I

t seems like Instagram rolls out new features every few months so we know it can be hard to keep up with all the new features.

While Instagram Live isn’t a new feature (it was launched in 2016), brands have recently been using the streaming feature to reach their audiences through innovative content due to pandemic lockdowns. Businesses, both large and small, and individuals have used the live streaming platform to host yoga sessions and cooking classes, perform “live” at-home concerts, and give inspirational talks. In light of the increased usage of Instagram Live, which increased by 70% back in April, Instagram recently extended the live stream duration from only one hour up to four. 

This article will cover what Instagram Live is, what its features are, and how marketers can use the feature to boost engagement and best benefit their brand. 

What Is Instagram Live?

Instagram Live is a feature that allows users to live stream video content that followers or fans can watch. This type of ephemeral content has risen in popularity since the feature launched on Instagram Live back in November 2016 and saw record-high numbers of users due to social distancing guidelines in light of the pandemic.

Instagram Live is available for any user and can also be reposted to IGTV. If a user follows that specific account, they’ll get a notification that the person went live. 

This feature makes Instagram Live stand out from TikTok, who got into the live streaming game in late 2019, as it allows live videos to be watched, via IGTV, on a desktop. 

Recently, Instagram Live made waves in the e-commerce and tech industries for opening up live shopping experiences. The feature was launched in August 2020 and smoothly integrates with Instagram Checkout which allows brands to complete transactions through the app itself and the app’s Shop tab. 

Instagram Live is often used by celebrities and influencers who’ve used the platform to put on live performances and share intimate personal details. 

Take Cardi B for example. The popular singer revealed to her fans on Instagram Live in September 2019 why she filed for divorce and later reunited, with her husband of three years, Offset. By posting personal videos of their lives, they, instead of media outlets or speculating fans, get to control the narrative. 

Others, like Lizzo, have used the platform to talk about current issues and spread awareness about events such as the election. In September, Lizzo used her Instagram account to air a live conversation with vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris that has since seen over 950K views and 1.5K comments.

Instagram Live Features

Instagram Live offers several features that users can use to personalize a video while streaming content — from live unboxings to concerts to Q&A sessions.

There is also a wide range of special filters that users can choose from, with some created by local artists and others created by Instagram itself. 

Users can also allow message replies to Instagram Live content, making it easy to interact with viewers in real-time. This makes the experience feel more personal and can make viewers feel like their questions and opinions are heard and valued. 

Comment controls for Instagram Live is another great feature users can turn on to keep any haters away. All users have to do is go into the settings, select privacy, and then turn on the “Hide offensive comments” section. Users can also filter out comments that feature specific words they don’t want to be posted to the Live video by turning on the “Manual” filter and then typing the words. 

In October 2020, Instagram began allowing users in good standing — those without a history of intellectual property or policy violations — to record up to four hours. Instagram also announced that users can now archive their Instagram Live content for up to 30 days after they go live. This will allow them to view the videos and give them time to decide whether or not they want to post the video to IGTV. 

A select number of Instagram users — about 50,000 as of October 2020 — can also monetize their Instagram Live videos with the company’s fan badges. This feature follows in the steps of Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook and allows Instagram users to purchase badges for $0.99, $1.99, or $.99 while watching an Instagram Live video. These badges make it easy for the live streamers to see who is supporting them (and possibly give a little shoutout to.)

How Can Marketers Use Instagram Live?

Instagram is a must-have for any brand looking to reach Gen Z and Millenials. But staying on top of its many features — Instagram Live, Stories, Highlights, IGTV, and most recently, Reels — can seem complicated. 

Instagram Live is a powerful tool and can help reach new audiences and keep engagement high among your followers. There are a wide variety of live streaming videos that usually see high engagement and this section will go through a few of them and how brands have already been using these methods to reach their audiences with massive success. 

Brands looking to use the Instagram Live feature should optimize their streaming content by building a consistent and multi-channel campaign leading up to the event. Not only can you create regular posts that users have access to, but you can tease it on your Instagram Stories and even create Highlights so users can easily access information about the event at any time. 

Q&A Videos

These types of videos often see crazy engagement because they allow fans and followers to feel personally connected to the brand and valued. Instagram Live is the perfect platform for this type of content because the brand can respond in real-time to questions and be able to elaborate more on topics. Instagram’s Q&A sticker also makes it easy to read submitted questions during the live stream and then post them to the screen as they answer. 

