Despite its recent growth in popularity, many B2B brands are still wary of adding Instagram to their social media mix.
Consumer brands often find natural alignment with the network, especially anything linked to food, fashion, or travel. These are subjects that already show up in user content and there are lots of influencers already in this space to give your marketing a boost.
B2B brands, however, can feel that there is limited alignment between their product and the visual nature of Instagram (i.e. my product is boring). Or, that their audience is unlikely to be on the network (i.e. procurement teams, not teenagers). Or that is difficult to articulate a goal that is worth the resources required to manage an account (i.e. will I get sales?).
In September 2017, Instagram announced that they had reached 800 million monthly users (current growth is at 100 million new users every four months). The user base is double the size of Twitter’s and more than three times Linkedin’s. Far from being a millennial platform, 20% of Instagram’s users are aged 35-44, and another 30% are aged 45-64.
With such fast growth across a wide range of demographics, more and more brands will be asking the question, “should we be on Instagram?”
I’m going to lay out some of the reasons why you should think carefully about Instagram for B2B brands.
Firstly, the challenges:
Instagram is harder work than most social networks. Posting is a manual effort, requiring the use of the Instagram app at the time you wish to post. Compare this to Twitter, FB and Linkedin that all allow posts to be scheduled in advance with third-party tools and auto-posted.
No follower/boost campaigns
Unlike FB, Twitter, and LI, Instagram lacks the option of running ad campaigns to grow followers. Yes, those campaigns that saw brands competing to show off the highest number of followers in their niche, until Facebook pulled the plug on organic reach. On Instagram, if you want followers, you’ll have to work for them.
Similarly, there are no ad campaigns to boost content. On FB, brands can throw up a boring post, put some money behind it, and watch the likes pour in. On Instagram, your posts have to be organically awesome if you want to feel the love.
Limited website traffic
FB, Twitter, and LI all allow embedded links in posts. These links can be useful to send traffic to your website – you can talk about a product and then link directly to it. Or share links to articles and other content. On Instagram, text in a post cannot be hyperlinked, so there are no clickable links. You get one place to put one link, and that is in your bio area. Simply put, Instagram is not very useful for pushing traffic to your website.
Limited organic lead generation
If you can’t get clicks to your website, you’ll also struggle to generate leads organically. Lead gen on Instagram requires running ads, which doesn’t need an active profile.
If you are not being strategic and tracking ROI on your existing social networks, then you are probably questioning what the point of ‘all this social media’ is anyway. Instagram is even tougher.
How Instagram works for B2B brands:
To get the most out of Instagram, you need a different approach: storytelling.
Many of the restrictions that I mentioned are what makes the platform so powerful. You open the Instagram app and scroll through images that other users have posted. No jumping out to follow various links. It is like a chunk of space that is cut off from the rest of the interest – a place to explore and engage.
Successful marketers use Instagram to build a relationship with the audience by humanizing their company. There is an opportunity to step away from the ‘serious’ marketing that defines most B2B communication and show that there is a bunch of people behind the scenes who are making it all happen. Those people, whether employees, customers, vendors or other stakeholders, all have their own dreams, hopes, and inspirations.
Photos and videos allow you to create an ongoing narrative around your brand. It is important however that your narrative is focussed and consistent. Try to do too many things on Instagram and it becomes a mess. Here are some common themes that we see from B2B brands:
Many companies use Instagram to promote the idea of ‘great place to work.’ They highlight employees, office festivities, work environment, CSR, awards, etc. The nature of Instagram allows for candid/casual imagery that might not work elsewhere.
Here is SAP, telling their ‘great place to work’ story.
Highlight your place in the industry
Especially in areas like software and services, it can be essential to show that you are an established player in your industry. Consumers might love buying cool new products from transient startups, but businesses need to know that you’ll be around (and accessible) in the long term. Think about imagery that shows your brand at industry events, meeting key people, engaging with known client names.
Here is AdRoll:
Build backstory around your products
Instagram lets you move beyond the bullet points on the website and tell the complete story around a product. What inspired it? Who makes it? How do you keep making it better? Who uses it? What relationship do you have with them?
Paypal uses Instagram to highlight the many small businesses that rely on their payment solution:
Visually communicate your USP
Your website and brochures have limited space for images. Your Instagram feed is only images, so put it all out there. If you want to be known for your reach, show images of all your locations. If you want to be known for innovation, show off your technology.
FedEx uses great images (many provided by users!) to show their delivery reach:
MailChimp wants to be known as creative and fun (not a boring bulk email company):
GE shows the scale of their innovation and technology work:
Intel shows that their processers and tech are powering far more than your computer. Think agricultural technology, drones, and AI:
Questions before leaping:
Who is your audience? Potential customers, future employees, the media?
Who will be responsible? Instagram accounts benefit from a reliable posting schedule – this can’t be something that happens only when a team member is free.
What are your goals? Think creatively and try to develop some metrics.
Would you like to know more?
IdeateLabs manages social media for many B2B and B2C brands. Feel free to get in touch for a coffee and a chat….. chris @ ideate (dot) email