If you think Instagram's new live video stories feature looks oddly familiar, there is a reason for that: you would think they lifted a page straight from the Snapchat playbook.
But honestly, the move shouldn't come as a surprise. With live video making waves (offering 3x the engagement over stale, non-live video) on visual-heavy social networks like Facebook Live and Periscope, it was simply a matter of fast, fierce coding before Instagram spun into the real-time storytelling spotlight.
So why the new obsession with stories and live video? For some users, tools like live video create new opportunities to share snippets of their lives with friends, family and followers. But for the more savvy social media entrepreneurs, live video paves yet another smooth path for engagement and brand awareness … and it may be one of the most profitable social roll-outs to date.
A Bird's Eye View of Instagram Live Video Stories
Following on the heels of Facebook Live, Instagram has established a way to turn your smartphone into your own personal broadcasting studio. With a swipe of your finger you can take to the social media airwaves for a show-and-tell session of whatever strikes your mind.
Instagram can notify your followers each time you start a live broadcast so viewers can tune in. Likewise, Instagram places your live video in a feed for other viewers to watch. But the moment you go off the air, so does everything you just shared.
Think of yourself as a fly on the wall in a real-life instant. There's no record button, no pause, no reverse, no fast forward – it's simply living in the moment until that moment passes. And the only record that an event ever occurred is the one in your own memory. Just like real life.
As with other social media channels, businesses can cash in on their established Instagram following by adding live sessions into their social marketing mix. The live sessions allow amateur video enthusiasts a chance to show off what their company is about without feeling the burden of having to produce slick, professional-grade video clips.
Nobody who checks in to watch a live video is expecting high production value. However, there is room for businesses to perfect the art of live streaming and they are the ones who will probably be the most successful at marketing through this channel.
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What Makes a Hot Story?
As you scroll through your social newsfeeds, you would be hard pressed to miss a video or image with likes, shares, and comments reaching the thousands. The key to that kind of viral success relies on many common denominators, but none so much as the fact that those posts provide some form of value to the viewer.
Some popular options for Instagram Live Video include:
- Exciting announcements
- Product launches
- Q&A sessions
- Live chats
- Behind-the-scenes peeks
- Product tutorials & demos
Regardless of the story you choose to tell, it should always relate to your audience and reflect your brand. Speak to your followers in such a way that lets them know undoubtedly what you represent, while giving them enough reason to tune in for more.
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What's In It For You?
Generally, when two products are essentially the same, one of them becomes unnecessary. But even though the similarities between two platforms’ video stories strike users as nearly identical, the fact remains that each still serves its purpose, especially when you already have a solid following on one platform or the other.
For the moment, forget that Instagram replicated Snapchat's live video stories and focus on what Instagram’s new addition means for your business and its bottom line:
- No Social Media Fatigue – Face it, social media management serves as a full-time job, and the bigger your company the more management you need. Some of Snapchat’s best features, like Stories and live video, that found a newly remodeled home on Instagram means that you can cash in on some of Snapchat’s offering with one less social media account for you to manage. Maybe you can use that extra free time to get creative in your live broadcasts!
- Fresh Content – Without an archive, viewers only receive fresh, relevant information. This means no expired offers, nothing that's been overshared, fewer mistakes to haunt you, and less content for you to manage.
- Immediacy – If you want to drive immediate business, go live with flash sales and special offers just for your viewers. Then keep an eye on your analytics and key metrics to see what worked well.
- Availability – Instagram Live Video is everywhere you are. You can go live anytime, anywhere it's convenient, going where no full-scale camera crew has gone before. Take advantage of your marketing portability by giving viewers sneak peeks at new products, how something is made, or anything to draw intrigue.
- Blatant Marketing – People have become accustomed to blocking out advertisements and marketing messages… unless they are specifically looking for them. If you are using your business account to go live, people may assume you are promoting some form of brand or marketing message – and they will tune in anyway. No blinders, no buffers, just an openness to what you have to say. And that makes your job as a marketer a little easier.
In addition, Instagram reports that their Instagram Stories user base has grown by 150 million users since they revealed the feature six months ago. And with the recent rollout of Video Stories, that kind of growth may well continue, which means more users to view your content.
