Is your company still avoiding Instagram for B2B marketing? Perhaps your company Instagram page looks something like this:
Hopefully it’s not that bad. Hopefully, you’ve taken a few steps to build a presence on “the ‘gram.” But maybe it’s been more of just a foothold than a well-planned and executed social media strategy.
It’s time to change that.
The idea that Instagram isn’t for B2B marketers is almost as outdated as MySpace. And no excuses about how it’s for “the younger set” (whatever that means). Millennials run departments now. They make up a sizable chunk of the B2B buyer population.
But if your B2B company isn’t on Instagram already, you’re not as far behind the curve as you might think. According to a recent study, only 46% of B2B content marketers used Instagram in the last 12 months. Even more intriguing, only 17% of them advertised on the platform.
So it’s not like it’s too late. Sure, Instagram engagement rates aren’t as high as they used to be. And the platform just removed likes, which may have unexpected affects (or – who knows – positive effects). But please, don’t hang back because you feel your company missed the moment by not getting on Instagram early.
One more request: Please do not treat this platform like it was LinkedIn. Or even like it’s Facebook. We’ve all been told for years to craft content and strategy differently depending on which social media platform we want to be on. Instagram demands this.
So here are ten strategies for how to build your influence and audience on Instagram… and how to actually get some business from it.
1.) Authenticity rules.
Is there is a secret to success on Instagram that can be summed up in one word?
If there is, it may be authenticity.
Even B2B businesses let their hair down a little on Instagram. It’s a place for behind-the-scenes fun.
If this makes you nervous, consider this: Instagram is really about playing to your fanbase. If someone is checking your company out on Instagram, they’re looking to see you as a human organization.
As Tabitha Young of 30 Degrees North explains: “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.”
The way to do that is to be authentic.
If you’re not sure just what “be authentic” means, exactly, try this: Be playful.
2.) Use Stories.
I’ve been talking to quite a few social media managers lately, and the word on the street is engagement with photo posts is falling off.
“Everybody’s just going to the Stories,” one freelance social media manager told me.
It’s not too hard to figure out why: Video. We like moving pictures. Having sound adds another level to engage with, too.
Stories disappear after 24 hours, of course… unless you add them to your highlights (those round circles on your profile page, right above where your posts appear).
Dribbble has done a fantastic job with Stories by creating a series of super-short interviews with prominent designers.
Any B2B firm could do something like this. All you would need is for your interviewee to answer a couple of interesting questions (especially if they can result in inspiring quotes). Then have them send you a minute or so of Stories format (i.e. vertical) video. That footage could be taken while they’re on the phone, in a meeting, walking down the hall, or talking to colleagues. Stitch that together into a Story, then add each Story to a dedicated highlight.
3.) Embrace Instagram’s mobile-first DNA.
Most Millennials won’t have to be told this, but some GenXers and Boomers may benefit from the tip. Stop using Instagram via a browser. It’s meant to be used via the app.
Instagram is a truly “mobile first” channel. So if you’re still shifting your company towards thinking “mobile first,” Instagram can be one of the sub-strategies within that larger goal. You’ll want to complement it with a fast website (and prioritize that, by the way), but Instagram is a legitimate part of a move toward mobile. Just don’t think of it as all you have to do.
4.) Test the appointment booking feature.
This seems like a superb way for B2B marketers to get more traction from Instagram, but surprisingly few people talk about it. And it’s only available with a Business Account.
Here’s what a book button looks like in action:
There are over two dozen services you can use to add a book button. For B2B marketers, Acuity Scheduling would be a good choice. Plans range from free to $50 a month, and the $50 a month version lets you schedule appointments on up to 36 different calendars for multiple employees or locations. It also lets you accept payments for appointments, send texts, and is even legit for BAA and HIPAA compliance. It also integrates with Zapier, Google Analytics, InfusionSoft, Zoom, GoToMeeting, PayPal, and more than a dozen other services B2B marketers will recognize.
If you really want to actually drive business on Instagram, and you haven’t set something like this up, get on it. Like now.
5.) Do not get on Instagram just for the sake of being on Instagram.
This is B2B marketing… not a personal feed of photos of your kids, your travels, your food, or your cute puppy. You know that. You know you need to have a strategy and a well-defined goal if you want to make the time you’ll invest on Instagram worthwhile.
For B2B marketers, the best strategy may be to either:
- Showcase your company culture and employees
- Be a thought-leader with quotes and stats and useful information presented in a fresh way
The next questions is how you fulfill that strategy – which content will you publish?
