December 15, 2016

In case you missed the Instagram update that sent the social media managers jumping around like kids at Christmas, Instagram is now providing users the ability to broadcast live video! Instagram Live is being rolled out first to US users and then other users in the coming months.

How do you know if you have Instagram Live?

Go into your Instagram account, and get into the Stories section. You can swipe right or tap on the “Your Story +” option at the top of your home feed. At the bottom, beneath the shutter button, you’ll see “Normal” and to the right of that “Boomerang”. If you have Instagram Live, you’ll also see “Live” to the left.

If you have this, you just swipe over to the Live option and hit the “Start Live Video” button that appears. You’ll get a countdown from 3, 2, 1 and then you’re LIVE on Instagram!

Once you go live, Instagram will notify some of your followers that you are live. If they receive the notification, and have push notifications enabled on their mobile device, they’ll see something like this:

Understand that not ALL of your followers will receive this notification. Instagram wants to make sure that you aren’t getting tons of notifications every time someone you follows goes live, or we’ll get desensitized, right? So, Instagram will use an algorithm (hah! I know you love that word  ) to determine who to notify. Instagram will notify followers who are active with your content and/or who are interested in and frequently use Instagram Stories.

And, the longer you stay on live, the more people that Instagram will be able to notify. Obviously, if you’re only on live for 2 minutes, you’ll not get nearly as many notifications sent out as if you stayed on for 45 minutes.

Also, when you are using Instagram Live, any of your followers who go to their home feed will see a notification in the Stories banner that you are currently broadcasting live. So, even if they don’t get a notification, if they are on Instagram, they’ll likely notice you’re live.

So this is all great and everything, but what they heck are you supposed to do when you actually go live?

I’m so glad you asked  I’ve got you covered here so that you can do the right things, and not look like an amateur who is just trying it out.

Have a Strategy

First of all, because of course you know I love the word “strategy”, you want to have a strategy!

The best way to avoid looking like an amateur is not to act like one. And good professionals who have quality live video sessions come prepared.

You want to know your primary topic if conversation and the key points you want to cover. I typically make a list of these items and have them next to me when I’m broadcasting so I can stay on track and ensure I don’t forget any of the important points.

Make sure you know your calls-to-action and have an idea of where you want to drop them during the video flow. Have an idea of how long you want to broadcast for and plan to fill that time accordingly.

Set a Schedule

Plan a time for your Instagram Live video and stick to it. If you say you’ll be live at 2:00 pm, be live at 2:00, not 2:05 or 2:10. Approach this as any other appointment and plan your day around this time commitment.

Pick a consistent time for best results of large audiences. If your audience knows you do an Instagram Live every Tuesday at 9:00 am, then they’ll make time in their schedule to attend live.

But if you have a globally diverse audience, don’t just stick to one day and time. Consider doing two different times and maybe even different days. For example, if you’re always live at your local 5:00 pm Wednesday time, that may be middle of the night for some of your audience or the middle of the workday for others. While it may ideal for some viewers at 5:00 pm, you could risk missing out on a lot of your audience if that’s the only time you offer.

Promote Your Instagram Live

Sure, it’s great if you can grab some people who happen to be on Instagram when you go live or those who get the notifications. But it’s even better if you can get your audience to plan to attend your Instagram Live videos. The best way to do this is to promote your Live sessions in advance.

Post on your Instagram profile at least one day ahead of your scheduled session to ensure a majority of your audience sees the post in time. Share this post to your other social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to let them know you’ll be live on Instagram and how to find you.

Start posting to your Instagram Stories in the 24 hours leading up to the Live broadcast with teasers about your topic, what you’ll cover, or reasons why they should tune in.

Have the Right Tools

If you’re randomly using Instagram Live as you walk around an event or for personal use, crappy quality can kind of being overlooked. But if you’re using Instagram Live for your business and want to come off looking like a pro, you need the right tools.

These tools don’t need to be expensive and you can MacGyver most of them with what you have available wherever you are.

But it’s super important that you have a tripod or something to mount your mobile device on. Nothing is more annoying that shaky video! I already tried to watch one Instagram Live video from a major company and I stopped after less than a minute because the camera was bouncing around so much.

You also want to make sure your audio is good. If you’re in a quiet office, you can talk into your phone’s external microphone and get good quality audio. But if there are background noises or you’re outside, get a microphone! Even if it’s just your earbuds with microphone, get something to help isolate the audio.

And you also need good lighting. Position yourself so lights are in front of you, illuminating your face. Not behind you making you look dark or off to the side giving you funny shadows on your face. People will want to see your smiling face and facial expressions so make sure you have the right environment for good lighting.

Be Engaged During the Live Broadcast

People will start tuning in as soon as you go live and they will continue to pop in throughout the broadcast. You’ll see a little notification each time someone new joins in to watch you.

Pay attention to the names popping in and if you see usernames you recognize, give them a shout out. Say hi to people and engage viewers.

Ask people to chime in with where they’re from or other details to get them engaged in the conversation.

Encourage people to leave questions or their thoughts on a topic you’re discussing. Take the time to read those comments/questions and respond to them individually.

Refer to people by their usernames, even if you know they real names, so that others on the call know who you’re talking to when responding to questions or comments.

Bring Value – Lots of It

I hosted my first Instagram Live session the day it launched publicly. Let me tell you, there was a LOT of crap out there that day with people randomly trying it out and doing time-wasting videos.

