How to Start an Instagram Live Video

Instagram live on air

When you want to use the Instagram app to start your own live stream, you'll find the feature hidden in the camera tab of the Stories feature. Instagram Stories changed the way people used Instagram in August 2016. By the end of 2016, Stories was expanded to include a live video streaming feature that allowed users to connect with followers in real-time.

The screenshots here were taken on an Android phone, but the outlined procedures should apply to most other current phones as well.

How to Live Stream on Instagram

Starting a live video stream is a bit like preparing to post a story. Here's how:

  1. Tap your profile bubble (it's located to the left of your Stories feed, above Your Story). Or, swipe right anywhere in the app to display the Stories camera tab.

  2. By default, the camera tab is on the Normal setting, which you can see at the bottom of the screen beneath the capture button. To switch to a live video stream, swipe right or tap LIVE.

    You're not live yet.

  3. To choose the options to share your live feed, tap the gear icon that's located in the upper-left corner of the Live screen.

    Instagram with the Live settings highlighted
  4. Hide your live video from certain people and allow certain users to reply to your live video using direct message.

    Facebook Messenger has been integrated into Instagram Direct, so you can send direct messages to your Facebook contacts from Instagram.

  5. When you're satisfied with your settings, tap the back arrow next to Story to return to the Live screen.

    Instagram Live settings
  6. When you're ready to go live, tap Go Live. This triggers the live broadcast of your video, and your followers will be able to see that you're live.

  7. To stop broadcasting, tap End. The total viewer count displays to let you know how many people tuned in over the course of your live video.

  8. Tap Save to save the session to your camera roll, or share it to your story.

Instagram Live Rooms

Instagram has introduced Live Rooms, which let you go live with up to three other people. From the Instagram camera screen, select Live at the bottom of the screen, then tap the Rooms icon (the two silhouettes) to invite guests. You'll see a list of other users who are currently live, but you can also search for users to invite.

Live, the Live Rooms icon, and Search highlighted in the Instagram app

Streaming with other Instagramers in Live Rooms is a great way to get more exposure on the social platform.

Engage With Your Viewers

When you start an Instagram live video, your followers can receive notifications to encourage them to tune in. When they do, you'll notice a few things appear on the screen:

  • Viewer count: This appears in the upper-right corner of the screen next to the eye icon.
  • Comments: Viewers can publish live comments on your video using the comment field, which appears at the bottom of the screen. 
  • Likes: A heart button appears in the lower-right corner of the screen, which viewers can tap to express their approval of your live video. You'll see a heart animation play in real-time as viewers like it.

Pin a Comment or Turn Off Comments

Along with talking to your viewers directly through the video, leave comments on your video and pin comments to the screen so that comments stay there for your viewers to see. This is a useful feature if your live video is centered on a certain topic or question.

To pin a comment, type a comment into the comment field, post it, and tap the published comment. A menu appears from the bottom of the screen with a Pin Comment option.

Alternatively, turn comments off so nobody has the ability to comment. Tap the three dots in the lower-right corner of the screen and tap Turn Off Commenting.

End Your Video When You're Done

You can broadcast live for up to an hour. The amount of data used while broadcasting a live video varies depending on the show's length and the signal strength. If you're concerned about saving data, connect to Wi-Fi before you start recording.

How to Tell When Other Users Are Broadcasting Live

You can tell someone is using Instagram Live by looking at the bubbles in your stories feed. The bubbles of friends who are using Instagram Live have pink Live badges displayed directly beneath them. Tap the appropriate bubble to start watching a live feed.

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