Five months ago, Victoria Fratz was trying to build a social media following, but was having a tough time standing out on platforms like Vine, which had already helped launch dozens of careers a couple of years earlier. That's when a handful of friends suggested she try out an app called Meerkat, which at the time was beginning to gain traction with a new tactic: Instead of posting bite-size clips, people would live broadcast from wherever they were, often for hours at a time. Intrigued, the 28-year-old Fratz tested it out and knew immediately that her social media aspirations were about to take off.
"In one day, I had about three of my viewers on Snapchat say, 'You have a great presence; we'd like to see you on Meerkat,'" she says. "I went home, downloaded the app, hit the stream button and it was an immediate connection."
Branding herself as the "Meerkat Queen," Fratz is now one of the most popular personalities on the app with 35,500 followers and more than 500 videos that so far have been watched by 250,000 people.
She is only one of a growing number of creators hoping to ride the post-YouTube wave of social video influencers emerging over the past nine months as mobile streaming has taken off.
Only weeks after Meerkat was crowned the breakout star at this year's South by Southwest Interactive Festival, Twitter launched Periscope—which now has 10 million users who watch a staggering 21 million minutes of video every day. Facebook is also throwing its weight behind livestreaming with Mentions, a feature that celebrities including Miley Cyrus and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson use to talk to fans. Meanwhile, YouNow, a millennial-focused network founded in 2011, claims that its average user now spends 51 minutes watching live video each day.
Leading brands like MasterCard, Taco Bell and Nestlé have hopped on the livestreaming trend by producing their own videos, but unlike the YouTube and Vine personalities they're accustomed to working with, livestreaming talent pose a slew of new challenges—namely, marketers can't control unscripted video viewed by thousands the minute someone hits play.
Still, the similarity to live programming is why TV personality and early social media adopter Al Roker is betting big on livestreaming. His production company, Al Roker Entertainment, opened Roker Labs in July, an agency that finds the top streamers and figures out how brands can work with them.
"Livestreaming is the missing link between television and social media," says Ronald C. Pruett Jr., Roker Labs' chief adviser. "It's scary because it's dynamic, it's not static, but it [hits] a global audience and it's instantaneous."
Here, we profile eight of the most successful creators on Periscope and Meerkat that every brand getting into live video should know about right now.