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Ready to get #InstaFamous?

The era of live video is officially here to stay.

As audiences search for more intimacy from their favorite brands, live content has an authenticity that can’t be duplicated. That’s part of the reason why 80% of customers say they’d rather watch a live video from a company than read their blog.

At the same time, the ephemeral nature of live video prompts the phenomena of “FOMO” in your audience. When people are scared of missing out, they’re more likely to sit up and pay attention.

In a world driven by raw and engaging visuals, what better social channel to turn to than Instagram?

Selection of example images taken from Instagram Live

Why brands need an Instagram Live strategy

Instagram officially reached 1 billion monthly active users in June 2018.

It’s easily one of the most popular social channels around, and a fantastic way to connect with the millennial demographic. Most Instagram users are between 18 and 29 years old.

Instagram Live is just one of the more recent features to appear in Instagram’s portfolio and it has a lot of benefits to offer, including:

  • Newsfeed priority: Thanks to Instagram’s algorithm, posting a live video will place you at the head of your followers’ feeds. If you’re looking for a way to stay top-of-mind when your fans open their app, this is it.
  • Increased engagement:  With Instagram Live, companies respond immediately to client issues, answer questions and host valuable discussions with their followers. Forming these real-time connections are all the more important when you consider the power of the platform – 32% of teenagers consider Instagram to be the most crucial social network.
  • Build relationships: Just like in real life, the more you engage in authentic face-to-face interactions with your followers, the more they’ll trust you. Instagram Live mimics the bonding potential of in-person interactions.
  • Better brand identity: Instagram Live is an excellent way for brands to demonstrate their individuality. Filters, themes and inspirational content all bring a company’s personality to life.

How to use Instagram Live

Instagram Live is more than just a way to broadcast content.

Used correctly, your Instagram Live strategy gives you a mode of interacting with existing followers and attracting new ones. It’s a powerful feature for companies that want to connect in an immersive way.

So, how do you get started?

Step 1: Starting your video

To launch your live video, open the Instagram app and either swipe right or click on the camera  in the top left corner. You’ll reach the “Stories” section of the app from here.

At the bottom of the page, you’ll see a carousel of options, including:

  • Boomerang – a looping gif created from a reel of photos.
  • Rewind – videos that play in reverse
  • Hands-free – A 15-second button-free video
  • Normal – regular videos or photos

Scroll along until you find “Live,” this will give you a big white button to hit when you want to start your stream. You can also switch which camera is enabled by tapping on the arrows to the right of the button.

Screenshot of the "Instagram Live" feature on the Instagram app

Step 2: Configuring your video

Before you start officially broadcasting anything, visit the Instagram Story settings by hitting the gear icon in the top left corner. By default, Instagram streams Live content publicly and allows comments from anyone. The Instagram Story page enables you to control these settings. You might choose to limit replies to followers only or hide your video from specific users.

Once an Instagram Live video ends, it won’t appear on your news feed unless you toggle “Save Shared Photos” on. This saves your content to the Stories section of the app, where you can share them with your audience.

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Screenshot of the "Hide Story" option on Instagram Live settings

Once you’re finished your edits, click on “Start Live Video.”

Screenshot of the "Start Live Video" button on Instagram Live

Managing your Instagram Live videos

Once the camera’s rolling and the app is streaming your video feed, it’s worth knowing how to manage your content.

Instagram will notify followers that you’re live. It’s a good idea to do some promoting beforehand to ensure your audience has made time for your stream. You’ll be able to tell that your stream is running by the little pink “Live” icon in the top left corner. If you tap that icon, you’ll also see how long you’ve been broadcasting.

At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see the number of users viewing your video. This will give you a heads-up if your audience is engaged with what you’re sharing. Remember to boost that engagement by speaking to your followers and asking them to respond to you in the form of comments.

Alternatively, if you want your stream to be a one-way conversation, tap the three dots in the bottom right corner and click “turn off commenting.”

Picture of the Instagram button to turn off commenting

To see who’s watching your broadcast, tap the number of viewers to the right of the “Live” button. You’ll be able kick people (such as trolls or haters) from your stream this way too. Just click the “x” next to their name.

Using Instagram Live like a pro: 5 top tips

As with any Instagram trend, the best way to make sure you’re having an impact is to choose a strategy.

