Apr 01 2015

Philadelphia Experiments with Meerkat, the Latest Social App Phenomenon

In a bold move, the City of Brotherly Love takes the hottest trending mobile app out for a test drive.

Usually, state and local governments aren’t on the bleeding edge of social media innovation and experimentation. But Philadelphia is daring to be different and has bravely started using Meerkat, the live-streaming iOS app that went viral at South by Southwest, to invite citizens to view mayoral press conferences.

The city’s first use of the app, which was done without a formal announcement, was a small experiment that Philadelphia has kept going following its initial success, according to the city’s director of communications and strategy. In an interview with StateScoop, she offered insight into the city’s decision to dive in headfirst with Meerkat.

“We didn’t announce it — there was no big push to announce that we were going to do this, just in case it didn’t work,” Philadelphia’s Director of Communications and Strategy Desiree Peterkin-Bell told StateScoop. “I had my deputy press secretary put it on her phone and actually stream the mayor’s press conference, and it turned out that it actually worked.”

While Peterkin-Bell said the quality of the stream was not as high as it would be on a broadcast television station, the ability to live stream the mayor’s announcements live was an exciting concept. The initial broadcast garnered approximately 20 viewers, but the number kept rising throughout the stream.

The city’s use of the application was retweeted and mentioned by the app’s official Twitter handle, @AppMeerkat and some venture capitalists who invested in the app, Peterkin-Bell said. According to Peterkin-Bell, the city’s use of Meerkat marks the first time the app has been used by a city government.

The value of live-streaming apps like Meerkat and Twitter-owned Periscope is in their ability to truly make engagements with citizens feel that much more intimate and real-time. Pretty soon, virtual town halls could be just as good as being there in person.