When most B2B marketers think of Instagram, they may think of teenagers or millennials who are using it to post photos about their lives and what they are into. But using Instagram in B2B marketing actually isn’t a bad idea: a 2017 Marketing Profs infographic reports that Instagram is the fastest growing platform for B2B marketers and it actually has the highest engagement rate amongst all social media platforms.
Coming up with ideas on content may be a struggle, but since you can now schedule Instagram posts in social media services, it’s easier to plan them in blocks at a time instead of remembering to post at regular intervals. The current Instagram API still requires manually posting of an Instagram photo, but apps like Buffer can remind you when to publish through a mobile push notification.
For many companies, posting once a week is doable, so start with that goal then scale up to multiple times per week if you feel like you have more content to share. But don’t force it! Creative content is key. As you grow, you can focus more on the finer aspects of the social platform, such as including more hashtags and even doing live broadcasts.
What Content Can You Share?
The most popular posts on Instagram usually have a visual, artsy feel like this one, which was the most-liked post on Instagram for months until another celebrity photo took its place. Businesses can get in the action too! Just make sure your posts have a colorful background or have good photo composition. If no one on your team is a talented photographer, consider these basic tips of framing great shots.
Let your work speak for itself through customer photos and testimonials. These could either be quotes from customers, photos taken at their location, or photos/videos of them using your product or services.
This example from a designer at a marketing company works well in this context:
It showcases the product that he designed, at the actual location where it’s being used (a university). It’s definitely a more powerful testament to their products than a graphic or even placing a banner up against a wall for it to be photographed.
Another easy thing to do for customer content is to create a graphic template in Photoshop or an online tool like Canva for customer testimonials. This can be used multiple times, with new text in the main area.
While it’s not B2B, take this example from a Sarpino’s Pizza restaurant:
They use the same background and white box for all their testimonial posts. It gives it a sense of continuity while being easy to read.
Quotes and Statistics
If your B2B business offers more services than products, you can also consider expert quotes and statistics as images. This is the approach we are using at my company:
Our team creates images using the Pablo by Buffer tool, which is currently free to use for anyone. If you have an account (using a paid or basic free Buffer account), you can even save your logo in Pablo and set it to be automatically added to all the images you create. And if you use Buffer to schedule your Instagram posts, you are able to automatically schedule them after you create the images in Pablo.
Along with statistics based on our service offerings, we also use quotes from well-known thought leaders in the space that our audience may find inspiring.
A mixture of industry expert and author quotes, as well as quotes or statistics from your own research and team members, can work well for this content type.
Instagram is a perfect place to get your amazing employees and the work you’re doing “behind the scenes” in front of more eyes. Digital users today appreciate transparency and seeing how companies actually work from day to day. Try to showcase your office or buildings and events your team is doing together, like retreats or happy hours.
This example from Outlook Nebraska shows two team members working together in a major manufacturing facility:
The pure scale of what they are doing is certainly impressive. Here’s another example from a marketing agency that works in a WeWork office, which is an open co-working office concept with locations around the United States:
Where do you go when you’re out of ideas? Our secret spot is a 100 year-old bank vault that feels like a time machine and where phones don’t work. #getinspired #wework . . . . . #fridays #tgif #feelgoodfriday #stayweird #secrets #secretspot #inspiration #advertsing #miami #marketing #digital #digitalmarketing #winter #miamiliving #adlife #branding #florida #beawesome #seo #dailymotivation #getcreative #marketingdigital #digitalmedia #b2b #success
By showcasing where they work and get creative each day, they are allowing current and potential customers to get to know them better. The visual image itself is also inspiring and fun to locate, as it has a sense of FOMO (who doesn’t want an old bank vault in their office?).
KoMarketing focuses on their team and what is happening around their office for their Instagram posts. This approach has two benefits: it not only shows their target audience what the employees behind the scenes are like, but it gives potential employees a look into the company culture and how they would fit in.
This makes KoMarketing seem more “human” and not just an official front that’s set on promoting the company. Digital users crave connection and genuine content, so these personal glimpses into what it’s like in the office makes KoMarketing more approachable.
Event & Tradeshow Videos
Tradeshows are still big networking and revenue generators for B2B companies. According to Statista, B2B media companies were reporting that the biggest share of their revenue from 2008 to 2016 came from tradeshows. If you have a team regularly going to tradeshows or other professional events every year, you have a great opportunity to create some Instagram content.
alphabroder is an apparel manufacturing company and frequently showcases their booths at tradeshows. In the above example, their main display is visually striking, making it a perfect attraction for their booth and through a photo on Instagram.
Video is also a good choice for events. You can use it to showcase the traffic in the tradeshow hall or how people are interacting with your products and team at your booth.
This example from a manufacturing business was edited before publishing to show a “supercut” of how the tradeshow went for the business. As a result, it keeps the users’ attention and makes the video itself look more professional. While not every video needs to be professionally edited before appearing on Instagram, try to make single shot videos shorter so the audience stays engaged. Focus on a single area instead of trying to pan across the entire expo floor to catch everything. A more focused shot is better for user engagement.
