Why You Should Use Instagram Live and How to go About it

[Originally published on the Dash Hudson blog.]

We noticed that not very many brands are taking advantage of the Instagram Live functionality to connect with their audience. We looked into the matter and realized that this was a huge missed opportunity.


In November of 2016, live video Instagram was introduced to select users. By December, it was made available to all. It should have gone gangbusters, but 6 months later it still really hasn’t popped off like that. Expectation vs. reality, amirite?

Scrolling is a thing (see point 3 for the definition of millennial speak “thing”) because of Instagram, and it requires little to no attention at all — at its core, it’s passive entertainment. Often times, users scroll through their feed while watching a movie, brushing their teeth, shopping, or even in work meetings. Don’t pretend you haven’t done it.

Instagram posts provide the perfect diversion for short attention-spanned multitaskers, whereas live video requires user commitment and their undivided attention. Live Instagram is a disruptive concept within the app, and it contradicts the current ecosystem’s status quo.

While it remains an underused functionality, people will eventually warm up to the update Instagram released a few months back, as businesses find their footing with it. It can become a great way for brands to engage their audience, but we’ve seen very little unique content developed for it thus far.

Why are brands apprehensive to go live?

  1. Lack of resources. Producing compelling, high quality content for social media takes a lot of time and effort. This costs money, and unless you work for the Migos, who toss money around like it ain’t no thang, your brand’s social department is most likely already operating at capacity.
  2. The pressure of being live. (Although there is a pause key, that’s like being on hold with the cable company — annoying) Instagram live is not meant to be polished and refined, yet not everyone shines off the cuff. It’s perfect for showing off quirks and for charming the pants off your followers, but whoever is behind the camera needs to be good on their feet.
  3. Unproven ROI. Because Live is so new, there is little to no metric to measure the ROI of all that time and effort your brand will be dispensing to produce a high quality content strategy for it. And marketers want to be able to assess the return of what they’re allocating their budget to.

Despite legitimate apprehension, utilizing IG live has the potential to become extremely beneficial for brands. There are a few reasons for that. First, because the Instagram algorithm rewards accounts that utilize all of the platform’s functions. Second, when you go live, you’re automatically pushed to the front of the Stories lineup that sits atop each of your followers’ feeds.

Instagram also sends a push notification to your entire audience to let them know you’ve gone live. That is an incredible opportunity to capitalize on, as it’s another way to get more eyes your branded content. There are massive benefits to using IG Live, so it’s time to take it seriously and fit it into your content development plan and strategy.

We’ve put together a list of 5 fundamental tips to help you tailor your approach to IG Live, as well as important strategic factors to take into consideration that will ensure you get the best possible outcome for your efforts. As far as social media marketing tips are concerned, you’ll want to keep these on hand.

1. Have a plan

If you’re about to hit “go live”, you better have all your ducks in a row. Ignore the urge to just wing it. The reality is that a haphazard approach will lead to haphazard results. And although having a plan may seem counterintuitive to why Live was developed in the first place, the reality is that if you don’t have at least a loose one that articulates your intent, your content will be subpar. It’s that simple.

Ain’t nobody got no time for a bunch of “ummmms”, “ahhhssssss” and “what should we talk about nexts”. That’s a recipe to disinterest and lose viewers real quick.

Plan ahead instead. Determine how long you want the video to be, what topics and themes you will cover, who will be involved in the video, and if they need an introduction to the audience. The more of these questions you can answer, the better your content blueprint will be. It’s time-consuming, but it’s not rocket science, and you’ll inevitably find your stride as Live starts becoming a regular thing.

2. Cross-Function Promotion

Just going live on a whim isn’t effective. You need a plan and you need some hype. Although all your followers get a notification when you hit that live button as you get bumped to the front of the Stories queue, it’s still asking a lot from people to get them to drop what they’re doing and tune in.

The solution is simple: have a rollout plan that includes cross-function promotion. This will ensure that people have advance notice and can get excited about your live sesh. Treat it the way Hollywood rolls out a new blockbuster movie and broadcast it on your permanent gallery with a post, as well as on your Stories. Go even further and announce that you will be going live on Insta on your other channels as well. You’ll likely even gain more followers in the process.

Great news! Live doesn’t live forever.

3. Set a Schedule

Human beings are creatures of habit, and habits are formed through repetition and consistency. Just like your brand has established best practices for posting an image or video, you need to institute the same hard and fast rules surrounding your live efforts. Try setting a live schedule to form a pattern for your viewers. This will payoff in spades.

4. Stay in Your Lane

Whatever your “thing” is, it is imperative that your live efforts be a natural extension of said “thing”. Or in other words, don’t be extra. Live offers new and exciting ways to engage and interact with people, but it doesn’t mean that you can stray from the core competencies of your brand’s already established personality and tone.

If you’re a sneaker boutique, for example, Live can be used as a tool to unbox the latest releases or to conduct a raffle for a heavily sought after shoe instead of getting customers to line up. It’s not a place for you to discuss the merits of fly fishing rods or political affiliations. That is of course, unless you run a fly-fishing or political account.

5. Bring Value

As referenced briefly in the previous point, Live is a new space to create content that doesn’t fit within the box that is your permanent feed or your Stories. It’s fresh and exciting, but if you don’t add value to the experience, you will lose viewership. Use it to complement your current operations and make it worth it for those who tune in. Reward them by delivering insider information or discounts on products, for example.

You’ll rack up an engaged group of viewers who will not only tune in religiously, but will also pass along their excitement to their friends IRL or online.

Vogue has been dabbling with Insta live. You should, too.

Take a look at some of the brands who are doing a great job with the feature, like Vogue, J.Crew and RIF LA. They are at the forefront of Instagram Live, and with a little bit of elbow grease (aka the aforementioned killer best practices), you can be, too.

We hope that got you fired up à la Rick Flair going “Wooooooo”. Stay tuned for more on the Live function in the coming weeks, where we’ll touch upon creative ideas, execution and tactics. If your best practices is Biggie Smalls and your creative is 112, when you put them together, the sky is the limit.


Want to learn more about Instagram functionality? Get in touch today.