy of Twitter. Copyright Marisa Allegra Williams for Twitter, Inc.
Image courtesy of Twitter. Copyright Marisa Allegra Williams for Twitter, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter has been strangely reticent in its launch of a 360-degree livestreaming video tool via its subsidiary Periscope.

The soft launch of Twitter 360 livestreaming video was made during the holidays through a pair of blog posts by Periscope and Twitter exec Alessandro Sabatelli, hired by the company in June as director of VR and AR. The launch is allowing only a "small group of partners," including well-known Periscoper Alex Pettitt, to test the new feature.

Twitter investor Chris Sacca blogged several months ago that the platform was failing in telling its own story, and with YouTube not yet fully integrated and Facebook still not fully accessible, Twitter had a chance to steal a march on 360 livestreaming. But it has a steep path to traverse.

"Twitter has an opportunity to break through if it can figure out how to make the experience seamless and integrate it into the existing platform," said Aaron Gordon, partner at Schwartz Media Strategies.

Morgan McLintic, founder of Firebrand Communications, said integrating Periscope into Twitter simplifies its proposition, integration, and engineering.

With usage rates for Twitter and Facebook dropping among upcoming cohorts, livestreaming and one-on-one messaging became a top priority, according to Michael Brito, GM of San Francisco at Lewis Global Communications.

"[It’s] an attempt to reach parity with their rivals, [such as] Facebook, Instagram, and more importantly, Snapchat," Brito added via email.

After several prospective buyers walked away from talks about acquiring Twitter, innovation has become a necessity for the company, added McLintic.

"This is a way to increase engagement," McLintic said. "It’s all about live video right now. It’s the next logical step. It’s a way of delivering a richer experience."

The launch

For Schwartz's Gordon, the launch "left a lot to be desired," given the competitiveness of the social media space.

Gordon explained a more effective strategy would be to have a big announcement laying out in clear detail what technology Twitter offers, how accessible it is, how many influencer and brand partners it has, and how "it will change how people consume entertainment and live events."

"Now, they’re just dipping their toes in the water," Gordon added. "If they had time on their side and unlimited funds, they should be launching in partnership with a major licensing or brand partner. How great would it have been if their big break was launching a 360 livestream experience with the SuperBowl? Or the inauguration?"

Twitter has been weathering a long exodus in its comms division, beginning with the departure of former CCO Gabriel Stricker shortly after founder Jack Dorsey announced a shift in comms strategy.

Meanwhile, Twitter continues to bleed executives. The company lost its CTO, head of news, government, and elections and director of media partnerships, VP of product development, and COO within two months.

Noone from Twitter was available for comment as this article went to press.

Brand opportunities

PR pros contacted by PRWeek agree the greatest opportunity presented by the new broadcast tool lie in expanding and enriching their Twitter accounts through live events and immersive experiences.

McLintic said the 360 feature would be most appealing for the majority of brands, rather than the live aspect.

"But if you’re a brand that hosts live events, this is quite a way of delivering a richer experience," he added.

The b2b opportunities are also tantalizing — McLintic imagined companies using the technology to craft a recruitment video, showing candidates what it’s like to work at an office in a 360 walk-through.

"Large brands have invested millions in growing their Twitter communities," Brito said. "This move will allow them to reach their existing audience and acquire new audiences relatively easily, compared to Snapchat."

Others were also enthusiastic about the launch. "Expanding beyond 140 characters to 360-video is a huge move for Twitter and ups the ante among social platforms," concluded Ryan Brack, SVP at Mercury, via email. "It doubles down on Twitter's value as a real-time zeitgeist. Now, users won't just read what each other have to say, they'll experience it with their own eyes and ears."

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