Product Demonstrations and Photos
If your offerings are better shown, try using Instagram to better explain what you do for customers. This could include an edited, fast walk-through of a feature in your software for SaaS companies, but posted videos currently have to be under a minute long.
Photos may do the trick as well. They instantly share something with the user, which is much more useful to them than simply sharing a service they offer or promoting a sale.
Besides showing expertise or walk-throughs of products, you can also tie in the customer component and show how they are used in the “real world.” Like the university banner example mentioned above, showing how customers actually use your products or services can instantly give context to what you are offering. This concept works for all industries too: if you make manufacturing parts, for example, you could take a short video or photo in a customer’s facility showing the part in action.
Instagram Best Practices
No matter the type of content you are publishing, it pays to follow Instagram best practices so your content looks more natural. There are likely thousands of examples of companies where it’s obvious that they don’t have an Instagram strategy in place and aren’t worried about putting in the effort to actually get traction from their posts.
For instance, designs that look outdated or are too cluttered likely aren’t going to get much engagement on Instagram:
It’s the same with posts that are confusing or don’t have a clear purpose or CTA. Not every post should have a CTA, but when it’s a self-promotional post, what you’re trying to say should be instantly comprehensible.
A few other areas to think about for Instagram best practices for B2B companies include hashtags, live video, and creating Stories.
Hashtags are insanely popular on Instagram. Studies have shown that you can (and should) actually use more hashtags on Instagram than on Twitter. Keep Twitter hashtags to about two per post, whereas Instagram posts show the highest engagement at 11 or more hashtags per post.
Having that many hashtags can get cluttered, so many users prefer to post the hashtags in a comment on the post, instead of the post caption.
Additionally, don’t use hashtags that don’t apply to the image itself, just because it’s a popular hashtag used by people you want to target. Take this example:
Check out OTTO's wide selection of Sun Visors! Perfect for custom decoration for your company or organization! Featured Styles: 60-263, 60-372, & 60-662. Available in 7 colors. #ottocap #headwear #customheadwear #custom #cap #hat #style #new #design #trend #love #print #embroider #heattransfer #screenprint #instagood #instadaily #work #motivation #inspiration #lifestyle #dadhat #snapback #flatvisor #asi #ppai #sage #iss #tradeshow
It is tagged as #tradeshow, but doesn’t have anything to do with a tradeshow (besides perhaps they have been at tradeshows before). This type of irrelevant content only ends up getting ignored by users who are only interested in looking at photos about a certain topic.
Live video on Instagram is definitely an article in itself, but essentially, it allows you to create live broadcasts on your Instagram Stories section. Live videos on Instagram can go for up to an hour, and then you have the ability to save the video file afterward to publish them on YouTube, Facebook, or another platform. It will not automatically publish to your profile after the broadcast is done, like it does on Facebook and Twitter.
Going live can seem nerve-wracking, but you don’t have to have an entire scripted show to go live. If your company is hosting an event with a speaker, consider doing a live broadcast of the speaker’s presentation, if you’re able. Consider repurposing other video content you’re creating with live social media as well. For instance, if you are recording expert interviews, consider also filming it with your phone as a live video. You’ll still have the interview for your project, but being able to see a part of the interview series on social media first can definitely peak users’ interests.
When going live, just make sure it’s something interesting and you have a stopping point in mind before starting the broadcast. If users are taking the time to stop and watch your video, make sure it’s worthy of their time. Live videos of your office or a tradeshow floor usually aren’t enough to keep users’ attention.
Live video is built into Instagram Stories, which work very similarly to Snapchat— videos that aren’t live can only be 15 seconds long, and all posts that are uploaded to your story section are only visible for 24 hours. After that, they are erased and users (and you) can’t access them again unless they are saved beforehand.
For B2B companies, Story content could be more casual, since it’s only available for a limited time. Shots of a conference, a team meeting, or even the holiday party are an easy way to create good Stories users will want to view.
Try to upload content that piques users’ instant attention, instead of their long-term thought process. Put metaphorically, think of Stories as junk food and regular posts and videos as a steak dinner.
No matter what features you are using on Instagram, it holds valuable opportunities for B2B marketers. Many B2B companies don’t use Instagram and several of the ones that are could be doing it better. Take this example of a company attempting to sell a piece of machinery:
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The photo could have been shot at a better angle, and the caption could be catchier. Hashtags could be placed in a comment. While it’s good they have their logo on the photo, it is an outdated design-wise and affects the overall ascetic of the photo. If your competitors don’t use Instagram (or could be doing it better), there are opportunities for you to make an impact.
By creating a focused strategy for Instagram that has a variety of images showcasing your customers, team members, and your expertise in an eye-catching way, your high-quality profile can generate better brand recognition, interest, and leads.