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Kevin Kononenko on September 11, 2019 • 19 minute read
Some say that Instagram is best for B2C, Facebook is key for local businesses, Pinterest is ideal for ecommerce, and LinkedIn caters primarily to B2B.
“They’re all wrong,” says Databox CEO Pete Caputa. “The real key is just knowing how to use each one effectively.”
Want proof? We recently polled 35 marketers to find out if Instagram is an effective platform for B2B marketing. When we asked if it’s possible for B2B brands to succeed on Instagram, 100% said yes.
Additionally, nearly 20% of our respondents say Instagram is responsible for as much as 50% of their site traffic each month.
So it’s absolutely possible to successfully market a B2B brand on Instagram, driving traffic, leads, and conversions.
The next question, then, is how. How can B2B brands use Instagram effectively?
To find out, we asked our respondents to share their best B2B Instagram marketing tips. Here are the 18 strategies they recommend:
If you’re just getting started with Instagram, thumbprint’s Morgan Lathaen says to “make sure you create an Instagram business profile. “Having your company set up with a business profile on Instagram comes with some great benefits.”
“For example, followers can click on your ‘contact’ button to get in contact with you directly from your Instagram page. You can also access Instagram’s analytics tools to get stats about the impressions and reach of your posts.”
Editor’s note: Once you have an Instagram business profile, you can also access key stats in Databox. Grab this free Instagram Business Account Overview dashboard to get insights about your overall account health and performance and learn more about your Instagram followers.
“One tip I have for B2B marketers who are looking to get started with Instagram marketing is to have a clear set of goals in mind before you begin,” says Taylor Kincaid of Social Media Optimism.
“Instagram is a versatile tool, but posting without purpose or thought won’t lead to your desired results. Are you trying to build awareness? Drive leads? Get a phone call? Understanding the end goal will help you plan out your strategy and tailor your posts to fit that strategy.”
“For example, as a digital marketing agency, we have a strong presence on Instagram. However, our Instagram page (not our ads) is not necessarily meant to drive leads.”
“In fact, our Instagram is mostly used to show off our company culture, recruit potential applicants, and demonstrate our involvement in our community. Having these goals in mind means we don’t have to stress about catchy calls-to-action or messaging that doesn’t fall in line with our strategy,” Kincaid says.
Sculpt’s Josh Krakauer agrees: “For most B2B brands, organic social is not your primary sales driver. While Instagram creeping might play a role in your customer’s journey, it’s more likely to be a place that brand advocates and prospective job candidates congregate to keep up to date on what’s new at HQ.”
“Keep the hard sells to a minimum and give the people what they want—your people,” Krakauer says.
“Before jumping into Instagram marketing, make sure to have a clear strategy for the platform that aligns with your goals as a B2B company,” says Nicole Spewak of Beacon Digital Marketing. “Do you want to:”
“Pick your approach and focus on creating highly-visual content that aligns with your goals and your audience’s interests.”
“You don’t want to be on Instagram just for the sake of being on Instagram. An engaging, well-thought-out feed can elevate your brand story and help you connect with customers, employees, and followers just as well as any B2C brand,” Spewak says.
You can casually open your Instagram account and have a good sense of who’s liking and following your posts. But having day-by-day and post-by-post analytics allows you to see what’s resonating most.
“Define your goals for Instagram, then define the KPIs you’ll use to measure those goals,” Juan Merodio says.
Socialinsider’s Teodora Lozan agrees: Constantly review your data and see which types of strategies are working best. Analytics tools are your best friend.”
Editor’s note: Need a better way to identify which types of posts perform best on Instagram? Grab this free Instagram Business Post Performance dashboard to determine which of your posts have been most successful at engaging your followers.
“Know your audience and who you’re trying to attract to your website,” says Mikaella King of Blinds Direct. “This is key if you want your Instagram account to be successful at driving traffic.”
Tabitha Young of 30 Degrees North agrees: “Instagram can be a powerful tool if you are catering to your audience.”
“Speak to them on a personal level—not just a business level. Showcase other things that they would be interested in—not just what your business is selling. Your followers want to know that there is a human behind the brand.”
Editor’s note: Need some help determining who your audience is on Instagram? Grab this free Instagram Business Audience Overview dashboard to see a few key follower demographics like ages, genders, and locations.
Once you have an Instagram business profile and have defined your audience, goals, and KPIs, it’s time to start planning your content.
Gloria Lafont of Action Marketing Co recommends “planning ahead and creating your first nine posts as a grid. Then, post them all at the same time—before you start following others and promoting your page.”
“This way you will have a cohesive page that’s more likely to appeal to people who will visit for the first time when considering following you,” Lafont says.
Danny Peavey of One Week Website agrees and suggests “using scheduling software or a Photoshop custom layout to visually plan a 9×9 Instagram grid. This way, you can shuffle posts and create a visually impactful layout.”
“The worth of your followers and engagement is directly proportional to the effort you put into acquiring them,” says Anand Srinivasan of Hubbion.
“There are quick and easy ways to build an Instagram following or get people to comment on your posts. But that will not help you with meeting your marketing objectives unless these followers are legitimate and the engagement is because of the value you create.”
