Instagram announced that it will add a much-requested feature to its app with the launch of “Live Rooms,” which allow up to four people to live stream together at the same time. Previously, the app only allowed users to live stream with one other person, similar to Facebook Live. The company says it expects Live Rooms to open up more creative opportunities in terms of live streaming formats to enable things like live talk shows, extended Q&As or interviews, jam sessions for musicians, live shopping experiences and more.
In addition to the ability to live stream with more people, Instagram is also touting how the new feature can help creators make more money. Last year, in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, Instagram introduced badges as a way for fans to support their favorite creators during a live video. Once purchased, badges appear next to a fan’s name throughout the video, helping them stand out in the comments and unlock other special features, such as placement on the creator list of badge holders and access to a special heart.
With Live Rooms, fans can purchase badges to support hosts (one badge per person), as well as use other interactive features such as Shopping and Live Fundraising. The company says it is now also developing other tools, such as moderator controls and audio features that will be implemented in the coming months.
To start a live room, you swipe left and select the live camera option, then assign a title to the room and tap the icon to add guests. You will see a list of people who have already requested to be live and you can search for other guests to add.
When the live room is launched, it will remain at the top of the screen while guests are added, all at once or individually. This provides opportunities to add “surprise guests” to live streams to keep fans engaged.
The ability to add more guests to a live stream can also help a creator increase their follower base, as all of the guests’ followers receive notifications about the Live Room in addition to their own.
For security reasons, anyone who has been blocked by any of the Live Room participants will not have access to join the broadcast. In addition, guests who have previously had their live access revoked due to violations of the Instagram Community Guidelines will not be able to join any Live Room.
During live broadcasts, hosts can also report and block comments and use filters to maintain a safer experience for all viewers.
Live streaming became an increasingly important way for creators, business owners and brands to stay connected with followers during the pandemic, which shut down live in-person events, including concerts, shows, classes, conferences, meetings and more. Instagram reported a 70% increase in live views as creators and businesses shifted their work online.
As the pandemic progressed through 2020 and into 2021, the lack of in-person connectivity allowed other opportunities and even new social networks to grow. The Clubhouse live audio platform, for example, experienced rapid adoption, particularly by the tech and creative crowds, who today use the app to tune in to live shows, chat sessions and even big-name interviews.
But while Clubhouse offers a very different experience, it still operates in the same broader space of allowing fans to connect with high-profile people of some kind: entrepreneurs and founders, celebrities, market experts, thought leaders, influencers, etc. And because users’ time is limited, seeing this type of activity shift to platforms not owned by Facebook will likely be a cause for concern for Instagram and its parent.
Meanwhile, in the live video streaming space, Instagram today faces a number of competitors, from those focused on a particular niche, such as game streaming site Twitch and live shopping apps, as well as general-purpose live platforms offered by YouTube and TikTok.
Instagram says Live Rooms is now rolling out for both iOS and Android in all global markets. The company expects the rollout to reach 100% of its user base within days.