How to Know if Instagram is Right for Your B2B

Guest Author on Sep 7, 2016 in Social Media

If you’ve been paying attention to the social media scene for the past few years, you’ll know that Instagram has been getting a lot of buzz. Several industries, primarily in B2C brands, have found the hearts of their communities on the platform. Beauty, fashion, travel, and just about anything easily visual fit beautifully on Instagram. But most B2B brands have shied away. That’s a mistake. With some work, strategic planning, and a strong content calendar, just about any B2B brand can find a home and build a community on Instagram.

Why use Instagram?

I bet I know what you’re thinking – why would a B2B brand want to use Instagram? Aren’t LinkedIn and Twitter more appropriate? That’s a strategic decision for your company, but some hard numbers might change your mind a bit.

Instagram by the Numbers

Instagram has 500 million users; 300 million of them use the platform daily. It’s a global platform, where 80% of users live outside the United States. It’s also a young platform, with more than 80% of users are under age 35.

Instagram also rules the engagement roost. Organic engagement is 2000% higher than on Twitter, even though it has been dropping lately. The main metric for this is the engagement ratio. Engagement ratio’s definition is the number of interactions per post per 1,000 followers. Instagram’s engagement ratio is 22.53, followed by Pinterest at 15.88. The traditional B2B choices of LinkedIn and Twitter? Both of their engagement ratios are significantly lower at 1.09 (LinkedIn) and 0.86 (Twitter).

Another factor is that B2B companies have less competition on Instagram. Only 33% of B2B brands have included it in their marketing mixes. A significant bonus to using Instagram (for advertising) is that you get access to all of Facebook’s rich targeting data. And if you use it well, you can get a boost on other social media channels. For example, sharing an Instagram photograph to a company Facebook page results in 23% higher engagement on that post.

What Content to Share on Instagram for B2Bs?

If the numbers have made you think twice, you might now wonder what kind of content your brand can share on Instagram. B2B is “boring” and doesn’t lend itself to beautiful photographs. I’d beg to differ on both – as a marketing geek, I love following my favorite marketing companies on Instagram.

Instagram has two great strengths: brand awareness and community. Brand awareness generally comes before you can build a community, so let’s focus on that. You can build brand awareness on Instagram by:

  • Humanizing your brand. Remember, people buy from other people, not a brand name. This is especially true of Instagram’s newest feature, Stories.
  • Building thought leadership. Show your top leaders quoted, or speaking at an industry event. Oracle does a great job at this.https://www.instagram.com/p/BDOVsvwt0na/?taken-by=oracle
  • Showcasing your company culture. This is something the recruiting departments have taken a shine to in the B2B companies that have already adopted Instagram. Company culture is an important factor in effective recruiting – finding an employee who fits is crucial. With millennials making up such a large part of the workforce, it makes sense to use Instagram in this capacity. This is one of the areas where showing the fun side of work is expected, so some irreverence is acceptable. Even AdAge thinks so:https://www.instagram.com/p/BH2lRtwAxO9/?taken-by=advertisingage
  • Displaying your expertise and creativity. Building up your expertise falls under the “thought leadership” category. Creativity, well, that just makes work a little bit more fun. But if you’re in a creative industry (e.g. a web design or advertising agency), that quality is also crucial to gaining clients, too. Ad agency Ogilvy & Mather does a great job at this:
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BASu7xbuddx/?taken-by=ogilvymather

But what, specifically, to post?

This is where the fun comes in. Really. You have so much to choose from… so here are a few examples to get you started. Treat these as inspiration or a springboard for brainstorming.

  • Quotes – both inspirational, and from leaders about your brand. Inspirational quotes, when you use them, should be things your audience would find inspirational. Foundr Magazine, a digital magazine for young entrepreneurs, posts plenty of inspirational quotes. Their followers eat them up.
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BJomO_Jhis0/?taken-by=foundrmagazine
  • Employee activities – this can range from teambuilding activities, to individual employees talking about what they love about their jobs, the company culture, etc.
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BHZ72atDyMp/?taken-by=getresponse_official
  • Advice or tips geared towards your customers’ questions and problems. This can include tutorials in video format, if it’s appropriate. Talk to your customer service department about the most common questions they get. Create posts that answer these questions. SEMRush, a competitive research tool, does a great job with this.
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BGUMqS5qMqy/?taken-by=semrushcom
  • Events! Either the ones that you attend or the ones that you host. And if you’re good, you’ll make your event hashtag trend.
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BI3Ab-KDimL/?taken-by=getresponse_official
  • Product launches and updates. When social media management tool Hootsuite had a product release, they took advantage of a trending topic (Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West) to announce it:
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BIDYo6ugQ1C/?taken-by=hootsuite
  • User-generated content (UGC). This is where you harness the power of your community and feature their photographs. Buffer has this as a core of their Instagram strategy.
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BJiryTlBUQR/?taken-by=buffer
  • Fun and irreverent topics – things like National Dog Day or Star Wars day. Irreverence and pop culture have their place within B2B. Here’s how Forbes celebrated National Dog Day. (Note how they called out their Instagram Story in the caption):
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BJlHBmrA_Vs/?taken-by=forbes

No one has said that adding or managing an Instagram account is easy. But there’re a plethora of tools that can help you with different aspects of it.

Instagram Tools

Photo editors

You need to give your photographs a clean, consistent look. Photo editors give you help with that – without having to bother your graphic design team all the time.

Hashtag research

Yes, do your hashtag research. There are a bunch of reasons for this. You’ll want to check the hashtag’s popularity. — there’s generally a sweet spot so that users who search any given hashtag will find your photo, but it won’t disappear into the mass of photos like it would if you used a super popular hashtag. You’ll also find related hashtags that can work for you. Remember to check the images associated with any given hashtag, too. You’ll want to make sure there are no objectionable photographs using the same hashtag(s) that you want to use. It’s also helpful to ensure that someone else hasn’t already associated their content with the hashtag you want to use.

And, you want to make sure that you don’t unintentionally newsjack a trending hashtag. Remember what happened to DiGiorno pizza on Twitter with #WhyIStayed? B2B or B2C, Twitter or Instagram, careless use of hashtags is a recipe for trouble.

Scheduling/content management tools

Of course, a marketer’s work is never done… but scheduling and content management tools do make things easier. And there are some that work for Instagram, with a push notification to your phone since Instagram’s API doesn’t allow for scheduled posts.

Analytics

What you measure, you can improve. And serious marketers always want their data to give them information about what’s working and what isn’t.

Who in the B2B world is using Instagram really well?

  • Adobe. They do have the advantage of being design-based so Instagram is a little easier for them when compared to the average B2B. Their feed is beautiful, includes user-generated content, and relevant to their audience.
  • Intel. It’s always on-brand, and describes the work Intel does with other industries, like gaming and sports.
  • Deloitte Digital. This creative agency arm of accounting and management consulting firm, Deloitte, does a wonderful mixing of the serious topics like GirlsWhoCode and highlighting some of their employees with the irreverent.
  • Social Media Examiner. The industry’s best source for social media news has a great Instagram presence that highlights the thought leaders who speak at their events and teach their workshops as they promote their flagship event.
  • LinkedIn. Yes, LinkedIn. That staid corporate social media platform is killing it on Instagram. Their current #ChaseGreat features a diverse set of their members, all photographed similarly to keep their feed consistent.

If you’re still on the fence about including Instagram in your social media mix, I hope I’ve shown you that it can be done – and done well – even for the “boring” brands. If you’re using Instagram in your B2B company, how has it worked for you? Share your thoughts below!

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