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Hold On… There Are Challenges
Aside from the anticipated initial learning curve, Instagram video stories presents its own set of unavoidable challenges you will need to conquer:
- Challenge: First, there's the double-edged sword of disappearing content. Viewers can only tune into your broadcast while you are live. Once you go dark, so does your content – forever.
- Fix: At first glance, the nonexistence of an archive looks like the perfect setup for a low response. But with a little careful planning and clever marketing, this could work in your favor: the goal here is to share outstanding content your audience truly cares about so they will want to tune in every time you go live. And as for sharing? If a viewer thinks your content is worth sharing, they will tell their friends to see for themselves. Boom – new followers.
- Challenge: Then there's the goal of a short-yet-effective broadcast. If short and sweet is the name of your game, how do you squeeze all your important details into a single session?
- Fix: The sooner you can make your point, the better chance you have of keeping your audience's attention. Self-imposed time constraints can force you to become more creative – and succinct – in your delivery, which strengthens your message and keeps the viewer engaged. One way to do this is to take notes on what you want to say and rehearse before you go live. Keep your focus on one topic per broadcast. This gives your viewer less to remember, less choices to act on, and adds more focus and impact to your main subject.
Turning Stories Into Sales
How to Craft a Profitable Instagram Video Story Strategy
While you may have been able to easily adapt and overlap content from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram in the past, that's not exactly the case with live video stories. It's a feature unlike any other and comes with its own set of unique benefits and challenges, as previously mentioned. And to reap those benefits and obliterate those challenges, you must craft a new set of marketing rules to guide you.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Give your audience time to tune in before making a big reveal. As with all surprises, you want to build a little suspense or excitement before you give away the secret. People might need a few seconds before they can join you, so don't blurt out all the important info right off the bat.
- Consider the best times and days to go live. Will weekends give you the best engagement? Do most of your viewers live on the west coast, while you reside on the east coast? It might take some trial and error, but pay attention to times and days in relation to engagement and see if you can make a connection. This could help you become more efficient and profitable in the future.
- As with other marketing, consistency is often key. Start by broadcasting frequently and at the same time of day to get people accustomed to hearing from you.
- Plan your broadcasts ahead of time and let your customers know about it. You can send e-mail campaigns about your broadcasts and ask customer to tune in for special upcoming events.
- Host recurring events. Establish a regular schedule of live broadcasts so that people know what they can count on. Hopefully, your followers will make it a point to watch you live, just as they would their favorite TV shows.
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The Technical Details
So how exactly does the world's largest photo-sharing social platform take you into the live streaming world? It's simple.
First, log in to the Instagram app from your Android or iOS device. If you do not yet have an Instagram account, you can set one up for free here.
Once you have logged in, tap on the Your Story profile pic at the top of your feed (there should be a + next to it).
At this point you should be in Instagram Stories. To start a live broadcast, swipe your finger to the Live option at the bottom of your screen.
If this is your first live Instagram stream, check your settings before you begin by tapping on the Settings icon in the top left corner (it looks like a gear wheel). You can choose to hide your stories from specific people, enable or disable comments, and other options.
Then make sure you flip your camera to the correct position, depending on whether you are broadcasting yourself or your surroundings.
When you are ready, tap Start Live Video. Here, you will have a three-second countdown to make your final preparations before viewers can tune in. Instagram will send out a message letting your followers know that you are live.
During your live session, you can see how many viewers are engaged in your event, as well as reply to comments. This is a good way to see how many people are paying attention, as well as provide special offers like a coupon code or other CTA. You can also turn off comments, see how long you have been broadcasting, see who is watching, and – if necessary – get rid of unruly viewers.
Instagram's newsfeed puts the freshest content at the top, so if you broadcast often and garner enough views you can gain mega exposure in the newsfeed alone.
Once you end your live video, a viewer count pops onto your screen. As with the video content, this recap is not archived, so make a note if you want to use this information for future analytics.
And that's it! It's a simple process, and one that can be performed anytime the mood strikes. But keep in mind that if you want to use live video to build your bottom line, your broadcasts should incorporate both quality and quantity to get the best results.