How to Use Instagram Live to Grow and Engage Your Followers


Instagram Live lets users stream live videos to their followers through their Instagram Stories. It’s great for building engagement, connecting directly with your users, sharing news, and establishing your brand.

But maybe you’re thinking, “Isn’t live streaming just a passing fad?” Well, let’s look at the numbers (Source: New York Magazine and Livestream.com):

  • 80% of audiences would rather watch a livestream than read a blog post
  • 82% of audiences would rather watch a livestream than see a social media post
  • 67% of audiences who watched a livestream bought a ticket to a similar event the next time it happened

Live videos are popular—and the trend shows us that they’re here to stay. That’s why it’s so important that your brand understands how to use Instagram Live and leverage it for your audience.2

Let’s walk through exactly how you can start using Instagram Live, some tips on using it, and a few ideas you can use to create an amazing Instagram Live stream today.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.

How to go live on Instagram in 3 easy steps

Going live on Instagram is simple.

To start, you need to have an Instagram account (surprise!) and a phone since many of Instagram’s features are only available on mobile.

Then jump into the first step:

Step 1: Tap the plus icon on the top right

From your profile or feed, tap the plus icon on the top right. This will take you to a screen where you can pick the type of content you want to create.

Step 2: Swipe over to Live

Swiping to start Instagram live stream in Instagram mobile app

Swipe until you get to the Instagram Live screen.

Step 3: Tap Go Live

Tap on the recording icon. Instagram will briefly check your phone’s internet connection before starting your broadcast.

Tapping recording icon in Instagram mobile app to start Instagram live stream

Voila! That’s how to go live on Instagram in 3 steps. Told you it was simple.

Pro tip: Your number of viewers shows up at the top of your screen. You will also see all your viewers’ comments as they come in.

Still from Instagram Live stream with viewer count in the top right of the screen

Don’t be distracted by the flying hearts that appear on screen too. That’s just your viewers’ way of showing they love what they see!

At the bottom and on the top right of your screen, you have a number of different features you can use in your live video.

Buttons on Instagram Live screen view in Instagram mobile app

They are:

  • Questions. You can collect questions from your audience by posting a question sticker in an Instagram Story before you go live. When you jump into your stream, you can access your viewers’ questions here.
  • Send. You can send your live video to a user on Instagram during a broadcast.
  • Add a guest. This allows you and another user to share the live video. When you add a guest, both you and your guest will appear in the video via a split screen.
  • Face filters. Because the puppy dog face filter just makes everything better, doesn’t it?
  • Change camera. Switch the cameras from selfie mode to regular mode.
  • Share a photo or video. This allows you to grab a picture or video from your camera roll and share it with your live audience.
  • Add a comment. Use this field to add a comment to your stream or to turn off commenting.

When you’re done filming your Instagram Live video, tap the X icon at the top right-hand corner. Once your video has ended, you will be able to share it to IGTV, download it to your camera roll or delete it.

Screen showing "Instagram Live stream ended" message

Pat yourself on the back. You just finished making your first Instagram Live stream!

How to start a Live Room

In March 2021, Instagram introduced Live Rooms—a new feature that allows users to go live with up to 3 other people. Previously, it was only possible to co-host streams with one other person using the “Add a guest” option.

With Live Rooms, users (and brands) can get a bit more creative with their streams. Inviting more speakers can create an engaging experience for your audience, like:

  • live games
  • creative sessions
  • influencer Q&As
  • and more!

These are just a few ideas that can work well with Live Rooms, but the sky’s the limit (well, actually, 4 people is the limit. But you get our enthusiasm).

Live Rooms is good news for businesses. Whenever you invite a guest to join your live video, their audience has access to it, even the users who don’t follow you on Instagram. So, more guests = exposure to a wider audience!

How to start a Live Room:

  1. Follow the same steps you would take to set up a regular live stream.
  2. Once you’re live, tap the Rooms icon and select your guests:

Instagram Live Room pointing to rooms icon in the bottom right of the screen

Source: Instagram

  1. Then, tap Invite, and you’re ready to go!

Inviting up to 3 guests to an Instagram Live Room

Source: Instagram

You can add up to 3 guests, all at once (when setting up the stream) or one by one (e.g. adding speakers during different parts of the stream).

3 tips for using Instagram Live

If you really want to take your Instagram Live videos to the next level, employ these tips during your stream.

