OUR TAKE Sara Nettesheim
Instagram Live: What Live Video's Freshest Face Brings to an Already Crowded Table
12.22.2016

After a year of live-streaming everything from political rallies to the now-famous “Chewbacca Mom,” social has officially embraced the era of live video. Consumers and brands alike are empowered to stream live, authentic content – at any time of day and from any location. Across social platforms, it seems that everyone wants a piece of the pie. First, we had Meerkat and Periscope. Then Facebook Live became a fixture in our newsfeeds. And now, there’s…Instagram Live? At the end of a year that’s been all about live video, Instagram is shaking things up by joining the party.

The biggest question is — will Instagram Live actually be any different from the current live video offerings? Or is it simply the next step in Instagram’s quest to do it all? We at Digitas think there are key differences that separate Instagram Live from the pack. It is these distinctions that have the potential to not only shine a spotlight on Instagram Live, but also result in some of the most authentic brand content we’ve seen yet.

So How Does It Work?

instagram-live-imageLast week, Instagram Live began rolling out to all U.S. users, allowing them to broadcast their activities in real-time to their followers. To do so, users swipe left into the Stories camera, tap the ‘Live’ button, and begin recording. While a user is live, followers can tune into his or her broadcast by tapping that user’s icon—now with an added ‘LIVE’ badge—in the Stories section at the top of their feed. And much like Facebook Live and Periscope, viewers can comment during the live stream and show their love by adding hearts, which float upwards across the video when sent. Once a user stops recording, the live video ends and disappears forever, with no saved recording for later access.

Also similar to Facebook Live, users may receive notifications when a person they follow is currently live. Users can also discover and watch live videos from people they do not currently follow in Instagram’s Explore tab. At the top of the tab, ‘Top Live’ videos curated by Instagram are available for browsing.

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This All Sounds Familiar…

While Instagram Live may seem like a Facebook Live or Periscope copycat at first glance, aspects of the new feature are unique. Most important is the fact that Instagram Live video is truly ephemeral — it disappears after the broadcast and, like the main character in a ghost story, is never seen again. There is no way to share or watch the video after the fact. This makes Instagram Live video more real-time than Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories, which disappear after 24 hours.

A Push for Authenticity

For brands, there are many implications for content creation. Putting production dollars and effort behind a video that is only available for an hour is a harder sell.

So if highly produced, recurring content is out, what can users expect to see from brands on Instagram Live? We think that brands now have the potential to produce more spur-of-the-moment and authentic content than ever before. When a video doesn’t last beyond a live broadcast, polish becomes less of a priority. Brands have the opportunity to use Instagram Live to show fans what is actually happening in the moment without the pressure of perfection.

Increased Discoverability

The discoverability of Instagram Live videos may also give the platform a slight leg up over competitors. Twitter has no place in its app where users can browse Periscope videos. Even Facebook requires users to specifically search for videos. By placing ‘Top Live’ videos at the top of the Explore section of its app, Instagram is able to showcase its live videos in a place where many of its users already go on a regular basis.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Challenge

Even if your brand has never ventured into the world of live video, Instagram Live presents an opportunity: longer form video content. Previously, the longest video any user could share on Instagram was no more than 60 seconds. Now, users and brands alike can share up to an hour of video content using Instagram Live.

Hour-long videos signal the arrival of more in-depth storytelling on Instagram. For example, instead of just giving a taste of a campaign through a 60 second spot, brands can now broadcast full-length interviews with brand ambassadors. Rather than settle for a 10-second behind-the-scenes look at a photoshoot, brands can showcase the entire production process to fans – all in real time.

In other words, brands have just been given a lot more room to tell their story and show their personality.

The Bottom Line

Instagram Live gives brands the opportunity to share more authentic and rich content than ever before. Its ephemeral nature lowers the stakes and its maximum length of 60 minutes opens up expansive content possibilities. It doesn’t matter if your brand already uses live video or not — if you have an audience on Instagram, you can utilize Instagram Live to tell a more authentic and in-depth story.

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Sara Nettesheim, Social Strategist, DigitasLBi Chicago