The title presumes you’re already marketing your B2B company on Instagram. But let’s take a tiny step back and look at whether it even makes sense for B2B companies to be on Instagram. After all, there’s LinkedIn (every B2B is on LinkedIn, right?), and you might have some Google Ads running, along with some Facebook and Twitter. Is that enough?
Back in 2018, a survey on B2B Content Marketing revealed that 30% of B2B companies were using Instagram, and it ranked far below LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. It would seem like that number hasn’t really changed in two years. Statistics shared by Foundation Inc reveal that 33% of all US B2B companies are now on Instagram. Meh, right? BUT Instagram generates 20 times more engagement than LinkedIn. 13% of B2B Instagram users say its “Very Important” or “Critical” to their social media marketing. Those users are doing something right, because this is where over 51% of their traffic is coming from:
An effective Instagram campaign builds trust with your clients and sends more traffic to your website or product page. If you’d like to join the ranks of B2B companies like IBM, MailChimp, LinkedIn (!), Salesforce, and ZenDesk who are using Instagram to grow their brands, then it’s time to get the ‘gram working for you. Here’s how:
B2B on Instagram: Get Aligned
It’s important to identify what you want to accomplish on Instagram and then align this with your brand mission and your content strategy. Are you seeking brand awareness? Increased visits to your website? More engagement? Converting followers to your other platforms?
Consistency across your brand’s platforms and messaging builds trust, so it’s important to clarify what you want and how you’ll achieve it. You might even want more than one Instagram account so you can communicate company culture on one account, and education and advice on another. It requires a thoughtful and coordinated strategy, but can work very well overall.
Every Instagram post may reach more than just your clients—it can also be impressing (or deterring) potential recruits. So make sure you’re sharing authentic and appealing messages, images, and videos.
Ben Green for Oktopost notes that your Instagram content needs to be different than other platforms. You can’t just share the same content. He suggests using these five tactics for Instagram when they align with your B2B strategy:
- Reveal company culture
- Share customer stories
- Tap into employee advocacy
- Break down products
- Engage with followers
B2B on Instagram: Your Brand Hashtag
Hashtags are essential on Instagram. They make it easier to find content, they generate more engagement, and they can even express your personality. Do some research and learn what are the community and industry-specific hashtags that speak to your customers. There are apps that can help you identify the best hashtags for your niche.
Create a branded hashtag that connects you with followers and fans. Overly generic hashtags will get lost amongst all the others. Is there something your business loves to do? Turn it into a hashtag and use it in campaigns and contests. You can use a branded hashtag, like #HewlettPackard or #IBM, a brand-specific slogan like LuluLemon’s #sweatlife, or a brand name variation like #googlepixel or #MyAnthropologie.
And then you can use hashtags to connect with other campaigns, like #NationalFriedChickenDay and #ShareACoke, or use hashtags like #MotivationMonday and #ThrowbackThursday to share some uplifting or fun content. Followers prefer a feed that has a variety of content, not just a stream of promotions and business posts.
Here’s how Adobe uses the hashtag #CreateYourStory in their bio:
And how New Relic uses the hashtag #nerdlife in theirs:
Use good hashtags—but sparingly, making sure your message is the most prominent, and avoiding posts that are all hashtag and no content.
B2B on Instagram: Your Buyer Persona
Who is your buyer persona, and why are they on Instagram? Without this information, you can’t effectively target your audience. The more information you have about your audience, the better. Even though you are marketing B2B, it’s the people behind the company that you’re connecting with while showing them the people behind your brand!
Start with what you know about the demographics of your clients and then use your Instagram dashboard to learn who is visiting you and where they’re from. Then you can start to be more specific with your posts.
Set your draft posts as a nine square three-by-three grid and sit back and look at the image as a whole. Is this what you’re trying to communicate as a brand? Will it connect with your buyer persona? When people first come to your Instagram page, this is what they’ll see—it’s the first impression. So make sure it’s cohesive, interesting, and a good reflection of what you want to say.