Set a SMART goal

Knowing how to set good goals is crucial for social media success — and your goals for Instagram Live are no exception.

It’s the difference between jumping into a live stream with no plan and no objective, and doing one where you know exactly what you want to do and how to do it.

To do that, you need to set a SMART goal.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time based.

SMART goal graph explaining the acronym

  • Specific. Your goal is focused. For example, a bad goal would be “I want a good Instagram Live video” because it’s vague. A better goal would be, “I want to have 50% more viewers in our next stream” because it’s more focused.
  • Measurable. There’s a benchmark for success and you know what done looks like. Example: “I want to gain 100 new followers on Instagram,” is a good goal because you can measure the amount of followers you gain.
  • Attainable. It’s actually doable for you and/or your business. For example, “I want to have the most followers on Instagram” likely won’t be possible (unless you’re world-famous soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo). Whereas, “I want 1,000 followers on Instagram,” is totally attainable.
  • Relevant. Does this goal matter to you and your company right now? If not, pursue one that is.
  • Timely. Having a deadline for your goal is crucial psychologically. It gives you more focus and drive to pursue your goal. For example, “I want to host three Instagram Live streams with guests by Q4,” is a very good and timely goal.

So ask yourself: What SMART goals should you make for your brand’s Instagram Live objectives?

Create a video map

Think of your Instagram Live video as a road trip: You should know all the pit stops you want to make as you travel to your ultimate destination.

That’s why it’s important to create a map or outline of your video. Write down all the points you want to cover, as well as how long you want to cover them.

Are you interviewing an industry thought leader? Write down all the questions you want to hit, when you want to make introductions, and when to take questions from your audience.

Are you introducing a new product to your viewers? Write down every feature and benefit you want to show off.

Are you sharing a quick “how-to” for your viewers? Write down all the steps they need to know and any other tips you want to offer.

This helps keep your video focused and on track. Otherwise, it might easily run off the rails.

Engage your viewers

Like everyone’s favorite starship captain says:

Jean Luc Piccard

Instagram Live gives you a perfect platform to engage with your customers in real time. When you do so, you establish a relationship and build trust with your audience—all crucial elements for a thriving brand.

Like any good relationship, though, engaging and building a good relationship with your audience takes time and energy. It’s not enough to just answer a few questions on a live stream. You need to listen to your followers and give them what they want.

Only then will they reward you with their trust.

For more, be sure to check out our article on show to increase social media engagement.

7 Instagram Live stream ideas

Below are 7 great ideas to inspire your next Instagram Live stream. Use this list the next time you need some help coming up with an engaging Instagram Live stream for your audience.

1. Collaborate with an industry influencer

3 stills from an influencer's live stream showing her face on screen

Source: Engadget

There’s no better, more proven way of spreading brand awareness and gaining more followers than collaborating with an industry influencer.

These are people who your target audience already recognizes and respect. When you work with them, they bring clout to your brand and introduce more people to your business.

Instagram Live is a perfect platform for these collaborations. With the Add a guest and Live Room features, you can bring influencers on for interviews, Q&A sessions with your viewers, or just to have them on for a chat.

Tap on the Add a guest button at the bottom of your screen) and it’ll give you the option to choose a guest for your stream. When the guest joins, their video will appear with yours on a split screen.

If you’re planning to feature more than one influencer in your broadcast, use the Live Rooms feature instead. You will be able to invite up to three guests to share the screen with you.

Here’s an example from The Lyons’ Share Wellness, a fitness coach who welcomed a running expert on her Instagram Live to give viewers some great insights on fitness.

For more, check out our article on how to work with social media influencers.

2. Go live at an event

There’s no better place to go live than at an industry event that you or someone else is hosting.

Maybe your brand is up for an award? Stream the ceremony live for your followers to see.

Maybe you’re at a conference and there’s a panel you think your audience would love?

Show them through Instagram Live.

Maybe it’s just a party or fundraiser your company is hosting? That’s a good opportunity to show your followers the human, fun-loving side of your brand.

Streaming live at events also helps boost that all-powerful FOMO (fear of missing out) factor, helping to build hype and anticipation for your next event. This is great if you want your followers to join you at another event later on.

Here’s a great example from Cristiano Ronaldo who streamed his promotional visit to a Nike store from Instagram Live.

