Some 73% of Millennial workers are involved in B2B purchase decisions, and 85% of that group uses social media to research products and services for their companies.
Still, Facebook (91%), Linkedin (80%), and Twitter (67%) are the most popular social media platforms among B2B marketers. Despite it’s more than 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram lags behind.
That’s not a shock. It’s hard for B2B brands to look exciting on a photo-sharing app, and B2B buyers expect to hear from companies on other platforms, like LinkedIn.
However, consumers are used to engaging with brands on Instagram:
- 90% of users follow a brand on Instagram; 200 million users visit at least one business profile daily; and one-third of the most-viewed Stories are from businesses.
- 83% of people discover new products or services on the platform, and 79% search for more information after seeing a post on Instagram.
That potential continues to attract more B2B marketers, with 66% active on Instagram in 2019, up from 57% in 2018.
Will Instagram soon be a primary channel for most B2B companies? No. Are some of the companies having the most success already well-known elsewhere? Yep.
So should you bother? Maybe. Instagram can help solve specific marketing challenges, and it also benefits from not being inundated with B2B marketing messages (yet).
I’ll walk you through its potential benefits as well as nine use cases—all supported by real-world examples.
When does Instagram make sense for B2B?
B2B brands succeed most when using Instagram to:
- Provide opportunities for casual interactions with customers;
- Find non-traditional approaches to reach buyers;
- Deliver bursts of product information to support a long buyer journey.
Provide opportunities for casual interactions with customers
Yes, B2B companies can build strong Instagram followings: Intel (1.3 million), Shopify (489k) and Mailchimp (117k), to name a few.
Yes, it definitely helps if:
- You’re a large, well-known brand.
- Your product makes sense for a visual platform (e.g., you’re a design agency).
Take Tailwind App, for example, whose Instagram following (44k) surpasses the total number of followers on all other social accounts. Instagram makes sense for them—their product helps schedule social media messages.
Kristen Dahlin of Tailwind explains how they’ve used Instagram:
We can connect with thousands of our members one-on-one and provide bite-sized resources to help them in their marketing journeys. We also use our Instagram platform to shout out our members in their journeys, with member profiles, snapshots of reviews, and even funny posts!
Tailwind’s Instagram feed is a mixture of educational and irreverent content—a balance that sparks a range of interactions with their buyers.
Find non-traditional approaches to reach buyers
B2B buyers are real people, so it’s no wonder that 82% of them want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves, according to the State of the Connected Consumer report:
B2B companies benefit from humanizing their brand and tailoring their content to individual needs.
Gusto’s Instagram account includes profiles of small business owners who use their product.
The fact that Instagram represents a counter-intuitive approach is part of its value. As a photo-sharing app, Instagram forces often dry, text-heavy brands to employ visual storytelling or, even when sharing text content, to place a stronger emphasis on design.
Deliver bursts of product information to support a long buyer journey
It can take weeks—or months—for B2B buyers to get approval and make a purchase decision. That path is far from linear.
Instagram can help in two ways:
- Explain aspects of your product or service in small chunks of imagery or video. Think of it as a testing ground for visuals that, if popular, may also work well on your website.
- Gather market research and better understand customer expectations. Getting potential buyers outside a formal business interaction may elicit more authentic voice-of-customer responses.
Many, more specific strategies can help you reach those goals. Here are nine to consider.
9 Instagram strategies for B2B marketers
1. Drive brand awareness with an eye-catching feed
Let’s take Crello, for example. They’re a graphic design app—one whose product includes Instagram templates—so Instagram makes sense. They can show off their design expertise without being salesy.
Of course, if you don’t have an in-house team of professional designers, creating visuals can seem daunting. However, keeping your feed cohesive is possible.
One of the simplest ways is to repurpose stock photos from sites like Depositphotos and others. Note that repurposing is key; otherwise, you’ll look like everyone else. If you (wrongly) think you can get away with stock photos or don’t know how to “make them your own,” see this post.
Here’s how Iconsquare mixes stock images with brand content to create a unique, consistent Instagram aesthetic:
And here’s another example of a cohesive Instagram feed from RingCentral:
The secret is simple yet powerful: Choose a color palette and design theme and stick with it. A consistent strategy will also help you templatize your posts, saving time.
2. Tell your company story
Direct promotion on social media is always risky—people don’t scroll through Instagram because they want to be pitched. But Instagram’s visual nature encourages (even forces) B2B brands to get more creative. That’s a good thing.
What’s more, Instagram has many features (e.g., contact information, geotags, hashtags, etc.) that let your potential customers know who you are, your brand values, and product updates—even if the core content doesn’t include those elements.
Shopify’s feed doesn’t talk about their product; it focuses on inspiring small business owners. That emotional hook drives social sharing, which, in turn, delivers the desired brand awareness.
Feed content can also connect more directly to your company story. Grey Group is a global advertising and marketing agency that has offices in 96 countries.
