Over the last five weeks — beginning right around the time retailers and offices started to close across the U.S. — use of Instagram’s livestream feature started to take off among brands and influencers.
This week, Instagram made live broadcasts available to watch on desktop; prior, they could only be accessed on mobile. Instagram hasn’t broken out specific growth for its livestream feature, but Facebook shared that as of March 24, Instagram Live views in Italy alone doubled in just one week. With the uptick of companies going live, Lively and American Eagle are strategizing to draw viewers to their streams: They’re tapping content creators and founders to be featured guests, planning a schedule of events and being careful to balance livestreams with the rest of the brand’s content. The goal is to drive some sales, but more importantly keep followers engaged and keep the company top of mind in times of isolation.
Lively started ramping up Instagram Lives in mid-March, after closing all four of its retail locations on March 14. A big reason behind the expansion into physical retail was to host live events that have since helped build a 100,000-plus customer ambassador program. Live events also help drive in-store sales, although the company did not share specifics on its events-driven sales lift. Without retail locations, Lively turned to Instagram Live to host everything from fireside chats with female founders to workout and cooking classes.
“We are a brand grounded in community, and to be a community, you need events in real life. IG Live is replacing these real life moments,” said Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder of Lively.
So far, the IG Love events have been working to boost sales, in conjunction with a new TV spot the company rolled out earlier in April.
“Our e-commerce business is seeing unprecedented sales. We hit record sales numbers [on Wednesday],” said Cordeiro Grant. She declined to share specifics, but attributed the lift to the shifted marketing strategy from in-store events to livestreaming and TV.
On average, the company is going live about two to three times a week, but its balancing live videos with IGTV videos, considering how crowded Instagram Live has become over the last few weeks.
“It’s definitely very noisy [on Instagram Live]. Brands need to have a specific theme that is interesting because everyone is doing the same thing [from virtual workout classes to baking tutorials] right now. You also need to market these livestreams and use your social media followings to get people to tune in,” said Ali Grant, founder of digital communications agency Be Social Group.
Keeping up a cadence and posting several times a week, or even several times a day, is also crucial for driving viewers and engagement for some, said Kristine Brabson, executive director of content strategy at Hearst.
“Build a regular cadence. Some of [the Hearst brands] are going [live] daily or twice daily. You need to build a habit, so it’s like appointment-style viewing, particularly in the lifestyle and fashion space,” said Brabson.
American Eagle has posted 10 IG Live sessions over the last month, averaging about two a week. It’s tapping mega-influencers and content creators like Rickey Thompson (5.8 million Instagram followers) and Cheer’s Morgan Simianer (1.4 million followers) as a way to draw viewers in. The content creators answer follower questions or do DIY projects like customizing an AE denim jacket.
In total, over 19 million people have tuned in to watch the 10 different livestreams, according to a spokesperson for the brand, and AE has seen over a 100% increase in Instagram profile visits. For American Eagle, finding the right time to go live has been key. The company is aiming for break periods like lunchtime, or after virtual school hours to reach its Gen-Z audience.
Some of Lively’s most popular livestreams, based on viewers and engagement, are ones that bring in other female founders to discuss topics that appeal to a wide stay-at-home audience. Lively’s Instagram followers increased 140% in the first week that the company launched IG Live.
The first IG Live the company did on March 18 was with Rachel Liverman of custom-facial company Glowbar discussing how to keep your skin clear and how to safely extract a pimple from home. Others have covered how to start a small business (and how to keep it afloat during a pandemic) and how moms can navigate working from home. Videos average 10-30 minutes in length.
Lively is promoting these events on its website, on Instagram Stories and in email newsletters to subscribed customers. After the livestream ends, Lively posts a link to the full video on its website under the events tab, on IGTV and in Instagram Highlights, where followers can swipe-up to view. Lively’s video featuring Caroline Lahti of floral company Florabrook teaching flower arrangements has nearly 1,000 views on IGTV, but that does not account for the number of viewers who watched the stream live.