3. Host a tutorial or a workshop

Instagram Live is a great place to host a how to workshop for your followers. Not only can you stream to people across the world, but you also have the opportunity to answer any questions they might have in real time.

One person who does this very well is John Mayer on his Instagram Live streams. He often turns to the platform to give guitar masterclasses to his followers.

These videos are fun, informative, and very engaging. He frequently takes the time to answer questions his audience has for him.

Kim Kardashian also created a Live makeup tutorial for all of her Instagram followers.

You might not be a famous rock star or a reality television mogul, but there are plenty of ways your brand can offer lessons to your viewers as well.

4. Q&As

A great way to start building engagement with your audience is by answering their questions. This is especially effective if you have thought leaders in your organization.

Simply hop onto Instagram Live and solicit questions from your audience. They can range from topics like the latest news around your industry, to what the inner workings of your business look like.

Here’s a video of entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk conducting a Q&A for his Instagram Live stream.

Be sure to announce that you’re going to hold a Q&A for your followers before you go live so that they know to come with questions ready. This also helps build hype for your stream in advance.

5. Interview a coworker

One great way to build transparency and showcase your business’s human side is by interviewing a coworker during an Instagram Live stream.

This is a great chance to put a face to your company, while also giving some love and appreciation to your employees.

And it doesn’t have to be a hard-nosed, Barbara Walters-esque interview. Just sit them down and ask them about their role, what they do day-to-day, and how they help your audience with your brand.

Just be sure to give your coworker a heads up before you shove an iPhone in their face like the paparazzi.

Caption: Don’t be like Leonardo DiCaprio.

6. Talk to a customer

You don’t need to talk to an industry thought leader or influencer to help boost your brand. Talking to a customer about how much they love your products or services is just as effective at engaging your audience—and much less expensive.

Do you offer fitness coaching? Interview a customer who was able to run a marathon because of your business.

Do you teach people personal finance? Talk to one of your students about how they got out of debt using your advice.

These are just a few examples. Basically, if your customer had a positive experience with your business, they are perfect candidates for an Instagram Live interview.

And since Instagram gives you the option to save the video after you’re done, you can keep it on your Instagram profile as a video testimonial. Double win!

7. Review

This is a close cousin to idea #2.

You can give your instant reaction to an event, book, movie, lecture, or whatever else for an Instagram Live stream. As long as it’s related to your industry and / or your audience is interested, it’s fair game.

For example, if you just watched a talk given by a prominent thought leader in your field, you can go on Instagram Live afterwards and give your immediate thoughts on it.

Or maybe you just read the latest book about your industry—and you have a blistering hot take on it that no one else has thought of before. Hop on Instagram Live and spill the T!

(That’s something the kids say, nowadays. Right?)

Just make sure you don’t say anything you might regret while you’re so fired up.

You can also review different products and services related to your business. Use a new laptop for your business? Or maybe you’ve been trying out a new camera? Review of all those products live!

Frequently asked questions about Instagram Live

Where can I find my Instagram Live video?

After you finish your live video, you have the option to save and share the video.

When you tap End during your session, Instagram allows you to share the Instagram Live stream to your Story. You can then view it there.

In your Story, you’ll also have the option to save the video using the save icon at the bottom.

Can I restrict who sees my Instagram Live?

Yes! Instagram gives you the option to limit who sees your Instagram Live stream.

The setting works the exact same way as it does on your Instagram Stories (since that’s where your video will “live”).

Just tap the camera in the top left corner. Then tap the gear or settings button in the top left corner.

Then go to the Hide Story From section and choose who you want to hide from your Instagram Live stream.

Alternatively, you can also tap on Close Friends and choose a smaller audience of people you want to share your Story with.

How do I turn off the comments?

You have the option to turn off the comments on an Instagram Live video by tapping the three dots in the chat box and tapping Turn Off Commenting.

How do I answer questions on Instagram Live?

You can solicit questions from your followers via your Instagram Story for a Q&A.

Create a Story post with a questions sticker containing the question you want to ask.

When it comes time for your Instagram Live stream, you’ll be able to access them all via the questions button. Tap the button and a drawer appears containing all of the questions you can answer.

Select one of the questions and it will appear on your stream for your followers to see.

Manage your Instagram presence alongside your other social channels and save time using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can schedule and publish posts, engage the audience, and measure performance. Try it free today.

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