Instagram Live and Facebook Live: What You Need to Know Before You Hit the Go Live Button

Updated on March 14, 2019
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.


One of the current hot trends for social media and marketing has been identified as “going live.” What this means is doing a livestreamed, real-time video broadcast on the likes of Facebook Live, Instagram Live, YouTube Live, Twitter Live, and, reportedly coming soon as of this writing, LinkedIn Live.

Why is this so hot? Marketing experts usually point to the fact that live programming on these social media platforms keeps watchers on the platform longer. Why is that important? Social media platforms sell advertising. The longer they can keep people watching, the more time they have to show them advertising, or so the theory goes.

Another reason for this push for live programming is people want authentic, unfiltered content. Reality TV with real people! (You didn’t believe that reality shows are real, did you?) It also has a “what’s happening right now” quality, more akin to live, 24/7 breaking news stories.

People also want connection. During these broadcasts, question and answer (Q&A) sessions with presenters are common practice, and an ideal use of the technology. These livestreams can usually feature multiple presenters at the same time that are each broadcasting from their own social media accounts and locations, making this great for interview type presentations.

But is it really that valuable? Here are some things to consider before you hit the button to go live.

Why I Often Swipe Left on Instagram Live

Though it’s taken me a while to get acclimated to it, I do like Instagram Stories. It’s like a much more visually appealing and interactive Twitter.

But I will confess that there is one type of story that I swipe left to skip often: Instagram Live. Why? Unless the presenter has announced how long they plan to be live, I just don’t have the time to stare at an unscripted presentation on my phone that I wasn’t planning on watching. On Instagram, you can go live for up to 1 hour. One hour! On Facebook, you can go live for 4 hours. Good Lord! So if there hasn’t been any timeframe announced for the livestream, I have no idea if this will last 6 or 60 minutes (or even longer on Facebook).

I might check out the replay if the presenter posts it on Stories or their standard posts. But even then I find myself skipping around to get through it if it's too long.

Just because it’s live doesn’t mean that people are willing to sit through your hours-long livestreams.

No One Cares If You’re Live. But Here's How to Show You Care About Your Live Audience.

A good networking friend and I were chatting in our Facebook group about going live. I said that when I’ve experimented with live, I have so few people actually participating live, but that they may watch later. She said she experiences the same thing, which is why she always starts out with “welcome to the replay” when she does a Facebook Live.

Just because you’re live, doesn’t mean people will watch, or watch then and there.

If you want to go live on any of the social networks that offer it, here are some tips to show you care about making your broadcast more valuable and viewer friendly:

Determine why you want to go live. Live Q&A for customers or fans is a valuable use of live social media broadcasts. Special announcements about new products (including demos) and services work, too. Providing expanded how-to information and training can be good uses of live broadcasts. But if there's no good reason to go live, why do it?

Don’t go live if it’s not a good fit for you. Going live is stressful! You mess up and you're sure to feel embarrassed. And there are no do-overs. As with any new skill, with practice it will become easier. But if you're so distraught by going live, you will not be effective. If you still want to give it a go, practice by doing recorded video first until you're comfortable with that. Then experiment with short, live broadcasts.

Tell them what and when. Whether you plan to do a regular live broadcast or just a special one-time presentation, you have to tell people when you’re going to do this and what the broadcast will be about. Don’t presume that your ideal audience will automatically be hanging out on that social media network exactly when you go live, and that they’ll be interested in watching you just because you’re live.

“Now for our regularly scheduled programming...” If people know you go live at a certain day and time, and for only a certain time period, it becomes a regular show like a favorite sitcom or the 6 o’clock news. You start programming your audience to watch your program then.

Unscripted doesn’t mean unplanned. One of the reasons I have low tolerance for live on social media is that most people aren’t prepared to go live. They just turn on the camera and start blathering on about God knows what and don’t get to the point. You don’t have to read a script, but you do need a plan for what you’ll be doing in the broadcast. This keeps the broadcast from going on too long about nothing.

Use a good Internet connection. I’ve seen some live broadcasts where the Internet signal is not good. So the audio and video don’t sync up which is awkward to watch.