Like Instagram Stories, Instagram Live is a place for creativity. However, it’s still helpful to put your logical hat on before you start streaming. A solid game plan gives you a better chance of reaching and connecting with your audience.

1.     Prepare for your broadcast

Live videos are magnets for mistakes. If you’re new to streaming, you’ll probably trip over your words, fumble your presentation a couple of times or even make mistakes in framing the camera view. That’s not necessarily a huge problem considering the live format. Mistakes in your stream may make your business more relatable and endearing. However, practicing beforehand will keep your embarrassment to a minimum.

Write out a script of things you want to cover on your broadcast before you go Live and practice being on camera. Recording a couple of test videos will help you to pinpoint areas you need to fix before you go live. For instance:

  • Is your background too distracting?
  • Is your audio clear?
  • Do you know how to switch between your front and rear cameras?
  • Do you need to adjust your lighting or camera angles?
Screenshot of Millie Bobby Brown Instagram Live streaming

2.     Have a purpose for your Live videos

When you’re using Instagram Live as part of your marketing repertoire, it’s important to have a purpose. Broadcasting randomly is fun, but it’s not going to give you any measurable results. Use your Instagram Live strategy as a way of sharing unique, exclusive content with your audience. That way, your customers will be more likely to look forward to your streams.

A few ways to deliver value through Instagram Live include:

  • Going behind the scenes: Check out what’s going on behind the curtain of your business. Let your customers see the real personality in your brand.
  • Reveal new products: Build some hype for a product release with an introduction to your latest creations.
  • Q&A sessions: Show your follows you care by answering their questions and engaging directly with them. This makes your company more human and approachable.
  • Ask for feedback: Talk to your audience and get their comments on what you could do better as a business.
  • Provide authoritative tips: Show off your knowledge and insights like MensHealthMag did in their stream:
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3.     Promote Instagram Live streams in advance

As always, your goal on Instagram will be to boost engagement, gain followers and drive connections. That means an “if you build it, they will come” approach to Instagram Live isn’t the way to go.

The best way to reach a large group on Instagram is to make it to the “Explore” page. The Instagram algorithm dictates that you deserve to be on the Explore page if you get a lot of engagement and viewers on your broadcast. Promoting your upcoming stream to existing customers beforehand will build up an audience before you ever hit the “Go Live” button.

One way to promote an Instagram Live stream is with Instagram Stories. A short series of stories with details about your broadcast generates excitement and engagement. Instagram allows you to invite employees and coworkers to join your stream too, boosting your initial numbers.  If you want to get a preview of what kind of audience you can expect, keep an eye on your Instagram Stories analytics in Sprout Social.  You can get a sense of how many people viewed or interacted with the Stories you’ve used to promote the upcoming Live stream.

instagram stories analytics on Sprout

4.     Show your fun side with filters

Instagram Live is all about having fun with your audience while driving engagement.

Next to the “Start Live Video” button, or the comments section when you start streaming, there’s a small smiley face icon. Click on the image to pull up some of Instagram’s famous filters and apply them for Instagram Live. Play around with these filters as much as you like during streaming, to make the video more exciting.

While serious streams about essential business announcements aren’t the place for filters, they’re a great way to let your personality shine through in casual events.

Example of possible snapchat filters to use when streaming

5.     Embrace the urgency

Finally, a great Instagram Live Strategy always takes advantage of the “limited time” nature of the stream. Unless you offer replays of your videos, your audience knows that they only have one chance to join your broadcast. Make them feel like they can’t afford to miss out.

A great way to boost your viewership is to promise one-time-only promotions while you’re building hype for your stream. Line up a special discount or the option to win a prize to get your customers excited.

Offering limited-time-only promo codes is a great way to boost urgency, but there are other options to try too. For instance, if you’re working with an influencer, ask them to make a big announcement during a stream. Alternatively, show your customers something they won’t see anywhere else. For instance, designer Tim Coppens used Instagram Live to introduce a preview of his new menswear collection.

Screenshot of the front page of Tim Coppen's Instagram page

Time to go Live?

Instagram Live is a simple and effective way to connect with your audience.

With the right strategy and a little creativity, your live broadcasts will lead to stronger brand loyalty, a more significant Instagram following and more opportunities for growth.

In a world where customers are continually looking for authenticity, Instagram Live is the ultimate way to show your genuine side.

How have you used the unique features of Instagram Live?  Let us know in the comments.

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