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Instagram Live: A Complete Guide for Brands

Haley Durkee
May 5, 2020
Last Updated On
November 18, 2022
Various beauty products and brands on shelf

Live from New York, it’s...your brand? You read that right, Saturday night is no longer a prerequisite for live video content. In fact, Instagram Live is booming for business. Here’s what marketers need to know:

  • An influx in usage over the last month has led more brands to take the plunge into live video.
  • Live streaming gives brands the opportunity to be authentic, lift the curtain, and engage followers behind the scenes.
  • Staying true to your brand DNA and sharing content with a strong CTA is key to drawing an audience.
  • Using Stories data and custom discount codes can help marketers measure success.
Promotional workout video

Pressing Play on Live Video

More users are live streaming on Instagram than ever before, with a 70% increase in the US alone over the last few weeks. In a period of so much physical distance, it’s a way to connect and experience a real-time moment together. From friends to celebrities to fitness instructors and makeup artists, everyone seems to be making the leap to live—and brands are no exception. But the instantaneous nature of live video can be nerve wracking to newcomers, especially those with a unique brand identity and professional reputation to uphold. Understanding its purpose, functionality, and how to plan ahead is crucial to a solid Instagram Live strategy.

Instagram Live In Three Easy Steps

The initial mechanics of going live is essentially the same as posting a Story. The very first step is to (obviously) have an Instagram account, and a mobile device. Instagram live is best on mobile devices for accessing all of the features Instagram offers. 

Step 1: Select the + Button on the Top Right

Simply tap the + icon in the top right on the home page or swipe right to open your camera. At the bottom of the screen, scroll through the options until you reach “Live”. At this point, you will be able to see what your viewers will see.

Step 2: Go Live

Click the live button on the bottom of your screen, and you will now be live. Your viewer count appears at the top of the screen, comments are below. You can also add features to your live stream to make your live more engaging. 


You can add questions to your live stream that your audience answer. There is a sticker that allows you to do so, and you can access the answers in the live stream. Adding questions in your live for your audience adds an element of engagement to your live stream and will keep your viewers interested. Consider including questions to learn something new about your audience, or get their opinion on a new product, service, or collaboration you may be thinking of. 

Add a Guest

Instagram allows you to collaborate in a live stream with another Instagrammer. You, or they, can request to join your live video so that the live will be a split screen of you and your guest. Collaborating on live is a great idea to broaden your target audience, gain followers, and increase engagement. Find another brand or influencer that has similar content as you, or that shares a similar audience as you to ensure your reaching your target audience. 

Share Your Live

To ensure you get as many viewers as possible, Instagram live allows you to send your live to friends and followers. This is a great feature if you are going to be talking about a certain topic you think your friends will love. Send your live stream over to anybody to get maximum views, and engage everybody. 

Share a Photo or Video

While live streaming, you can add photos or videos from your camera roll into the live and share it with your audience. This will add an extra element to your Instagram live to keep your viewers engaged. Pull up pictures of new products or services that you’re thinking of launching and get your audience's thoughts. 


The comments section isn’t just for viewers—you can add your own comments as you stream. You can also tap a comment and hit “pin comment” to keep it at the top of the feed for viewers to easily access. This is handy for any housekeeping or announcements that viewers tuning in mid-stream might have missed. Filter unwanted words or phrases by checking your settings, or turn comments off altogether by hitting the three dots on your screen followed by “turn off commenting.”

Step 3: End Your Live

To end your stream, tap “end” in the top right and then hit confirm. The video will disappear from the app when you’re no longer broadcasting, but you have the option to save it to your camera roll or share a replay in your Stories.

Congratulations, you just streamed your first Instagram live!

Instagram Live Ideas for Brands

Now that you can successfully stream your own live stream, it's important to plan your live before streaming to ensure you have an engaging live for your audience. We’ve listed some great ideas for live streaming that your brand can use to plan the perfect live. 

Influencer Collaborations

Collaborating with influencers is always a great way to introduce your brand to a new set of Instagrammers and increase your page engagements. Instagram live has the perfect tools for your brand to collaborate with influencers over a live stream. You are able to add a guest list or Live room to your live stream, bring influencers onto your live stream for an interview or do a Q&A session with your influencer of choice. The live room is the best option if you want to introduce more than one influencer in the collaboration (you can have up to 3 other accounts). Consider reaching out to an influencer who aligns with your brand so you can reach a new target audience. 

Track your influencer's performance with Dash Hudson’s influencer and creator ROI tool.

Go Live at an Event

If you are attending any events or conferences on behalf of your brand, you should be sure to live stream the event. People love seeing what happens behind the scenes at events like these, and it can also create trust with your audience if you are open to showing them what happens at exclusive events. Before streaming at events, be sure to promote the event and the fact you are streaming it to get your audience excited. And after the event, definitely do a recap of the event for anybody who may have missed it (this is another opportunity to live stream!). 

