Instagram Live: A Step-by-step Guide for Businesses

By Jillian Warren

Published February 28, 2020

15 minute read

Instagram Live is an incredible channel for driving new followers, engagement, and even selling products. Find out how in this step-by-step guide.


Stay on top of the biggest social media marketing trends!

Instagram Live is an incredible channel for driving new followers, engagement, and even selling products.

But there are no retakes on Instagram Live, which can make your first broadcast feel seriously daunting.

So to help you get started, we’re covering everything from how to kick off your first Instagram Live to our top tips for hosting next-level broadcasts that drive real value for your business.

Ready to jump right in? It’s time to go live!

Table of Contents

  1. Why Use Instagram Live for Business

  2. How to Use Instagram Live for Business: A Step-by-step Guide

  3. How to Create Great Instagram Live Content for Your Business

  4. How to Repurpose Instagram Live Videos

Why Use Instagram Live for Business

Going live on Instagram is one of the best ways to connect with your followers in a direct, transparent, and authentic way.

Unlike pre-recorded Instagram Stories or IGTV videos, Instagram Live is a totally unedited stream for your followers to tune into and engage with — which can be a great way of showcasing the more human side of your business for your audience to connect with.

And that’s not all. Instagram Live allows your audience to submit their comments and questions in real-time, making it one of Instagram’s most interactive video platforms.

This can be a hugely beneficial tool for building a stronger connection between your brand and potential customers, allowing you to gain valuable feedback and insight — straight from the people that matter most!

Hosting an Instagram Live can also help boost your discoverability on Instagram. For example, every time you go live on Instagram your followers will receive an in-app notification, and your Live will be bumped to the front of their Instagram Stories feed.

In addition to the actual broadcast, your Instagram Live will stay on your Instagram Stories for 24 hours for your audience to catch up on. This opens your stream up to a much larger audience, and can result in a much higher view count — especially if you continue to promote your Instagram Live across different social platforms.

And thanks to Instagram Live’s new and improved tools, you can make your broadcasts extra engaging and on-brand. At Later, we recently created specially designed templates to add to our Instagram Live stream — and our audience thought it was great!

ICYMI: Instagram Lives can now be watched on your desktop! Making it even easier for your audience to tune and follow along on a bigger screen!

Plus, after you go live, you’ll soon be able to save your videos to IGTV so they stick around longer than the 24-hour limit in Stories and are easier for others to find.

We’re going to show you exactly how to do this (and give you access to our free templates!) later in this blog post — so you can get extra creative in your next Instagram Live!

With all this in mind, Instagram Live is an awesome tool to promote your products, engage with potential customers, and reach a new audience on Instagram.

TIP: Always give your Instagram Live a boost by promoting them on Instagram Stories in advance! Storyboard and schedule your Instagram Stories with Later today, available on all paid plans.

How to Use Instagram Live for Business: A Step-by-step Guide

Instagram Live is an incredibly easy tool to use! But before you start broadcasting, there are a few administrative items to take care of.

Admin Item #1: Adjust Your Instagram Live Settings

Before you jump into your Instagram Live, it’s a good idea to check your settings are exactly as you want them to be.

To access your Instagram Live settings, open the Instagram Stories camera and swipe across to the “Live” mode. Tap the wheel icon in the top left-hand corner to open your controls.

From here, you can select who you’d like to be able to view your stories (and Instagram Live), who can reply, where it automatically saves to, and also how it can be shared.

Admin Item #2: Filter Out Offensive Comments

If you’d rather not see inappropriate words in the comments on your Instagram Live, you can automatically hide offensive comments, and manually filter comments that contain specific words or phrases. This is something we really recommend doing, especially if you’re a large brand with a lot of engagement.

Open your Instagram settings, scroll down to “Privacy,” select “Comments,” and then toggle “Hide offensive comments” from “Off” to “On.”

To filter out comments that contain specific phrases, toggle “Manual filter” from “Off” to “On” and then type the words or phrases you wish to filter out separated by commas.

Now we’ve got the admin covered, let’s look at how to start an Instagram Live broadcast!

How to Go Live on Instagram

Step 1: Open the Instagram Stories camera and swipe across to the “Live” mode. You will be able to see how many of your followers are currently active in the Instagram app, which is a good indicator of how many people will receive an in-app notification if you go live straight away.

Step 2: Tap the “Live” icon to start your broadcast, making sure you have a strong and stable internet connection.

It’s a good idea to give your followers a few moments to join before jumping right into the focus of your live session, so consider having a holding screen or making some small talk for a minute or two.