“In other words, consider each post on Instagram as a marketing campaign in itself and spend time and money producing high-quality content. This will automatically result in improving your ROI,” Srinivasan says.
Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray agrees:
“Focus on quality rather than quantity. It’s better to have five quality images a week versus three low-quality ones a day.”
“While you may churn out regular Twitter content and post daily on Facebook, Instagram is a chance to create unique content that stands out from the noise,” says James Green of Offer To Close. “Post less frequently, and focus on building quality content.”
“Your content represents your product. People want to feel like you put effort into building a quality product, and that can be communicated with quality content,” Green says.
“You save to stand out on Instagram, so turn heads with something different—not the average post in your industry,” says Michael Simonetti of AndMine.
Here are a few shots from the MailChimp Instagram account, for example:
MailChimp’s Instagram has been praised by many, and with good reason. Everything they do, from product launches to new information, is conveyed in a zany, designer-style way.
“Get rid of your stock photography and staged promotional pictures. On Instagram, your prospects and leads want authentic content that offers a personal glimpse into your company’s culture and product,” says Patricio Quiroz of Code Authority.
Quiroz also provided a few suggestions for how to build authentic Instagram content:
“When creating content, keep your brand personality in mind,” says Ashley Graham of Brandesso. “How do you want visitors to view your business? What do you want them to know? Post photos that are relevant, and only share content that amplifies your brand!”
“Do your hashtag research,” says Niles Koenigsberg of FiG Advertising + Marketing. “Your audience is on Instagram somewhere. You just have to know where to look for them and how they can find you.”
“You may think that #business will automatically connect you with other businesses on Instagram (and it might), but it’s a very generic hashtag that’s already associated with millions of posts. So get specific and focused with your hashtags,” Koenigsberg says.
Creating branded hashtags is also a great way to let your followers and fans participate in your conversations on Instagram. For example, HubSpot uses its #inbound19 hashtag on Instagram to both promote the conference and provide attendees with a way to promote it.
“You can use common SEO techniques on your Instagram posts,” says G2’s Lauren Pope. “Instagram has created an in-platform search function that acts as its own version of Google. Users find your content in the native app, which means optimizing your Instagram profile and content for search is crucial.”
“Here are a few ways you can use SEO techniques to optimize your Instagram page for B2B marketing and search:”
“SEO’s primary function might be for websites, but you can use the best practices and tricks you’ve learned on the job for Instagram as well,” Pope says.
Marcin Niewęgłowski of Digital Now agrees: “Instagram is becoming a new Google. 200 million users click the ‘Explore’ button daily. It opens totally new discovery-related opportunities for B2B brands.”
“Embrace user-generated content,” says G2’s Lauren Pope. “Etsy does a great job of this. Its platform is filled with creators who make incredible handmade goods every day, so they fill their Instagram feed with incredible works of art.”
“This both attracts new B2C customers to purchase things on Etsy and encourages creators to create an account with Etsy and start selling their own products. They’ve really got it figured out,” Pope says.
Your in-house team can’t necessarily keep producing amazing visuals all year, so don’t be afraid to rely on your users to help you build content for Instagram.
Here are two great ways to fill Instagram with engaging user-generated content.
If you asked most people which social platform is biggest for recruiting, they’d probably say LinkedIn. And while LinkedIn is a major tool for companies and candidates to connect directly, Instagram does a much better job of showcasing the perks of working at a particular company.
For this reason, B2B brands may want to take the advice of Foundation Marketing’s Tega Sefia who recommends “showcasing your employees and company culture.”
One B2B brand that does an excellent job of this is Hootsuite. Hootsuite’s Instagram profile is filled with images of its employees doing fun and interesting things:
“Instagram is a platform that allows for more personalization and humanness, which should be taken advantage of,” says Kendall Aldridge of OnePitch. “By showcasing your team and culture, consumers will be able to relate more deeply and form a greater sense of trust for your product or service.”
“Your brand needs to stand out to be successful now more than ever. There are no two work cultures or employees that are the same, so showcase who your company is, what you believe in, and why. It will pay off,” Aldridge says.
Corinna Keefe of Easypromos agrees: “Develop your own identity on the platform. Show off what makes your business unique. Share information that only you can share. Your followers should be able to recognize your posts as soon as they see the image or read the first line of the caption.”
Instagram offers B2B companies a more human-oriented display of culture, people, in-house events, and perks. Hiring is a complex process, but one of its core tenets is still building a quality funnel. Introducing yourself to candidates via engaging Instagram posts can attract candidates that dry job posts would not.
And even if you aren’t hiring, showing the people behind your company is also a good marketing approach. Even in the digital age, people still like to do business with people.
As Lightbulb Media’s Lewis Kemp says, “In the grand scheme of things, your customers don’t choose you because of what you do. They choose you because of who is doing it. Showcase your staff at every opportunity. It helps customers form an emotional affinity with your brand.”
Even if your product may not be visually stimulating, your customers may have stories that involve using your product. For example, Squarespace does an amazing job of highlighting its customers on Instagram:
“Focus on making your Instagram feed and stories all about your customers and audience,” says Mike Allton of The Social Media Hat. “Tell their stories and make them the heroes each and every time. As long as you’re telling a story, your activity will generate interest and engagement.”
