As with all new internet trends, this has brands wondering whether to jump on the bandwagon, or let it pass them by.
The answer isn’t exactly cut and dry…but it’s definitely one worth pursuing. Here’s what you should know before you begin broadcasting live to your audience, and why a live strategy might be a missing ingredient in your unique content strategy.
To Live Stream Or Not to Live Stream
We’ve discussed in the past how bandwagon marketing (aka, participating in a viral trend that everyone else on the internet seems to be doing) isn’t always the best use of your time or your social media budget. But does that also apply to live streaming?
The short answer: no, not really. While other viral trends we’ve seen take the internet by storm are humor-based (yes, we’re talking about memes) or philanthropic in nature (throwback to the Ice Bucket Challenge, a forever classic), live streaming can’t really fit into one category.
Instead, it can be whatever you make it: your live streaming sessions can be funny, entertaining, informative, interactive...the sky's the limit.
Live streaming as a brand on Instagram, therefore, is not the same as hopping aboard the meme train. The risk factor for foolishness is not quite as high--but not exactly out of the picture, either. Because while many people (and brands) are making the most of this new surge in live streaming (a 70% jump over the last month!), these efforts are not universally well-received.
This is all I see on Instagram these days - just everyone going live. lol pic.twitter.com/BwUtt6MEWn— carol (@bookish_notes) April 6, 2020
Instagram, I really don't care when any random person starts a live video.— Aros (@Damii_aros) April 11, 2020
The live stream market right now is pretty heavily saturated—putting more pressure on those participating to stand out and avoid agitating the very audience they’re trying to win over.
Give These A Try During Your Next Live Session
As they say: (quality) content is king. That means that if you feel that live streaming is a viable opportunity for your brand to engage directly with audiences, you should go for it. Just make sure the content shared during your live streaming session is thoughtful in construction and execution.
Now to get from A to B—let’s see what a couple of thoughtfully constructed and executed live stream strategies actually look like.
The Live Interview
Talking into a camera is not easy for everyone. Especially when you’re not accustomed to it, it can feel peculiar and unnatural—and your video might end up coming across that way as well.
So why not grab a guest speaker and talk to them instead?
Rather than schedule a livestream spiel starring just you (or your brand representatives), see if you can identify a couple of guest speakers that may be willing and available to chat with you on camera. This person can be anyone: a co-worker, a representative of one of your brand partners, a fan of your brand, an influencer that can relate to your industry, etc. As long as this person can speak to the topics you’d like to discuss, they’re golden.
Your interview-style livestream might engage viewers the same way a podcast can entice listeners who enjoy hearing a thought-provoking or entertaining conversation between people.
Thanks to a relatively new Instagram Live feature, your interviewee doesn’t need to be in the same room as you to be featured on your streaming session. When you host a livestream on the app, you can invite another user to join you from the comfort of their own home. You’ll both appear on a split screen during the live session. It’s sort of like broadcasting a FaceTime call to your entire audience. The audience members, too, can join in by leaving comments and questions throughout the session.
Don’t go it alone if you don’t need to. Grab a buddy and get streaming!
Even if you can’t find a buddy to join you, there’s another way your live session can be interactive: host a Q&A! Here are two of our favorite ways to go about answering questions from your audience.
The Mailbag Approach
Ahead of your live session, announce that you’ll be fielding questions on your next live stream and invite your followers to submit theirs (we’d suggest asking for questions via the comments section or the Instagram question sticker). From the results, select a handful that you’d like to go over during the session. Since you’ll still be running the show, this method allows you to stay organized and get prepared to speak to the topics you’ve selected.
The Live Q&A
To boost the interactiveness of your session, you can field questions in real time during your session. Invite the viewers to submit their questions via the live session chat and pick topics to speak on as you go. You might not know exactly what to expect, but this method will help you keep the session casual and on the fly.
No matter the theme of your Q&A or whether or not your audience tunes in at the very beginning or midway, there’s a live feature that’ll help them know immediately what you’ll be discussing. In the Instagram Live chat, you can pin a comment. It will appear on the screen throughout the entirety of your session, sort of like a caption of a feed post. Use this space to let your viewers know what they’ll be watching, what questions they should ask, etc.
The Info Session
Knowledge sharing will always have a place on social media, and it’s definitely a fitting use of live session time. Think of it like a free, more casual webinar.
To ensure you’re giving a lesson on a topic your followers are truly interested in, try hosting a poll. Give them a choice of 3-4 topics or take their topic requests.
If you’re concerned about the length of your live session, thinking that there’s no way to cover your topic within a short period of time, consider breaking up your “webinar” into smaller chunks. You could even record them and repost as IGTV episodes to start your own mini web series!
The Big Announcement
Have something newsworthy to share? Give your big announcement a personal touch by sharing the news with your followers in person (or as in person as you can possibly get on social media).
One of the greatest perks of this sharing method: when you begin your live session on Instagram, your followers will immediately receive a notification letting them know. Feed posts can easily slip under the radar and are rarely accompanied by notifications. But with a live session, you’ll at least guarantee that your followers are notified that you had something to say. Fitting when your content is particularly important!
While it certainly doesn’t hurt to accompany your live session with a more permanent piece of content on your profiles, a live announcement can also do wonders for getting the right tone across alongside your message. Text is easily misunderstood—with a live session, you can set the mood before anyone sees the news in writing.
The Trial & Error
If none of the above ideas are working for you and you’re itching to try something completely different. . .go for it! A little experimenting is necessary when it comes to finding a content strategy that works for you.
Every brand, every audience, and every industry is different. With a willingness to try something new, you could pioneer a new way of running a live session that effectively engages your audience—one that works just right for you and your business.
Filmmaker Paul Feig (best known for directing comedies like Bridesmaids) certainly found an Instagram Live niche that his audience certainly seems to be enjoying: he hosts a daily cocktail hour that’s full of dancing, fancy dress, and a feel-good attitude. Musicians like Coldplay’s Chris Martin have made a habit of going live to chat with fans and hold impromptu concerts. Other musicians, like hip-hop star Lizzo, have taken to live with a completely different agenda.
The moral of the story (pun unintended): keep it real, think outside the box, and see what works for you.
Whichever Strategy You Try, Stick The Landing
“Trendy” isn’t always synonymous with “best,” but at the same time, the two are not mutually exclusive either. There is certainly no shortage of live streamers these days. But if you’ve done your research and taken the time to build your game plan, by all means jump on the bandwagon with the rest of the crowd.
It really all comes down to having something to say. Before you go live, make sure you do—and move towards your purpose with confidence!
- Megan O'Keefe
- Social Media & Content Specalist