With social media platforms constantly updating and releasing new features it can be hard, particularly if you're a busy independent artist, to keep up. Here we walk through the best practices to employ on Instagram Live in order to engage your fan base in the most effective way possible.
Guest post by Dave Kusek on CD Baby's DIY Musician
Social media platforms are constantly rolling out new features. And if you’re using a few different ones to promote your music, it can seem downright overwhelming and difficult to keep up.
If you’re on Instagram, you may have noticed the new live video feature that’s been added to stories. So today, we’re going to go through what that is, how you use it, and give you some tips so you can really make the most of live videos to engage your fanbase and get them really excited about your music.
What is Instagram Live?
Instagram Live is an add-on to the existing stories function. Think of it like a streaming tool like Twitch or Facebook Live, but hosted in the Instagram app. To start a live video, just 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.
So how will your fans know you’re live? Live videos show up at the top of the feed just like stories. They are shown at the front of the stories feed with a small “live” tag so any fan who opens the app will see it. Instagram also sends out push notifications. Your most active followers will get notified first and more will be notified the longer you’re live. Push notifications will appear as a popup inside the app. Live videos can also show up in the explore section of Instagram, potentially putting you in front of a new audience.
The Limitations of Live (and how to make the most of them)
Currently live videos have a 1-hour time limit, after which it will automatically end. It’s best to plan your content accordingly so your video doesn’t end mid sentence. If you know you’ll be more than an hour, give your viewers a heads up and let them know you’ll be starting another.
Unlike Facebook Live, live videos on Instagram will disappear from the app when you’re finished (though you can save them to your phone). This creates a sense of urgency and exclusivity that you should definitely use to your advantage. This is a great place to share exclusive content, give sneak peeks, share secret discount codes, 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.
Live Best Practices
Okay, now that you know how live videos on Instagram work, let’s go through a few best practices so you can put on some killer live streams that your fans will love.
Know When Fans are Online
It goes without saying that if you want fans to watch you live, you need to live stream when your fans are online. Streaming at 3AM may work in your schedule, but a lot of your fans may be sleeping.
If you haven’t already, convert your Instagram account into a business profile to get access to Insights right in the app. You’ll be able to see what days and what times most of your followers are online so you can plan your live videos around that.
Make a Schedule (and give fans notice)
Pick a date and time to go live and stick to it. Give your fans a heads up so they can plan on being 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.
Have the Right Tools
Because live videos disappear from the app, you don’t need to worry too much about professional video and sound quality. But you still want to get it looking as good as possible. There’s nothing like a shaky camera and a really dark room to get people to drop off streams.
Because it’s hosted in the app, you need to do live videos from your phone. If you’re just taking fans around the studio or backstage, you can hold the phone vlog style. If you’re playing or doing a tutorial, it’s best to have a tripod or phone mount so the video isn’t shaking the whole time. You can get tripods and gooseneck phone mounts for pretty cheap on Amazon, so there’s no excuse for a bad shot.
You also want to try your best to have decent lighting. Again, you don’t need anything fancy here – natural light or a well-lit room will be fine in most cases, though you can also get soft-box lighting pretty cheap if you’re finding your videos are too dark.
If you want better sound, a microphone that plugs into your phone is another option. This is especially good if you’re doing a live stream somewhere where there is background noise or if you want to have a professional, clean sound.
You can totally do impromptu streams from time to time, but for the most part, try to have at least an idea of what you’re going to do and what you’re going to talk about. You can even write down a list of bullets if you need to. The key is to make these live sessions fun for your fans, and if you’re sitting there in awkward silence not sure what to say, they’re probably going to drop off.
You could take them on studio tours, backstage or tour bus tours, walk them through your gear, explain how you get certain tones, do a tutorial or lesson, do playthroughs, or share rough song ideas you’re working on. If you need more idea, check out this free social media guide – How to Promote Your Music: With 3 Social Media Checklists.
Talk to Your Fans
A live video is meant to be interactive – that’s what differentiates it from videos that you post in your feed. So, no matter what you’re doing, mind the chat feed. You’ll see notifications when people join and when fans comment, so do your best to answer questions, react to what they’re saying, and even call people out and say hi to fans you recognize.
Exclusives and Sneak Peeks
If you have something you’re working on, give the fans who show up live a little early look. Adding little exclusive insider-access like this will make fans want to keep coming back to your live videos again and again. You can also give them secret discount codes to your store or do little giveaways right on the stream!
Use (Relevant) Calls to Action
In a live video, you have the full attention of your fans, so this is a perfect time to throw in some calls to action (a.k.a. asking fans to take some additional step like following you on Facebook or signing up for emails). The key is to keep them really authentic and relevant.
So for example, if you’re answering a question about how you create your tone, tell them that you have a lot more detailed tone and gear walkthroughs up on your YouTube channel. You can also choose to pin comments so they stay visible in the feed. Write in a quick comment with a short (and memorable) link to your store, your email signup page, your YouTube channel, or whatever else you want to promote and pin that so fans know exactly where to go.
Use Live to Grow Your Email List
While Instagram Live videos aren’t inherently connected to email, you can use it as an email gathering tool if you’re strategic about it.
One option is to require fans to submit questions for a live Q&A ahead of time. Send fans to a Google form to collect their questions and gather email addresses. Of course, you can certainly take questions right from Instagram or right from the live comment stream, but this is just another way to grow your list.
Post Teasers to Raise Awareness for Future Live Streams
Just because your live video disappears from the app when it’s over doesn’t mean you should stop there. Share little snippets from the stream with the rest of your followers so they can see what they missed (and hopefully motivate them to stop by next time).
An easy option is to 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.
Another option is to actually save the stream to your phone and share a 60 second clip as a post. Again, this just giving fans a look into all the fun stuff that happens live so they can plan on making the next one.
As you can see, social media can be an extremely powerful tool – if you know how to use all the features to their full potential. If you want more social media tips, check out the Musician Power Tools Promote Your Music Crash Course. You’ll go in depth into social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube and learn the best practices so you can grow your audience and get more engagement.