Step 3: Once your live is underway, you can choose from a number of features to make your broadcast more engaging:

#1: Share questions from your viewers to the screen by tapping the question mark icon. Note – You can only share a question once a viewer has submitted it during the broadcast (via the question box shown below in Layla F. Saad’s live).

#2: Send a Direct Message to someone about your Instagram Live by tapping the paper plane icon.

#3: Invite someone to co-host your Instagram Live (like @accessbenjamin below) by tapping the faces icon:

#4: Apply an Instagram Stories filter to your broadcast by tapping the filter icon. It’s a good idea to decide which filter you want to use in advance, so you can find and apply it as quickly as possible!

#5: Share an image or video to your broadcast screen by tapping the camera roll icon in the right-hand corner of the screen.

When you add an image or video from your camera roll, your video live stream will  move to the top right hand corner of the broadcast screen, on top of whatever media you’ve chosen to share.

You can even add multiple images and videos, one after another, to create a cool “slideshow” effect during your Instagram Live. Just tap the next image or video you want to share from the panel at the bottom of the screen:

#6: Tap “Comment” to add a comment to the live stream. You can also pin a comment to the top of the feed by tapping and holding it, like @bof has in this example:

Step 5: Once your Live is over, tap “End” in the top right corner and then “End Now” to confirm.

From here, you can tap the save icon in the top left to save it to your camera roll, or share it to your Instagram Stories to be viewed over the next 24 hours. It’s that simple!

ICYMI: You can now donate to or create your own fundraisers on Instagram Live!

And the coolest part? When you donate, you can use the new “I Donated” sticker in Instagram Stories. When you use the sticker, your story will be added to a combined Instagram Stories post for your followers to see and hopefully join in on the fun!

This shared Instagram Stories post will appear at the front of the line in your Instagram Stories feed on your Home page — that’s prime real estate to give a shoutout to a good cause.

Instagram also announced that 100% of the money raised through the donate function goes directly to the nonprofit — unlike a lot of fundraiser platforms, Instagram is not taking a cut from the donations.

How to Create Great Instagram Live Content for Your Business

Now you know how to go live, we can dig into what makes for a really great Instagram Live strategy!

Here are our top 6 tips for hosting next-level Instagram Lives that drive real value for your business:

Tip #1: Hype Up Your Instagram Live in Advance

Regularly and strategically promoting an upcoming Instagram Live can make all of the difference when it comes to securing those all important views!

To do this, you could share Instagram Stories that detail the time and date of your Instagram Live, and even use an Instagram Stories countdown sticker to mark the event.

The countdown sticker does exactly what it says on the tin — which makes it an awesome tool for building hype around an upcoming live broadcast!

TIP: Make this sticker even more effective by encouraging followers to tap the sticker and set a reminder for when the countdown ends.

Alongside stories, share an Instagram post to announce your upcoming live. Tell your audience what they can expect in the live broadcast, and invite them to share any questions they have in the comments. This can help your followers feel more engaged, and ultimately more likely to tune in!

Tip #2: Go Live When Your Audience is Most Active

Going live when your followers are most active is one of the easiest ways to make your Instagram Lives more successful.

Instagram will send an in-app notification to all your followers who are online at the time of your broadcast, so the more people that receive this prompt, the better!

But how can you predict when your audience will be online ahead of time? The best way to do this is by studying historical data trends to understand when your audience are typically most active on Instagram.

You can do this in two ways:

Firstly, take a look at your Instagram Insights. Under the Audience tab, you’ll find a breakdown of when your followers are most active online broken down by day of the week and time of day.

And if you’re looking for even more detail, you can use your Later Analytics to hone in on your audience’s behaviors.

Your Later analytics dashboard has a super-detailed breakdown of when your audience is online — and you can use that info to tailor your Instagram Live schedule.

TIP: Create an “appointment to view” by always going live on Instagram at the same time each week or month. The more your viewers anticipate your broadcasts, the more viewers you will gain! For example, @thesill grows their community of plant-loving followers by going live with a plant expert every week!

Discover your best time to post by signing up to any of Later’s business plans.

Tip #3: Consider Your Lighting and Location

Planning the location and lighting for your Instagram Live can have a huge impact on how professional your broadcast looks.

Consider how the backdrop of your Instagram Live supports your brand’s message. For example, a minimal white setting with plants will create a totally different aesthetic to a wall with scrapbook-style photos on it (like uses below).

If your brand is fun and playful, consider how to reflect that with your use of color. For example, a bright pop of pastel can instantly shift the tone of your Instagram Live and make it feel more on brand.

