Should you care about Periscope in higher ed?

Early adopters explored possible campus use of live, mobile video over the summer

Have you heard about Periscope yet? If you follow tech early adopters, journalists, celebrities or even politicians on Twitter, you might have already seen Periscope notifications for live broadcasts in your feed.

Acquired for $100 million by Twitter in March 2015, the live-streaming mobile app could be either the next big thing or the latest social media fad (remember SecondLife?). But when you work in digital communications and marketing for a university, you can’t afford to ignore change.

It is part of your job to monitor, experiment and adopt new communication platforms aligned with your strategic goals and audience needs.

Periscope 101

Available for iOS and Android devices, Periscope lets you live-stream and broadcast anything you can capture with the front and back cameras of your smartphone. This isn’t new: Skype, Google Hangout and other apps have done it for a few years now.

However, Periscope and its direct competitor, Meerkat, have found the right formula for mobile live streaming. By fostering two-way communications between broadcaster and viewer, both apps are real-time and highly interactive.

On Periscope, viewers can send comments and “show their love” by touching the screen—the gesture sends small heart icons. Broadcasts remain on the Periscope servers for 24 hours, and a service called Katch can store them in the cloud.

Live events

A few schools have experimented with Periscope during commencement season, offering a backstage look at these big events. “We shared an insider’s view of what goes on behind the scenes during our commencement exercises and we broadcast the main ceremony,” says Kaitlyn Sutton, digital marketing specialist at Temple University in Philadelphia.

A Periscope audience of about 450 viewers watched live interviews with commencement keynote speakers at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Wharton also used Periscope and Meerkat to showcase faculty experts on topics in the news.

“Whether it was a recent SCOTUS decision, the St. Louis Cardinals investigation or the Greek financial crisis, we went to the experts here at Wharton to help explain the situations and take questions in real time,” says Rebecca Barber, social media coordinator.

Summer of experiments

A few institutions have also experimented with different kinds of “scopes” during the slower summer months.

MIT, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey used Periscope to give live campus mini-tours. These tours were live-streamed to explore the possibilities of the mobile app while creating interesting content for followers of the university’s social media accounts.

At UW-Madison, the mini-tours were scheduled every week as part of a “#TourTuesday” summer series conducted by Robert Welch, a communications intern in the Visitor Relations Office. The results of the project were more than positive.

“We have found that these tours can help serve as a way to encourage people to come to campus for an in-person tour, field trip visit or customized campus visit,” says Welch.

At Stevens Institute of Technology, the 30-minute campus tour turned into a big focus group with 101 viewers.

“I received immediate feedback from our audience and learned that when live-streaming they wanted us to talk directly to them,” says Sandra Ordonez, social media and public relations manager. She followed that advice in her second Periscope, which featured the “SURE House,” the institute’s U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon entry.

Be ready Th

ough still new in internet terms, Periscope has already passed 10 million users worldwide in August, according to Twitter. Periscope could also be further integrated with Twitter and become one of its native functions. If (or when) this happens, universities and colleges with large, engaged Twitter audiences will need to be ready.

Karine Joly is the web editor behind, a blog about higher ed web marketing, public relations and technologies. She is also the founder of


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