Ah, Instagram. The place your company posts…
- Photos of your company’s events and community service events.
- Inspiring quotes laid out in a visually compelling way.
- Visually-appealing excerpts from any pieces of content you’ve published lately.
- Hip photos of your company’s employees focusing on their work or collaborating with peers
And the occasional dog photo.
Instagram can be a useful platform for a B2B company. And while it’s not as B2B-focused as it could be, it’s almost a required platform now. Just don’t expect it to be a significant driver of B2B leads… right?
With some clever use of stories, Instagram can be a channel for B2B leads and an important part of your B2B social media strategy. Even if you don’t have 10,000 followers or a verified account.
Unfortunately, B2B marketers are a little behind B2C marketers when it comes to adopting the stories format. According to Social Media Examiner’s 2020 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, only 41% of B2B marketers use Instagram stories, compared with 50% of B2C marketers.
Once more B2B marketers discover how to use stories to generate leads, that statistic just might change. Especially if they try these four tactics:
Make your own Bio link page.
If your company has more than 10,000 followers, that’s great – add a link to as many posts and stories as you want.
For the rest of us, we’re limited to that one link in our Instagram bio.
Standard practice is to either:
- Change this link to be a landing page for whatever campaign you’re running at the moment.
- Use a link tool like Link Tree to make a mobile-friendly page with about 5-7 links to direct people to different calls to action.
You might not want to do either of these things. Because you’re probably really good at building landing pages. So create a landing page on your site that you control completely. It still needs to be minimalistic enough to not overwhelm people, but you can have up to seven links and include a mobile-friendly version of your website’s navigation on this Instagram-specific landing page.
There’s another easy way to make links and call to actions easier to manage on Instagram. Simplify the links themselves.
For example, nobody is going to remember a link to a lead magnet page like this:
The URL itself is fine. It follows all the good rules of search engine optimization. But it’s too much to ask someone looking at an Instagram post to remember that URL.
But they might remember this:
The second version of that link is created with the free version of Bit.ly. Links like this only take a minute or less to make, and could make a dramatic difference in how many people respond to a call to action in one of your stories.
You probably know that Bit.ly also offers “branded” links. So it’s possible to get a link like this:
It’s an interesting feature, but you might want to test before you dive into that. Bit.ly is a known, recognizable brand and service, especially among B2B buyers and the B2B community. Most everyone will recognize and easily remember a link that starts with “bit.ly”… but a branded link that’s truncated in an odd way might not work as well.
Also note that these two linking tactics (the landing page from your Instagram bio link and the Bit.ly trick) do not have to be mutually exclusive. You could show the Bit.ly link at the close of a story with a strong call to action and direct people to your Instagram bio link.
Note that if you have 10,000 followers or you have a verified account because you’re a public figure or represent an established brand, you can add a link to Instagram Stories. If you don’t have an audience that large, or your account isn’t verified, you won’t have the option to add a link to a story.
Because this article is primarily for B2B accounts with less than 10,000 followers, let’s talk about the part of Instagram verification about representing a public brand via a verified account.
The instructions from Instagram for getting a verified account are here. This particular section would be of interest to a B2B marketer:
“Your account must represent a well-known, highly searched for person, brand or entity. We review accounts that are featured in multiple news sources, and we don’t consider paid or promotional content as sources for review.”
A solo consultant probably won’t get verified, but if you’re working for a company with several hundred employees, you might pass Instagram’s verification test and be able to add links to your stories.
Use Question Stickers as opt-in forms in your stories.
Here’s how this could work: Create a story for each of your gated content assets, then sprinkle a few questions into the story, possibly at about one-third of the way through, 70% of the way through, and then at the end of the story.
This is rarely talked about, but it actually works. Instagram allows us to add stickers to our Stories, as you probably know. One of the stickers we can add is a question sticker… also as you probably know.
That question sticker is really just a simple form. And you know what we do with forms… we get leads from them. We can ask people to enter their email address in exchange for a piece of content or access to an online tool.
So question stickers can be used as opt-in forms. See how Axios AM does this in the graphic on the left below.
To see the email responses you’ve captured, go to your story and swipe up while it’s playing. You’ll see a screen like the one on the right below.
There are three noteworthy drawbacks about this tactic:
- Question stickers don’t work on laptops.
You have to be on a mobile device to enter a response to a question sticker.
- You may have to retype the email address you capture from question stickers manually.
As of publication, I was not able to find an app or a tool that can export these responses easily. Your best bet may be to go to the “Responses” page and take screenshots of the responses, then send them to a VA or an intern for retyping. This is less than ideal because, typically, email engagement rates are better when an opt-in confirmation is sent immediately, but it’s better than nothing.
- Consider the GDPR implications for using question stickers to capture email addresses.
Your very first email to anyone who signs up should probably ask for some kind of express consent. You might also be able to add a scene or two to your story to cover GDPR concerns.
Use Instagram Story Lead ads.
Of all the tactics covered here, story ads are the most straightforward.
Setting up stories ads is fairly easy in Facebook. You’ll do all the things you’d normally do to set up a Facebook ad, but be sure to pick “Lead Generation” for your campaign objective and select “Manual Placement,” then choose only Instagram stories for the placement.
Facebook’s specifications for Instagram story lead generation ads are here.
And here are a few Stories ads that are designed for lead generation:
Add a “DM me” sticker.
This is a similar approach to the question sticker strategy: You create a CTA-focused story and include one or two stickers that request input from the user.
In this case, you’re asking people to DM you.
So can it work? Absolutely.
Some of the smartest Instagram marketers regularly name direct messages (“DMs”) as the best way to make sales on Instagram, so it’s a channel people respond to. Using it to have interested people contact you is a far softer sell than a direct sale.
A lead can come through many channels, and that would include someone DMing your business account through Instagram to respond to a story you’ve created.
Note that sending DMs may work better as a way to nurture leads than it does to generate new leads. But if you have a good relationship with your audience and they trust you, adding a DM me sticker could work.
As a content format, stories get incredibly high engagement rates. But they do have one massive drawback: They disappear 24 hours after you’ve published them. Unless, of course, you save them to your account’s highlights.
Clearly, this is the way to go. And while you can have unlimited highlights, you are limited to only 100 photos or videos for each highlight.
This isn’t too constricting, but it makes clear how important planning your stories content and your highlights out can be. A long Instagram story could be up to 10 or even 20 photographs. Append those stories to each other (which is what happens when you save stories to a highlight) and you could run out of space in your highlight after five or ten stories.
Again, this isn’t a crippling limitation, but if you’re going to start doing a lot of stories for your Instagram B2B account, figure out how you want to organize them first. Ultimately, it might be a good thing for a highlight to only have 10 stories in it; it’s a way to keep your account’s content fresh.