Images and strong captions might be enough to grab your followers' attention, but building trust requires more than witty puns and memes—and that's where Instagram Live comes in. As a content marketing consultant and course creator, I've hosted several Instagram Lives, both solo and with guests, and there's no denying the results they drive.
Unlike curated feed content, Instagram Live is an unedited and interactive way to reach current and potential customers. It humanizes your brand, allows you to have real-time interactions with your audience, and lets you engage with followers on a deeper level.
The key to approaching Instagram Live
Instagram Live videos are highlighted at the top of the screen, and your audience gets notified when you start a live stream. That's a lot of visibility, and it's part of why Instagram Live is an excellent tool for business owners to stay top-of-mind with their audience and strengthen their relationship with their followers.
So how can you show up live in a true-to-brand and strategic way? To start, ask yourself and your team the following questions:
What value can we provide to our audience that we haven't shared before?
What information would support our customers' purchasing decisions?
What types of conversations will excite and engage our followers?
The first Live I ever hosted was inspired by a post that someone shared in a Slack community. They were struggling with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, and I really related to what they were going through, so I hopped on Instagram Live and shared some advice with a business friend of mine.
This Live wasn't necessarily a marketing tactic or part of a strategy—I just felt that I had some advice and kind words to share that could help them or anybody else in a similar place. But it still sparked some meaningful conversations with my online community and helped me build trust with them.
Types of Instagram Lives for businesses (with examples)
A key point to remember is that different types of Lives drive different actions. While a more casual AMA-style Live like the one I described above is great for building trust and helping your followers get to know you better, there are plenty of ways that you can use this feature.
For example, you could host a live Q&A session about your newest product or service. Or you might conduct a live interview that gives your audience a deeper look into the "why" behind your business.
Here are three styles of Instagram Lives that you might want to try out for your business.
Product launch on Instagram Live
Releasing a new product or service soon? Host a live stream to share all the details with your audience. Don't be afraid to geek out and dive into the nitty-gritty about what you're offering and why. Going live gives your followers the chance to get excited with you and stay in the know.
When I opened registration for my freelance mentorship program, Click-worthy Creative Academy, for the second time, I hosted a Live with a past student to build some buzz. Signing up for a new program can be daunting, so the goal of this Live was to help prospective students get a better idea of what the program is like and its value. They could get answers to all their burning questions and connect with an actual student in real-time.
Interviews on Instagram Live
Hosting an interview with an industry leader, expert, or even your team members is a great way to share valuable knowledge and insights with your audience while also helping them get to know you and your business better.
This Live hosted by popular skincare brand Origins hooked me right away. During the live stream, a team member interviewed an environmentalist who shared some advice on living a more sustainable lifestyle. The topic aligned well with the company's mission, and the brand highlighted its #GreenThePlanet Fund in the caption, further reinforcing the company's values.
Series on Instagram Live
Instead of producing one-off videos, you could create a series of Lives centered around a specific theme or topic. This type of live content gives your audience a reason to keep coming back to your profile and can help your brand become a regular part of their social media routine.
The team behind Shopwise, an online marketplace for women's sustainable and ethical fashion, created a "Meet the Designer" Instagram Live series hosted by founder Jaclyn. The series spotlights a few of the designers that Shopwise carries, and each video left me wanting to fill my online cart with a few (ok, more than a few) pieces.
How to host an engaging Instagram Live for your business
Before you excitedly tap that Live button, here are a few important details to keep in mind.
Scheduling: You can go live on Instagram any time (just go to the Live tab on the New Post page), or you can preschedule your Live up to 90 days in advance.
Visuals: When hosting a Live, you can share photos or videos directly from your phone's camera roll, such as branded elements or graphics that support your topic or theme.
Guests: Previously, Instagram Live only supported two guests in one collective stream. Now, with Live Rooms, you can go live with up to four users in one session, which can help you reach new audiences.
Length: A stream can be up to an hour in length, but don't feel pressured to use up all 60 minutes if you don't need to.
With these logistics in mind, here are some tips to make sure your Live goes smoothly.
1. Be prepared
Make sure you have a quiet space to record with minimal visual distractions and good lighting. You might also want to double-check your internet connection before starting your Live.
2. Start with a hook
Starting a live broadcast can be a little awkward as you wait for people to join, so come prepared with a few talking points. For example, you could talk about the topic for the Live, introduce your guest, or share what inspired you to host the event.
3. Have an objective
The most effective social posts typically have a strong purpose or objective, and Instagram Lives are no exception. How many people do you want to attend? What would you like attendees to do after the Live? Setting goals in advance can help keep you focused and make your live video more impactful.
4. Aim for connection, not perfection
Whether it's tech obstacles or struggling to get a guest in, it's pretty common for mishaps to happen during live streams. Try to stay positive and go with the flow—no one wants a stressed or frustrated host.
For example, if a guest takes longer than expected to hop into the Live, ask some questions to keep your viewers engaged. How's their week going? What are their favorite products or services? You can also encourage viewers to use the extra time to send in any questions they might have.
Making the most of Instagram Live
Remember: a great Instagram Live doesn't need to be perfectly polished or planned out. It's about showing the human side of your business. Regardless of your business goals, adding live streams to your social media schedule can help deepen connections with your audience in real-time and expand your reach. Plus, once you're done, you have a recorded video asset that your followers can watch and rewatch long after the event.