Whatever it is, make it visual. Instagram is a visual content platform. While the text part of posts can be long, the real engine of Instagram is visual content.
So think in terms of visual content. For example:
- Do you publish a lot of infographics? A full infographic won’t fit well on Instagram, but a section of one can. Ask your agency or your in-house designer to break out a few chunks of information from any new infographics you publish, or for all your old infographics. If you’ve got, say, 10 existing infographics, they could be made into 30-50 really nice Instagram posts. If you post three times a week, that’s 10-16 weeks worth of content!
- If you follow the new research in your industry closely, all those charts and graphs can make for excellent photo posts.
- Short video is also an excellent way to promote content. Tools like Lumen5 and InVideo make it possible to create very short summaries of blog posts and other content.
Bonus tip: If you don’t have 10,000 followers yet, and you want to try to get people to click through to your site to see this content, try updating your profile link so people can go direct to the piece of content you’re promoting.
Or use a tool like LinkTree to create a short list of links that appear when someone clicks your profile link.
6.) Keep the sales pitches to a minimum.
We won’t fool you: Instagram is probably not going to be a major direct sales channel for a B2B company. Not even a B2B SaaS company. And because you cannot force people to do what they don’t want to, trying to do the direct sales approach on Instagram may well fail.
So let’s step back from the direct sale approach. You’re probably familiar with the idea of using content marketing to educate and entertain rather than to use for direct selling. You know it’s okay to mention your products in passing in your content (maybe once or twice at most), but a hard sell will flop. And often, the less you mention your products and services in your content, the wider a reach your content is likely to have.
Instagram content is like this, but only more so. So while it is possible to sell via Instagram – and one in three consumers has done so – keep the Sales pitches to a minimum.
Don’t have 10,000 followers? No worries. You can still drive clicks directly to your site, or to a specific landing page on your site. It just requires a little advertising.
You may have to spend a little and test a lot to maintain lead quality, but there is absolutely a business audience on Instagram. Just try to add a little fun to your ads, as your business audience may be enjoying some personal time as they scroll by.
8.) Engage with people directly.
I know… talking directly to your customers… it’s scary. But another tip I got recently from several social media managers is that if you want traction on this platform, you’re gonna have to go direct.
Fortunately, because Instagram is so mobile-first, this isn’t too hard. You’ve got your phone with you most of the time, right? So open that app and like and comment on, say, five posts while you wait for a subway, or in the checkout line at the grocery store. Do this twice a day and you’ll be leaving comments on 10 posts a day. Extra credit if you mention someone when you comment… it’s a great way to get people’s attention, and you’re engaging with two people at once.
Even better, when you publish a company post, tag a couple of accounts / people in the post.
Then go one better again: Ask your employees or teammates to reach out and do their own relationship-building on this platform. Younger employees, especially, may be much happier interacting with your audience on Instagram (rather than, say, LinkedIn). And it all counts. Whether you want direct sales, or simply engagement with your content, or to nurture partnerships, influencers, or future employees, the best way to do it is via human to human marketing.
9.) Be data-driven.
Just like with any other social media platform, or any other marketing activity: Track what you’re doing. Expand on what works and trim back on what doesn’t.
Instagram’s own analytics is pretty good, but 44% of marketers said it was only “somewhat” useful for strategic planning in a recent survey. Most B2B marketers may want to add another layer with tools like Oktopost or SproutSocial. Whatever you use, please – use something.
10.) Be open to influencer marketing.
Is there any other social media platform as dominated by influencers and influencer “culture” as Instagram? YouTube, maybe… but it’s a close tie.
Influencer marketing might not hold quite as much sway with B2B marketers as with B2C marketers, but there are opportunities. Especially if you can partner with subject experts and known authorities in your industry.
Ideally, of course, any partnership you do set up with an influencer will include more than just a few posts on Instagram. Webinars, research projects, and podcasts would all be complementary projects.
Instagram in 2020
As Instagram matures as a business platform, we expect to see more B2B marketers testing the platform or expanding on what they’ve already been doing. This will be especially true over the next few years, as younger Millennials move higher and higher up in the ranks of their companies, and gain more and more decision making power in B2B purchases.
But even now, don’t ignore this platform because it’s not chock-a-block with CMOs and VPs of marketing. B2B sales often involve the input of more than 10 people. Some of those people are on Instagram right now.