B2B on Instagram: Storytelling
This is a section about storytelling. Not to be confused with the Instagram Stories feature which is discussed later (and which fits very well with actual storytelling…).
Every client is a person who has interests and feelings, and they want to work with companies they like. Instagram is an excellent place to tell stories that give insight into your company, showcase the people behind the scenes, and even tell the stories of customers using your product or service. This little story from Wells Fargo about their first female branch manager in 1967 generates some good feels, but it also subtly suggests that Wells Fargo was working towards gender equality a long time ago:
B2B on Instagram: Get Some Good (inter)Action!
Yes, the content you put on Instagram is super important. But so is interacting with your audience! Be quick to reply to comments and direct messages. Perhaps this is akin to the ‘olden days’ of marketing when it was essential to pick up the phone when it rang instead of letting it go to voicemail. Quick, personal, and authentic responses are essential to an effective Instagram account.
Don’t be afraid to get out there and interact with other pages, too. Places that share things in common with your business, or have similar charitable focuses are a great place to start.
Make a big deal out of user-generated content (UGC). Like and comment on any posts where you’re mentioned, and encourage consumers to share tips about your product/service, reviews, and recommendations related to common interests. Hashtag campaigns are a great way to jump start UGC.
Here’s how IBM used #ProudIBMers to start a conversation:
If you’ve got employees that love their job, have them share about it on their personal accounts and use your business hashtag, like this post by a HubSpot employee:
All of these types of posts and the conversations they generate help to humanize your business and make people feel connected and engaged.
Have anyone who will be interacting on your business’ behalf familiarize themselves with your Brand Book—particularly communications—so a consistent voice is used, but encourage them to let their personality shine through, so you maintain authenticity.
Have you just signed a contract with a new client? Highlight their business on your Instagram page and give a little insight into their product/service. When you come across interesting content from partners, be sure to repost it.
B2B on Instagram: Use Instagram Stories
Instagram doesn’t allow external links on posts, only bios (you’ve got your business link in your bio, right?). But on an Instagram Story you can pop in a CTA with each piece of content, giving you the opportunity to directly measure outcomes while using each post as a referral/lead gen. When you combine the CTA with the serialized storytelling option of Stories, you have strong tool to add to your content marketing strategy.Stories are a great way to introduce the people that make your business thrive, show how products get to market, or share the journey of a customer using a service or product. Fast Company quotes Morgan Cornelius when she was Instagram’s small and medium business community lead:
“Feeds tend to be used for beautiful curated photos that could last a lifetime unless you choose to archive or delete the post. I don’t think that these images and Stories need to necessarily complement each other in terms of the way they look aesthetically. As long as you are staying true to your brand, consumers are savvy enough to understand that you are sharing something that is perhaps more playful or behind the scenes.”Morgan Cornelius
Because Stories are temporary, consumers are more likely to click on a link when they see it, so go ahead and let your brand’s creativity and personality shine through your Instagram Stories—and make sure to insert those compelling CTAs!
B2B on Instagram: Don’t Be Too Pretty
Instagram is all about human interactions and sharing. Phony influencers aside (and boy, when they go down in flames, it’s quite the fall), people want to see real, authentic content. Show a picture of your team working to the wire for a deadline, or that ordering mishap that led to four cases of branded pens instead of four packages.
Do some live videos or live streaming, whether it’s telling a story or following a product journey. Viewers on Instagram prefer the genuine connections they see on un-edited live videos instead of professional-looking content that can come across as cold and unfeeling.
On all your posts, look for the human element that you can share—even if it’s just a tiny peek. Super polished is not the goal here. Super connected is.
Along these lines, don’t get caught up in vanity metrics. The real value is in engagement (comments on posts) and new followers.
Instagram is a wide open opportunity for B2B companies to create authentic and valuable connections with clients, customers, and even potential employees. Relax, get your goals clarified, and then have some #marketingfun.