Who’s done this well? The World Wildlife Fund.

In a June 2020 Instagram Live video, the World Wildlife Fund brought a member of its social media team and Clay Bolt, the communications officer for WFF’s Northern Great Plains program, to talk about grasslands and pollinators in celebration of National Grasslands and Pollinators Week. The 20-minute live stream was also open to questions through the Questions sticker or in the comments. Bolt joined the live stream from the field in Livingston, Montana, to provide a more immersive experience for the over 90K viewers who watched the Instagram Live clip. 


Conversations 

Instagram Live is Gen Z’s talk show, and brands that host conversations with other influencers or people in their industry’s space often see high engagement. These can be more evergreen type content or newsworthy and topical. 

Who’s done this well? Patagonia.

In October, rock climber Chris Gallagher talked with the League of Conservation Voters for an Instagram Live video that was later reposted to the brand’s IGTV channel. The video, which covered how to make a voting plan, saw over 135K views and over 130 comments during the 25-minute conversation. 


Meet the Team 

Brands that let their audience see who’s behind the scenes cater to young audiences’ thirst for transparency and search for authenticity. These videos can also help your audience better understand how a company functions and allows them to zoom in to see how each employee contributes to the overall success of the brand. These live streams can either be in a Q&A or conversational style, and also 

Who’s done well? Bon Appetit.

While the quarantine kept people at home and away from friends and family, culinary media giant, Bon Appetit, brought the dinner party to their followers' living rooms. These videos weren’t your typical “meet the team” type videos and had staff members and celebrities together to talk and eat together over Instagram Live. 

The live stream between pastry chef and former contributing editor for Bon Appetit magazine, Claire Saffitz, and Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness brought in close to 400K views and over 450 comments. 



How-to/Instructional Videos 

How-to videos strike the right balance between informative and entertaining, and they allow followers to feel personally invested in the brand. These videos can range from dance tutorials to cooking classes and usually see higher user engagement.

A brand that’s done this well? The New York City Ballet.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the entertainment industry has been hit hard with performers having to postpone or cancel shows. The New York City Ballet, among many other groups, has had to adapt and live-streamed an hour-long “At the Barre” series where company dancers hosted ballet classes. These allowed the dancers to interact with the company’s fans and even expand their reach to new audiences. 

One video in the series featured the NYC ballet’s Tiler Peck and currently has close to 7K views. Not only was the video easy to follow along, but helpful as it offered tips for both beginners and advanced dancers. 



Behind the Scenes

Brands can also offer an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at something that their fans or followers wouldn’t usually get to see. This type of live stream content allows your audience to feel closely connected to your brand and caters to their interest in transparency and authenticity while allowing you to control how and what they see. 

A brand that’s done this well? Guinness.

The famous Irish beer brand went live to give its customers a behind-the-scenes look at one of its brewhouses in May 2020. The live video follows a master brewer through Guinness’ iconic Brewhouse who talks about how Guinness is made and production output data, as well as answers viewers’ questions. The video gives both beer and Guinness lovers alike a special look at what it has to offer and currently has over 13K views. 

Product Reveals

Using Instagram Live to talk about new or trending products through either unboxing videos is a great way to build up the hype surrounding them. These videos can be more engaging than a traditional post or video because you’ll be able to more directly interact with your audience and answer any questions they may have. 

A brand that’s done this well? Sephora.

Showing off her favorite Fall fragrances, one of Sephora’s beauty directors, Myiesha Sewell, went live in October for a product haul. This live video not only put a personal face to the brand but helped generate excitement over products the company sells. It was later posted to the brand’s IGTV and has over 35K views. 


Conclusion 

Instagram Live is just one of many streaming platforms that brands can use to capture the attention of their youngest consumers. However, its existence on Instagram — one of the most popular social media platforms among Gen Z and Millennials, influencers, and brands alike — makes it a logical place to focus energy and resources.

Instagram Live offers many great features so brands can easily and safely post live streaming content — from Q&As to conversations to tutorials — that your audience will love. The non-stop innovative minds behind the platform can also ensure that your brand can keep up with new digital trends. And when that time comes and you have any questions, you know where to find us for any and all questions.

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