"Snack size" to share everywhere. With the energy investment going live can take, ask yourself how you will repurpose the video into other content. Facebook and Instagram have ways to save the video within the social media app itself (see the support documentation for instructions). It can then be reposted to a more permanent home, such as on YouTube or your website. Consider breaking up longer broadcasts in smaller video segments that can be posted individually on social media as teasers for the replay, or as "snack size" posts that are more digestible for audiences with small attention spans.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Heidi Thorne


Submit a Comment
  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    16 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Donna! Agreed, being able to watch some fave celebs live--and sometimes interact with them--on Instagram or Facebook Live is special! Even with our favorite people, we'd like to know what we're in for. I sometimes feel bad for not watching my fave non-famous Instagrammers' Live shows. But there are only so many hours in a day.

    Thanks for adding that to the conversation! Have a beautiful week!

  • purl3agony profile image

    Donna Herron 

    16 months ago from USA

    I just recently joined Instagram, mainly to follow some musical artists, and have seen some Instagram Live sessions with them. Although it's fun to see your favorite artist pop live on screen in the middle of the day, I agree these sessions can go on and on. I love your suggestion to set a schedule so people know when to watch and how long it's going to last. Thanks for another great article!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    16 months ago from Chicago Area

    Pamela, as much as I truly do like and enjoy the folks who do live broadcasts, I, too, just don't have an hour to spend with them! Glad I'm not alone.

    Thanks so much for joining the conversation! Have a lovely weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    16 months ago from Chicago Area

    Adrienne, that story is priceless! :) And it so shows why going live can be quite a trick, especially if you're doing it yourself.

    Thanks so much for sharing that story with us! Have a great weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    16 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Chitrangada! True, there is a certain personal and endearing appeal to live broadcasts to friends and followers. But once it goes on too long, even friends will be challenged to keep watching. :)

    Thanks for adding that perspective to the conversation! Have a wonderful weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    16 months ago from Chicago Area

    Bill, bequeathing your to-do list to your heirs is brilliant! You have nothing to worry about getting done. :)

    Yeah, if you don't go live on social, it won't be on your list of life regrets.

    Thanks for chiming in anyway. Have a great weekend!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    16 months ago from Chicago Area

    Flourish, you have perfectly noted why going live is so challenging! It is difficult to control the environment, except in professional broadcasting situations. And it's even difficult to control our behaviors that are not noticeable in reality, but on camera are a big deal.

    Yeah, I'm only going to dip occasionally in the live pool. :)

    Thanks for adding that aside to the conversation! Happy Weekend!

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    16 months ago from Sunny Florida

    This is a very interesting article as I have done very little with live feeds. I surely don't want to spend an hour watching anyong as who has that kind of time? Thanks for a good overview

  • alexadry profile image

    Adrienne Farricelli 

    16 months ago

    Live sounds sure quite intimidating. I remember one day making a video series for a client on various dog tricks, and the camera was mistakenly tilted. I worked a good half hour and was ready to send it when, "eeek!" I noticed my head was cut off for the entire video! Imagine if this was something that would have gone live, LOL!

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    16 months ago from New Delhi, India

    Nice information about the ‘live’ moments at the various social media websites.

    I haven’t gone ‘live’ myself but these are interesting to watch because of their visual appeal, and the fact that it’s happening right now. But I like shorter versions and not the longer ones.

    Thanks for sharing this excellent article!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    16 months ago from Olympia, WA

    It's' not going to happen for this old man, but thanks nonetheless. I'm still working on to-do items I put on the list two years ago. LOL At this rate I'll have to bequeath my list to someone to finish after I die.

    Have a great weekend of no snow!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    16 months ago from USA

    Excellent advice. I have never understood the appeal of going live unless there’s a big announcement, perhaps like politicians announcing they are running. I’d be worried I would accidentally curse, do a Freudian slip, sneeze into the camera, the doorbell would ring, or maybe one of my cats would interfere. What do people do for bathroom breaks when they are live for 4 or more hours straight? Crazy! You can probably mark me off of the live stream idea.


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