In 2019, the company opened an office in Karachi, Pakistan, and Grey added its location-specific geotag to inform its followers about the updates. It worked.
3. Kick off an influencer campaign
B2B influencer marketing can accelerate a push for brand awareness. Instagram trails only Facebook as a source for influencers among B2B companies:
A shoutout from a Shark Tank star to a winner at an SEMrush awards show generated more than 3,200 video views on the company’s Instagram feed:
SEMrush has also quoted and tagged other well-known marketers in their Instagram feed to inspire followers get some distribution support:
Only 11% of B2B companies have influencer marketing programs. If you’re among the other 89%, you can start small with a referral marketing campaign to turn loyal customers into brand advocates (i.e. micro-influencers).
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4. Put a human face on your business
B2B buyers want to know the people behind the companies with whom they do business. Cohn & Wolfe found that 63% of customers would buy from a brand they perceived as authentic and, therefore, trustworthy over its competitors.
Like most massive (read: faceless) B2B companies, General Electric sees Instagram as a way to build some goodwill toward the brand, so the company uses its IGTV channel to introduce its employees and take followers behind the scenes.
If you believe that posting behind-the-scenes content works only if you have a massive following, Twilio combined a short, eye-catching video post and geotag to wonderful results. With 13.3k followers on Instagram, their video got 3,943 views. Not bad, huh?
The popularity of Instagram Stories (500 million daily users) can help companies add a human touch without clogging the main feed.
Sprout Social uses the power of short-lived content to take Instagrammers behind the scenes and showcase their team members. They also promote their brand hashtag to allow interested visitors to find out more about the team after tapping on it:
Once you’ve reached 10k followers on Instagram, you can use clickable Instagram Stories links to redirect your engaged followers to a desired website (without leaving the app).
5. Showcase your expertise
Potential customers want a reputable company that knows all about their problems—and how to solve them. Showcasing your expertise can be as simple as pulling quotes from other content you produce, like SaaStr does for their conference:
If the educational content isn’t so bite-sized, Instagram can also act as a promotional bridge to more in-depth content. Freshworks offers micro-lessons on marketing that promote their longer courses (which aren’t on Instagram).
In both of the examples above, you don’t have to create new content; simply repurpose what you have. That’s a common theme. For example, SocialPilot repurposed its social media statistics research into a series of Instagram posts:
With each set of shared statistics, the company enticed followers to read the full post on its blog.
6. Explain how to use your product
For B2B companies, explaining how to use your product or service can simplify the B2B buying process. B2B videos on Instagram—like short product demos or reviews—can help educate buyers.
In honor of its mobile app launch, Planable created a short, slick video:
Napoleon Cat created a product demo video to teach followers about their product and to encourage them to sign up for a free trial:
Is it explicitly promotional? Sure. But they balance their feed with educational content, too:
7. Share customer testimonials and success stories
Customers crave social proof. According to a G2 study, 71% of B2B buyers look at product reviews during the consideration phase of purchases, and 61% like to see 11–50 reviews.
The “FedEx in the Wild” campaign, while coming from a massive company, is still a great example of a creative way to generate user-generated content on Instagram. The campaign increased their follower growth rate by 404%.
HubSpot repurposes reviews from other sources onto its Instagram feed:
That encouraged other fans to share their thoughts about the company in the comment section, turning one positive review into many:
Keap pulls reviews from its page on G2, adds some visual appeal, and promotes them on Instagram:
8. Share exclusive offers
If you want to focus on follower engagement or lead generation, you can share exclusive offers and deals. Intercom offered a free month for those who signed up to “build a bot”:
Or you can run an Instagram contest and give away your brand freebie, something Intel did. The cost to followers? Adding a comment.
9. Run Instagram ads
Let’s take a look at Web.com. With over 3 million customers and 20 years of experience, they needed to diversify ad placements—something Instagram offered.
They ran a series of video ads on how they could help companies build websites, relying on automatic placements across Facebook News Feed, Facebook Stories, Instagram feed, Instagram Stories, Audience Network, Messenger and Marketplace.
Each ad had a “Learn More” call to action that redirected interested users to a product page.
Their Instagram feed and Instagram Stories ads had the best results, with a 24% lower cost per click and a 39% higher click-through rate.
Instagram isn’t the most obvious marketing tool for B2B companies—but that’s part of its potential. It’s fast growing and has an engaged user base that includes many of the B2B decision makers you want to reach.
Instagram isn’t about to take over Facebook or LinkedIn as a central part of B2B marketing strategies, but these nine ideas can help supplement your other efforts:
- Drive brand awareness with an eye-catching feed;
- Tell your company story;
- Kick off an influencer campaign;
- Put a human face on your business;
- Showcase your expertise;
- Explain how to use your product;
- Share customer testimonials and success stories;
- Share exclusive offers;
- Run Instagram ads.
Read more: A Revolution to Humanize B2B Brands