Instagram will now let you go live with a friend, their latest upgrade for live-streaming on the platform, which is designed to tap into rising usage trends.
As explained by Instagram:
"Live video helps you share in an authentic way, but sometimes it can be intimidating when you're on your own. Starting today, we're testing a fun way to go live with a friend. Now, you can hang out and go live together, whether you're just doing homework or catching up on your day."
That last note on potential use-cases is important - back in November, when Instagram launched live-streaming on the platform, Instagram Live product manager Shilp Sarkar noted a key audience trend they were looking to tap into with the new option:
"The use case that caught our attention was people just hanging out on live, particularly young people. After school, they jump on a livestream and hang out. That use of live [video] is particularly interesting to us."
That's 'interesting' to Instagram because a rising number of people - young people in particular - are doing it. Last September, the makers of the now defunct live-streaming app Meerkat launched a new, multi-person live-stream app called Houseparty, which enables up to eight people at a time to broadcast together.
The app quickly proved popular - by November, Houseparty was up to 1.2 million daily users and rising, showing that there was a clear demand for this kind of live-stream hanging out, primarily amongst students.
Instagram - and parent company Facebook - monitor such trends very closely, they don't want another Snapchat-like uprising among the youth. As such, Instagram has since launched live-streaming, while Facebook launched group video chats within Facebook Messenger, as well as guests on Facebook Live streams, all of which appeal to similar use-cases. And now we have live guests on Instagram.
Right now, the new live guests feature is only being tested amongst a small subset of Instagram users, but Instagram plans on rolling it out more widely 'over the next few months'. If the option's available to you, in order to add a guest to your Instagram Live stream, you simply tap on the new 'two-face' icon at the bottom of your screen during a broadcast. You can then invite anyone who's watching to join.
Once a person joins, the screen is split into two equally-sized blocks - which is different to Facebook Live's guest option, which adds the guest in a smaller window (though the screen is divided equally in landscape mode).
Viewers will be able to see you and your guest, and interact as normal, via the comments.
"You can remove your guest and add someone else at any time, or they can also choose to exit on their own. Share your live video to stories when your broadcast has ended, or choose "Discard" and your live video will disappear from the app as usual."
It's a good addition for Instagram Live - or really, any live-stream tool. While having the capacity to go live at any time is great, one of the biggest challenges with live-streaming is that broadcasting quality, entertaining content in real-time is hard. This is what impeded the growth of other failed live-streaming apps Meerkat and Blab - as explained by former Blab chief Shaan Puri (at the time of Blab's closure):
"The struggle with Live-streaming is that we need to show you something awesome, that's being made right now. Turns out, that's really tough. It killed Meerkat, and Periscope & FB Live are feeling the pain right now. Really, only Twitch has gotten it right with live streaming video games."
Puri said that of Blab's 3.9 million users, only around 10% were coming back to the platform on a regular basis because most live streams simply aren't interesting enough for people to stop what they're doing and tune in. No doubt you've found the same in your own use of live-streaming - there's a lot of junk broadcasts and only a few quality streams you'll repeatedly tune in for.
Adding in extra participants isn't necessarily the solution (it didn't help Blab), but it does add to the capacity of what your stream can be, while also taking the pressure off the host, making it a less intimidating prospect, as it's not all on them to be entertaining the whole time.
From a marketing perspective, the guest option opens up a range of new possibilities - for both viewers watching live and for Instagram Stories, where you can save your broadcast afterwards. And given that Stories use amongst brands is on the rise, you can bet that many will be keen to utilize it as soon as they can.
You could conduct interviews with industry-leading experts, with subject matter experts within your company, you could run a Q and A with fans, where viewers can drop in, ask a question, then drop out. There's a heap of ways you can use the Live guest option to boost your messaging.
While the use case Instagram seems to be focused on is younger users virtually hanging out, Live guests provides new capacity to tap into the fastest growing social platform, by using one of the fastest growing tools within it. And with 15 million business profiles now registered on Instagram, you're going to need new ways to stand out to grab attention.
Live guests may provide just that.