Tutorials, Classes, or Workshops

Hosting tutorials, classes, or workshops via live stream is a great idea to create an interactive experience for your audience. Teach your followers how to use your products, how to shop on your website, or about virtually anything that will resonate with your audience. Doing so will give your followers the opportunity to ask questions, and get real-life input on your brand. This is also a great chance to implement the questions feature that Instagram offers, or do a Q&A type of live stream. 

Product Unboxing

Host an Instagram live of you unboxing your own products. This gives your audience a sense of trust in your products if they can see a real person using the product, and highlighting its details. Live streaming your products also gives your viewers the opportunity to ask questions about the product and get real-life feedback about products they are considering buying. 

Behind the Scenes

Host a live stream where you take your customers behind the scenes of your brand. Take them through the production process of your products, meet some of the staff who work behind the scenes, or give a sneak peek of what's coming soon. Showing your customers how their products are made and who takes part in the process builds trust between you and your audience so that they can ensure your products are safe and sustainable.

Creating Content with Purpose

Once you understand how it works, the next step in the process is creating amazing content. Some users start live streaming to simply have a chat with followers, but this isn’t the best approach for brands. It’s important to consider both your brand DNA and your audience. In a joint study with New York Magazine and Livestream, 80% of respondents said they would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog or in-feed social post. This is a chance to bring some of that static content to life for up to an hour.

For Fresh, going live was a new frontier, and they dove in head first. After a few experiments with influencers and the brand’s founders, they noticed a drop off in viewers when the stream wasn’t centered around a particular activity. An enticing CTA and value-focused experience has been essential to drawing an audience. It may be tempting to use Live as an advertising platform — but investing in a subtle approach and building an engaged digital community will likely see greater ROI.

In a recent conversation with Meghan Kissinger, senior manager of social media at Beautyblender, we discussed how she jumped at the opportunity to deepen connections with followers through Live. The brand “immediately recognized [Instagram Live’s] impact during this time when so many people are feeling alone, and hit the ground running to build out a robust strategy.” They now offer virtual master classes with celebrity makeup artists and influencers, meditation sessions, nutrition Q&As, and more.

If you aren’t sure where to start, try these prompts from Instagram Business:

  • An update on how you’re feeling or preparing your business during this time.
  • A content series featuring your products that people are finding most useful.
  • Challenges or Q&As your fans can participate in.
Fresh Beauty team promoting Soy Face Cleanser

The Importance of Timing

Global brands have fans all around the world. For smaller, local brands, the majority of followers are closer to home. Remember where your audience is located when it comes to choosing a time for your broadcast. Who do you want to reach in the moment and who would be better off watching the replay? Noon in New York is 9:00am in Los Angeles and 5:00 pm in London, which means some of your audience is eating breakfast, some are taking their lunch breaks, and some are finishing their workdays.

The good news is: Instagram is working hard to increase the functionality of live features and help brands reach more people. Their latest update allows users to watch live streams from a desktop, which means you can now cross-promote with a URL on different channels instead of driving your audience to the app. 

A New Era of Authenticity for Brands

Let’s face it: the biggest risk with live video is your reputation. A lot can go wrong in real time and marketers work hard to cultivate a polished appearance on social. Take the time to prepare and if something unexpected happens, be honest and do your best to laugh it off with your audience. Remind them that you’re in this together and you’ll come out of this with strong, long-lasting relationships.

Measuring Success With Dash Hudson

With the help of Dash Hudson’s Instagram insights you can get the metrics that matter to track the success of your brand's Instagram account. When it comes to live streaming on Instagram, community is everything. With our community manager tool, you are able to engage with your followers and build a strong foundation around your Instagram community to ensure that your audience has loyalty towards your brand. Furthermore, be sure that you are performing ahead of your competitors with Dash Hudson’s competitive insights and benchmarking tools. Hosting a successful Instagram live stream depends on your audience, so ensure that they will show up by measuring where your Instagram can improve to provide them with the best content out there. 


How do I watch an Instagram live?

When somebody you follow is live streaming, you will see their Instagram icon at the top of your feed with the stories, and their icon will show a colorful ring and the word “live”. You can watch their live by simply clicking their icon.

How do I find random Instagram lives?

To find random live streams on Instagram, you can go to your Instagram Explorer page to see live streams of accounts that you do not follow. 

Can I restrict who sees my Instagram live?

Yes, you can restrict who sees your live stream. To do so, go to your Instagram settings and go to story settings. Select “hide story from” and add anybody who you don't want to see your live or stories. 

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