Social Media

7 Successful B2B Instagram Marketing Strategies

Instagram isn’t just for travel bloggers, models and consumer brands. Here’s how some business-to-business (B2B) companies are building brand on it.

Avatar Kevin Kononenko on April 17, 2017 (last modified on March 13, 2018) • 8 minute read

“Different social media platforms are going to work better for different types of brands” is the conventional wisdom.

“In general, consumer brands love Instagram, local businesses obsess over Facebook, e-commerce companies pine over Pinterest, B2B companies love Linkedin, early adopters use Snapchat and no one expects much from Twitter anymore.” says Pete Caputa, Databox’s new CEO and veteran internet marketer. “In talking with agencies and companies all day, the pattern is pretty clear.”

“Unfortunately, they’re all wrong” Caputa said. The real key is just knowing how to use each one effectively. “You can’t post educational content on Instagram and expect it to generate traffic, like you can on Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter.”

But Instagram hit 600 million users as of February 2017. And B2B companies can still have success on Instagram by behaving more like people and a lot less like a company. They need to focus on specific ways to humanize their brand. The reward is great if they do. They can build relationships with followers that cannot be achieved on other platforms. Here are some successful strategies used by leading B2B Instagram accounts.

1. Embrace User-Generated Content

User-generated content creates a way for users to casually share ways that they have the same values as a company. Consider this photo from IBM’s Instagram:

IBM Instagram 21

That was a simple photo taken by an IBM employee to showcase her opportunities to travel for work. IBM re-shared it, and it gained almost 1,600 likes. That’s one small example of user-generated content, or UGC.

Adobe’s account once shared this:

Adobe Instagram Example1

The post shows an artist’s interpretation of the universal desire to be noticed on social media. In less than a day, it had around 6,000 likes and multiple comments.

You might think that counting likes is a little bit less data-driven than you need to be. But, on Instagram, a brand should focus on engagement and followers. Your in-house team can’t necessarily keep producing amazing visuals all year!

Rely on some of your users. In this case, it’s also important to remember that “users” can mean “employees.” This strategy is sometimes called “employee advocacy,” but whatever name you use for it, just remember that your employees have valuable content to share — and can highlight your culture in the process. IBM did it successfully in the first example.

2. Use Instagram to Show Off Your Employees & Culture

If you asked most about which social platform they assume is the major recruiting tool, they’d say LinkedIn. And that’s true — it is a major tool for HR professionals and candidates to connect directly. But Instagram does a much better job of showing the perks of working at a particular company. Reddit shows some of their workplace values here:

Screenshot 2017 04 09 at 11.14.16 AM1

They tie an in-house event to a pop culture moment (movie release) to their CEO to their jobs board. That’s a masterful job of connecting different elements within a brand.

HootSuite, a social media automation program, has had several strong Instagram campaigns — a few of which are directly aimed at recruiting. Consider this one:

Screenshot 2017 04 09 at 11.17.22 AM1

If you were interested in social media marketing and could see yourself in Vancouver, you’d likely check their job board after seeing something like this.

Many of us have seen the “Greatest Places To Work” list, and the same companies seem to dominate them. 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.

3. Showcase Your Customers

Even if your product may not be visually stimulating, your customers may have stories that involve using your product. Squarespace does it here:

sp squarespace customer1

This actually overlaps with user-generated content above. In this case, you have a user of Squarespace explaining her mission and why she uses the platform. You can explore more via a link in the bio section. The goal is to highlight a down-to-earth story in a visual way.

Consider this example from Microsoft:

Screenshot 2017 04 09 at 11.26.02 AM1

Two large brands, National Geographic and Microsoft, are involved. This is coming from Microsoft’s Instagram account, and they’re essentially promoting the Lumia. But, instead of typing “Buy the Lumia,” you’re seeing an interesting photo and a challenge: can the Seven Wonders of the World be photographed by just a phone camera? This is naturally more interesting than simply being sold on the Lumia.

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!

4. Show You Care About The Same Things Your Customers Care About

Here are a few shots from the MailChimp Instagram account, for example:

mailchimp instagram1

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. Their customers care about sharing their unique voice and product with their subscribers. Through the way Mailchimp shares on Instagram, they convey that they also strive for a unique voice.

Squarespace is similar. Their tagline on Instagram (and in their overall marketing) is about how simple an option they are for creating a website. In that vein, look at some shots from their Instagram:

squarespace instagram1

Not only do these showcase products on Squarespace websites (user-generated again), but they all have a remarkable degree of design simplicity. If a design-centric person was thinking about launching a website and scrolled Instagram, they would see that Squarespace valued the same thing as them. That’s a pathway to customer acquisition.

5. Use Hashtags to Interact with Your Followers

This is slightly different from user-generated content. When you let the audience participate, you’re not necessarily soliciting anything from them, i.e. visuals and a story. Rather, usually through a hashtag, you’re conveying a shared core value. PayPal users use the hashtag #PayPalIt on Instagram, and that’s been applied on over 8,000 posts. While the narrative is set by Paypal, the users push the narrative along by participating with the brand on Instagram.

WeWork manages co-working spaces across the world. If they approached Instagram in a strict B2B selling mentality, they’d post pictures of their space with a constant link reminder on how to use one. Instead, they have posts like this:

we work most engaging post1

And like this:

we work instagram 61

WeWork uses a variety of hashtags like #wearewework. These speak to the power of work in people’s lives, which underscores the whole idea of WeWork’s business model. It also encourages their thousands of tenants to participate.

6. Showcase Your Physical Products

GE encourages users to share ways that they have been inspired by one of 4 themes: Moving, Curing, Powering, and Building. Those users then snap pictures and videos with the hashtag #GEInspiredMe. That gets them user-generated content and brings people closer to the brand. At the same time, they display their tech in interesting ways. Here’s an example:

Screenshot 2017 04 09 at 11.56.19 AM1

That could be a relatively boring, industrial-looking shot of wind turbines, but because of the color composition and the sun setting/rising, it becomes much more interesting. People are more likely to read the description, which gives legitimate information about renewable energy.

Boeing is another good example of this:

instagram boeing1

They are a large industrial brand, but they do a great job of capturing the wonder of flying and the spirit of traveling. This is what they have in common with users.

7. Identify the Content That Works

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 is resonating most.

Below is an Instagram reporting dashboard available with a free Databox subscription.

+ Get This Dashboard

The ability to see everything in one place and across time periods gives you a quick idea on what’s working and what’s not.

As we rekindle our social media marketing efforts, we’ll be more focused on using Instagram. At Databox, design is important to us. Our product, after all “visualizes” data. So, in addition to being a great way to showcase our work, we’ll be employing the lessons from the companies above. Follow us here to see what we’re up to.

Instagram is for B2B Too, If You Know How to Use It

Instagram is not as straightforward as Twitter or Facebook, where you can simply share relevant content for your industry and get clicks back. It requires a bit more patience and creativity.

Instead, you must be more expressive, like most humans naturally are and want you to be too. Your followers will want to feel like they have something in common with you. It probably won’t translate as directly to sales or conversions, right away or in easily trace-able ways. (Although you can put a link in your profile.) But, once your following is big enough, it will. It’ll also help you create the impression you want to create with your current and future customers.

The companies highlighted in this article certainly have.

About the author
Kevin Kononenko Growth Marketer @ Databox. Making it easy for marketers to tell the story of their success. Everton FC supporter. Startup guy.
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