Everything can be that’s happening on screens these days, but people aren’t letting that in. The musicians did Zoom video clips, with backup dancers performing choreography in their own separate squares. Public figures gave interviews on Clubhouse, with members of the public asking passionate questions from their homes. The chefs, whose restaurants had closed, are offering cooking classes to the public on Twitch, cooking the same meal miles apart.
People have also turned to Instagram Live because Verzuz rap battles have become dates and series of interviews with influencers makes the headlines. But the feature, which has been around since 2016, still had one major limitation: you could only stream with one other person at a time. Now Instagram is expanding Live with Live Rooms, a feature that allows up to four people to join a broadcast. The company hopes this translates into more creative use of its platform, as it competes for people’s attention among a growing number of options.
Although Instagram Live has supported two-way streaming for years, the company says it has never been a very popular feature. Then the pandemic happened, and that changed dramatically. In February and March, the company said it saw 70% more views on Instagram Live than in previous months. Creators also began to live more often with a partner. Having more than one guest, however, required a bit of juggling. When Diddy organized a charity event on Instagram Live for Healthcare Workers in April, he had to rotate celebrities like Cardi B, Tracee Ellis Ross and Michelle Obama to get in and out of second place.
“The number one most requested feature was, ‘Can I live with multiple people? Says Kristin George, product manager for Instagram creators. With Live Rooms, anyone can start a live broadcast and then add up to three guests, who will receive a push notification inviting them to join. Each person appears in their own square, similar to a video call, but with the usual attributes of an Instagram feed: live comments appear onscreen, creators can use augmented reality filters, and viewers can pay more. money in the form of “badges, Instagram’s version of a digital rush jar. When creating the feature, George says four people seemed like the maximum before the rooms felt too crowded, but it’s possible that number will increase in the future.
Instagram started testing Live Rooms several months ago in India and Indonesia, large markets that had been extremely active on Instagram Live in 2020. So far, George says, she has seen creative uses for the feature. A beauty influencer invited three friends to do a tandem makeup tutorial, showing how the products worked on different face shapes and skin tones. Another creator hosted a Bachelorette– style show with a woman and two potential suitors.
These types of crossover events are not only about creative expression, they are also a strategy for growth. By appearing together in a stream, creators can build each other’s audiences and pollinate their networks.
For its global rollout on Monday, Instagram hosted a week of events to show off what else the new feature can do. The lineup includes several panel discussions with creators, including two sessions to discuss the #BuyBlack movement, an effort to support black-owned businesses that gained more attention last summer. Another Live Room, featuring prominent queer creators like Alok Vaid-Menon, Basit, Travis Alabanza and Pidgeon, will raise funds for the Transgender Law Center.
“I truly believe that the culture of collaboration is the future,” says George. “People want to create together even when they’re apart, or maybe especially when they’re apart. What’s really interesting about what’s happening in the social media market right now is that everyone is looking at this trend in a different way.