Instagram Live

Getting started with Instagram Live

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Here are six tips to get you started using the Instagram Live feature to its fullest.

If you’re on Instagram, you may have noticed the new live video feature that’s been added to stories. It’s essentially a streaming tool – just like Twitch or Facebook live – but hosted in the Instagram app. To start a live video, go to stories (the small camera in the top left corner), swipe left and tap the “start live video” button. From there, Instagram will start notifying your followers and you’ll see people jumping in to watch you.

Here are six tips to get you started using this feature to its fullest.

1. Know your fans’ Instagram habits and cater to them

Just like with any social media platform, you want to be on when your fans are on. Going live at 4 am might work for you, but you’ll be missing the opportunity to connect with the members of your fan base who aren’t night-owl musicians – which is probably most of them.

The best way to learn more about your fan base is to use all the analytics tools you have right at your fingertips. Facebook and Twitter both have analytics tools built in that could give you some clues, but your best bet will be to take a look at any insights you can get into your fans’ behavior on Instagram itself, since that’s the platform we’re dealing with.

If you haven’t already, convert your Instagram account to a business page. To do so, click the gear in the top right corner of your profile, and click “Switch to Business Account” under the “Account” tab, and connect your Instagram account to your artist Facebook page.

From there, you’ll have access to Instagram Insights, which you can access via the chart symbol in the top right corner next to the gear. You’ll be able to see your top performing posts, your impressions, reach, profile views, website clicks, and, most importantly, you’ll be able to see when most of your fans are online.

Once you know when your fans are online, schedule your live videos around those peak times. It’s best to schedule your live sessions a few days ahead of time so your fans can plan to be there. Create a post announcing your live schedule a day or so before, and share a few stories in the hours leading up to your live session.

2. Have the right tools

Unlike Facebook live, Instagram Live videos disappear from the app after you’re finished broadcasting, so how you approach producing these videos will be a little different.

Because this isn’t permanent content, you don’t need to worry so much about achieving a production-quality standard when you’re live. That said, you still want to get things looking as good as possible. There’s nothing like a shaky camera and a really dark room to get people to drop off.

Because everything on Instagram is hosted in-app, you’ll have to use your phone’s camera. You can definitely just hold your phone if you’re doing something like taking your fans behind the scenes in the studio or at a gig. But for pretty much anything else, you’re going to want to get some kind of phone mount or tripod to keep your phone steady. You can get tripods and gooseneck phone mounts for pretty cheap on Amazon, so there’s no excuse for a bad shot.

Lighting is also pretty important. For the most part, natural light or a well-lit room will be enough, though again, you can also get soft-box lighting pretty cheap if you’re finding your videos are too dark.

And finally, there’s the sound. As a musician, you’re naturally going to want to get the sound as good as you can. While there are definitely restrictions working with a phone, you could get a microphone that plugs into your phone to improve the quality a little bit. This isn’t required, but can be helpful if you’re playing or performing something live on Instagram.

3. Plan your content

A successful Instagram Live video is usually one that you plan out – at least a little. Try to have a general idea of what you’re going to do live and what you’re going to talk about. You can even make a list of topics you want to hit if it helps you stay on track.

Before you start, ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this stream?” Is it to give your fans something exclusive? Let them in on your process? Talk to them and get to know them better? Get their feedback on something? Update them on a project you’re working on? Share some insight or tips?

If you’re not sure, here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Update your fans or give them a sneak peek by giving them a quick update from the studio as you record your new album or go backstage on your tour.
  • Get some feedback on a rough song idea you’re working on.
  • Share some tips by taking them on a walk through your pedal board set-up, do a guitar tutorial on a certain technique, or play through one of your songs.
  • (If you need more ideas, I offer three social media checklists that you can download here with ideas that would work for Instagram live and any other platform you’re using.)

When coming up with live stream ideas, try to imagine what your fans would enjoy most. If you’re really stuck, take a look at what other musicians you follow are doing and use that for inspiration.

4. Be engaging

Live videos are all about engagement – especially something like Instagram Live where your viewers can interact via comments. That’s what makes these different from other videos you post in your feed. So if you want your stream to be awesome, make sure you’re paying attention to the chat, talking with your fans, answering questions, and thanking them for joining.

5. Use the platform’s transience to your benefit

Remember I mentioned that live videos disappear from the app once you stop broadcasting? Well, this is another feature you can really use to your advantage. Instagram is a great place to share exclusive content, give sneak peeks, test new ideas, get feedback from your fans on something you’re working on, and anything else you don’t want permanently out there.

Fans who tune in live will feel like they’re getting something special and it will make them want to keep coming back to see live videos again and again. If you want to go all out, you can even give them secret discount codes to your store or do little giveaways right on the stream!

6. Follow up

Don’t be surprised to only see a few of your followers jump in for your first live videos. But if you want to make sure more and more people show up in future streams, do everything you can to make all your followers aware of them.

Instagram Live videos will disappear from the app when you’re done, but you do have the option to save the video to your phone. You can easily compile a short segment of your stream to post the following day so the rest of your fans who didn’t make it can see what they missed. Thank everyone who came and let everyone else know when you’ll be doing the next one so they can plan to be there.

If editing your video isn’t an option, share a quick story or post thanking everyone who came. Maybe add a little nugget of what was discussed or a funny thing that went down live so you can reconnect with everyone who was on stream.


Dave Kusek is the founder of New Artist Model and Berklee Online. Over the years he’s worked with tens of thousands of musicians around the world across every genre imaginable and in many different markets. New Artist Model is an online music business school designed especially for indie musicians. Learn how to turn your music into a career, understand the business, and start thinking like a musical entrepreneur.

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