When I hosted mine though, although it was spontaneous, I specifically covered key Instagram topics and recent updates. I had numerous people comment and thank me for providing valuable information they weren’t aware of.

People will not stay on your video if you aren’t giving them real value. So from the moment you start, all the way through the end, make sure the content you’re sharing is adding value – whatever it is your audience values.

Your audience may be looking for entertainment and laughs. They may be looking for helpful tips or information. They may be looking for discounts or product details. Whatever their “value” is, make sure you’re giving it to them.

Use Calls-to-Action

Like any business tool, you want to be able to generate conversions. Plan accordingly to include calls-to-action in your Instagram Live videos.

This may be asking people to sign up for your newsletter or blog, or register for a webinar, or get a free resource, or go to your website, or follow you on another social media platform, or comment on one of your Instagram posts, or pretty much anything you want to drive traffic to or results for.

Plan to space out these CTAs throughout your broadcast. Most viewers will not stay on the video for the whole thing from start to finish so if you only mention your CTA once, you miss a large portion of the audience. Instead, say it multiple times throughout the video, but not so often you annoy those who stayed on the whole time. Just so you know, typically, if I broadcast for 30 minutes, I’ll mention my CTA about 3-4 times.

Plan for Disappearing Content

One of the fun, yet frustrating aspects of Instagram Live is that the video disappears after you stop broadcasting. Yup, once you stop, it’s gone! There’s no saving it or copying it to be repurposed or shared after the fact.

For some of you, this may be a benefit and it may relieve some of the video “pressures” you worry about. Bad hair? It’s ok, no one will ever know once you stop broadcasting. Said something stupid? Oh well, only those on at that moment will ever know. Nervous? That’s ok – talk about a great way to practice!

So, what makes for good videos if the content is going to disappear?

  • Exclusive content. Want to drum up excitement for a new product or launch? Show behind-the-scenes or sneak peeks via Instagram Live video and once you’re done broadcasting, the opportunity is over. It’ll encourage viewers to tune in and reward those who did with a feeling of getting something extra.
  • Flash sales or promotions. If you have a giveaway, discount, promotion, or other campaign that you want to offer to a select few, host a live session to announce it. And once the video is over, there goes the promo.
  • Q&A sessions. Reward your audience with the opportunity to pick your brain for free. But they have to show up live to ask the questions and get the answers. The great thing is that if people ask the same questions every time, that’s ok, because new people are always tuning in and the content will always be fresh.
  • Breaking news or updates. If something new is happening in your industry or business, jump on a live session to talk about it and get the information out there before you formally write a blog post or press release.
  • Tutorials. These are good because you can do a different one each week but then start repeating the topics on occasion to keep your audience engaged but give yourself recurring content you don’t have to recreate each time.
  • Takeovers or features. If you reward customers or supportive companies with the ability to post on your account, an Instagram Live allows them to take over or be featured, but the content doesn’t live on forever on your profile.

After the Live Video

Just because you hit “End” doesn’t mean it’s over. Sure, the video is gone. But your work is still going strong. Remember, this is a part of your overall strategy!

I recommend you have a post prepared to share to your Instagram account as soon as the video ends. Take one of the key points or a short recap of the key points from the live video and put them into a post that you upload immediately following the live broadcast.

This way, the content does still live on so those who missed the live video still get the added value. But it also allows you to promote the fact that you hosted the live video, and let them know they missed out on a great video. They’ll want to tune into the next one to ensure they don’t miss any good info next time.

So, make sure you also include the date and time of your next live video in this post and drum up anticipation now.


Finally, understand that people don’t want to watch what you do live every minute of every day. Even reality TV isn’t that “real” because no one wants it.

So don’t get too crazy with the whole live video thing and start broadcasting everything you do and every time something happens. Be selective and strategic. Try different things but focus on what works and drives results that align with your strategy.

Get out there. Hit the “go live” button and have fun!

See you over on Instagram Live again soon 

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. Should I go Live on Instagram or Facebook and when would I choose one over the other? Is Instagram still about more visuals and experiences? And Facebook might be just me in front of a camera?

    1. Great question Derric! Ideally, I would love both 😉 Really, it’s going to come down to your audience and your content strategy. If you want to create content that you can repurpose and direct people to after the fact, then Facebook is the place to be. But if your audience is on Instagram and you can promote your Live video sessions, you will likely get better results there. IG isn’t just about the visuals – they want the value and connection.

  2. No doubt instagram is a powerful social media app/site. I have a question that how we can increase followers with white hat method?

    Is it ok to use software to increase followers?


    1. Hi Sarah. There are apps you can use to help grow your followers legitimately. However, Instagram just cracked down on their third party API, which restricts apps and tools from sharing follower/following data. This is directly impacting almost all of the tools out there for this function so you’ll need to very careful with any tool you choose to use.

  3. It is a good idea to not over plan the first time this is done. Try a sample one for a few people and customers that really know you. There will be others that come in but if you watch most youtube videos the first ones are not really good. It takes time to build a brand. And to not be so good at it can be helpful, customers like effort and honesty over slick adds. That is why youtube has taken off. It’s the reality and direct topics that they like.

    1. Great point, Jim! We will always evolve and get better as we do more video. Having some “test” runs and early video attempts is a good way to find comfort and flow.

  4. Thank you for sharing this post Jenn!!!

    Your reply is more practical and helpful. I hope it will be helpful for too many people that are searching for this topic. Great post!

    Can’t wait to follow and learn.

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