In terms of lighting, natural light is always the most affordable (and often the best) option. Also consider what could create unwanted shadows in your broadcast, and do your best to avoid them.

If you’re able to use natural light (from a window) or actually be outside, this is always a great option. You’ll notice the quality of your footage will look more professional than shooting inside or with flash.

Tip #4: Have a Clear Content Plan

As with any video content, it’s super important to have a clear vision of what you’re going to cover in your Instagram Live broadcast. Having a clear plan will help prevent any awkward pauses, and will also make sure you’re hitting all the important points for your business agenda.

One of the best ways to plan your live stream is to think of it as having a beginning, middle, and an end — or more specifically, an introduction, focal point, and conclusion — and making a note of the most important messages to get across during the broadcast.

It’s equally important to decide what format you’ll follow in advance, so that your broadcast is as smooth and professional as possible. Instagram Live allows you to share images or videos, invite others to co-host in a split screen, or simply share your camera screen to your viewers.

Whichever format you decide on, it’s always worth doing a quick run through ahead of time, so you’re comfortable with the flow and know roughly what you’re going to say during each segment.

It’s also a good idea to consider what could go wrong in a “worst case scenario.” For example, if your live broadcast relies on viewers’ questions, have a backup plan in case you don’t receive any. This could be a list of questions that you’ve gathered earlier from Instagram Stories, or an alternate talking point.

Tip #5: Introduce Branded Elements

One of the main advantages of going live on Instagram is that you’re providing an unedited and direct channel for your audience to engage with your business.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t introduce some branded elements to make your live broadcast feel more aligned with your brand values.

This could be as simple as having cue cards in your brand color palette, holding a branded mug, or choosing a backdrop that fits with your creative aesthetic like @scaddotedu:

If you’re sharing an image or video to your broadcast, consider how to make this feel more “on brand.” Simply adding a colored border or a text overlay in your brand style can be super effective!

At Later, we’ve created a range of branded templates especially to use on our Instagram Live broadcasts — with a colored border in exactly the right place for the camera screen to sit on top of in the top right hand corner.

Later’s Social Media Strategist Mel Brittner created these designs using the Over app, but we’ve done the heavy lifting so you can recreate this format in seconds! Here’s how to download and edit our custom Instagram Live templates:

  1. Open Instagram Stories and swipe across to “Create” mode

  2. Scroll across to the “GIF” tab

  3. Search for “Laterlive”and select your favorite design (there are 3 to choose from)

  4. Customize the design in Instagram Stories and save to your camera roll

You can then add your new templates to your next Instagram Live by tapping the camera roll icon (in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen) and selecting your saved designs.

Your live video stream will reposition to the top right-hand corner of your screen and will sit perfectly on top of your custom Instagram Live template!

Watch our TikTok video to discover exactly how to do this:

TIME-SAVING TIP: Add your customized templates to a dedicated folder so you can easily find and select them during your live broadcast!

Tip #6: Keep Your Business Goals Front and Center

There are hundreds of reasons to go live, so nailing down what matters the most can help keep your broadcast focused, effective, and measurable!

This could be building hype around the launch of a product, spreading the news about an important company update, getting real-time customer feedback, driving sales for an existing product line, or positioning your brand as an expert on a certain domain.

With clearly defined goals, you can regularly step back and make sure your Instagram Live content plan is fully supporting them.

For example, if your goal is to drive traffic back to a product on your website, you could plan for a member of your team to submit a “question” during the broadcast that includes the link, so that you can share this on screen. Check out out hair brand Prose does this:

TIP: The shared response sticker isn’t clickable, so it’s worth keeping your links as short and memorable as possible!

How to Repurpose Instagram Live Videos

Once you’ve ended an Instagram Live, the fun doesn’t have to end there!

You can share your live to your stories for 24 hours, or tap the “save” icon in the top left to add the video to your camera roll.

Keep in mind that only the video is saved, and not comments, likes, or viewers. You’re only able to save a live video right after you’ve ended it.

Once you’ve saved your video, you can always repurpose this content into 15 second clips for Instagram Stories, 1 minute clips for Instagram feed video, or even use it for a longer IGTV edit.

If you haven’t started using Instagram Live for business yet, now is the time!

Only a small percentage of businesses are going live, so there’s a ton of opportunity to grab your followers’ attention, build brand awareness, and even make some sales!

Ready to jump-start your Instagram strategy? Later makes it easy for you to plan, preview, and schedule your Instagram content!

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