For this strategy to truly work, you need a repeatable way to capture customer stories—and you need to find the ones with strong associated visuals. Your customers will be thrilled at the co-promotion opportunity!
“Engagement is a must when you build your marketing strategy on Instagram,” says Klara Alexeeva of InterPromo UG. “No ads or influencers will make people stay with you and buy your products if you don’t speak to your audience.”
“Try to be active and transparent. Make your potential customers interact with your content and business as a whole. Create and maintain a loyal community with your content and customer service on Instagram,” Alexeeva says.
“Instagram is full of fake comments, which can get annoying to businesses just starting out on the platform,” says Brittany Hardy of Empty Desk Solutions. “They can tend to think there aren’t real people out there who will comment and follow, so they forget to check in after a while.”
“Remember, it’s always key to sort through your posts and reply to comments and messages as soon as you possibly can. This will create a loyal online community.”
And Mindster’s Hyfa Ahmad says it’s also important to follow other users and brands on Instagram: “Most brands focus on gaining followers. But it’s also important that you follow others—especially the ones who are following you.”
“The process of looking to follow more people will introduce you to many new names:”
“Use tangible numbers and data in your posts,” says Bonjoro’s Casey Hill. “I find that effective B2B companies on Instagram are leveraging use cases and finite statistics to paint a clear picture of their product’s value.”
SyncShow’s Jasz Joseph echoes this recommendation: “My clients have found success with posting industry-related statistics, customer quotes, and testimonials as visual imagery.”
GE is well-known as one of the best brands on Instagram, and the company is adept at displaying its tech in interesting ways. Here’s a recent example:
Boeing’s Instagram is another good example:
Boeing is a large industrial brand, but it does a great job of capturing the wonder of flying and the spirit of traveling.
“Consider investing in video marketing from day one,” says Tulip Turner of sNews. “Images work better in retail business marketing—even on Instagram. Whereas if you’re B2B, your customers will be more interested in how your product works than what it looks like.”
Ahlem Mahroua of b.HYPE says Shopify’s Instagram offers a great example of how B2B brands can take advantage of video marketing on the platform. “They position themselves as the experts in ecommerce by giving tips on how to increase traffic, how to generate sales, etc.—all in a visually appealing way.”
And Sculpt’s Josh Krakauer recommends taking a look at SnackNation. “SnackNation does a fantastic job at establishing a cohesive visual voice while educating its customers with ‘snackable’ videos (sorry, had to). You almost forget they’re selling a subscription to a B2B buyer.”
“Instagram Stories always sit at the top of the home page. You should do a different story every few hours, adding to your visibility. Tell a story within a story, adding to the suspense. For example, ‘Do you want to see what we’ve been up to…?’ Include a right arrow. In the next Story, reveal your new product.”
“Finally, include a swipe up link to where people can make a purchase,” Wald says.
“The best tip I can give for B2B marketers looking for ways to get results from Instagram is to build a clear social media sales funnel for top-of-funnel traffic,” says Sam Rexford of Chill Reptile. “You can do this for a brand, product, or even an individual like sales team members or consultants.”
“If you’re trying to get direct sales from Instagram, you will probably struggle. That’s because Instagram users aren’t there to buy your services or products; they’re there to browse memes and photos.”
“Instead of pitching them directly, it’s far more cost-effective to get them into your sales funnel with a free lead magnet that addresses their primary pain points and introduces them to your brand and solution. Once they’re on your list, you can educate them on why your solution is right for them,” Rexford says.
Text Request’s Ramey Miller agrees: “Give more than you ask for: helpful tips, good wishes, fun visuals, etc. Most of your posts should have little to do with your product or service. Gain their trust, and then you can sprinkle in a little ‘Try us out’ or ‘Grab a demo.’ It’s all about trust.”
Once you’ve gotten followers into the top of your funnel, Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles says you can move followers deeper into your funnel through Instagram Ads.
“Plan out a well-structured Facebook Ads (which is really Instagram Ads) campaign:”
“Ensure this educational-style content moves them further through your sales funnel,” Dodds says.
For our final tip, Jeromy Sonne of Moonshine Marketing recommends taking advantage of location filters. “If you’re taking an ABM approach to getting new clients, oftentimes you can post nine or more images right in a row and flood the locations of corporate headquarters of companies you’re targeting.”
Want some more examples of B2B brands that are knocking it out of the park on Instagram? Here are some of our respondents’ favorite B2B Instagram accounts, with Microsoft, Mailchimp, Hootsuite, and HubSpot topping the list:
Instagram is not as straightforward as Twitter or Facebook where you can simply share relevant content for your industry and get clicks back to your site. It requires a bit more patience and creativity. You must be more expressive. Your followers will want to feel like they have something in common with you.
It probably won’t translate directly to sales or conversions right away, but once your following is big enough, it will. It will also help you create the impression you want to create with your current and future customers.
Originally published in April 2017, this post has been updated with up-to-date B2B Instagram marketing tips from 35 marketers in 2019.
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