How B2B Brands Can Grow Their Business on Instagram
ADRIENNE WOLTER | 28 APRIL 2016
More and more businesses are learning that Instagram is a great way to connect with their audience – is your business one of them?
Instagram drives a lot of engagement because it is both highly visual and very personal. The old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true – impressions can be made and loyalties can be formed far more quickly from attractive visuals than even the strongest marketing copy. And on Instagram, your brand’s updates are injected right into your followers’ feeds, alongside their friends’ selfies and food photos.
Yes, it is true: Instagram recently announced that their feed is moving to an algorithmic, rather than chronological, order.
But that’s not a bad thing.
That just means that no longer can a brand succeed by brute force, simply by posting a lot of low-quality content at the right time.
Instead, Instagram’s newly personalized feed will be incentivizing quality and value to your audience. Isn’t that what you should be striving for, anyway?
The change is inconvenient of course – all change is – but it is a necessary step for a growing network. Instagram is moving to keep up with the giants of the social networking world, and needs a feed to suit that growth.
What does all this mean for B2B? It is true that the advantages of Instagram for B2B companies are not as readily apparent. After all, Instagram is at its most glamorous for top-down food photography and OOTD (outfit of the day) posts, not pictures of your production line.
Fortunately, there are some very powerful ways that B2B companies can bridge the gap and grow their business through Instagram.
Keep reading for five ideas that you can start incorporating into your Instagram strategy starting today!
1. Emphasize Your “Point of Difference”
Your “Point of Difference: is what puts you a head and shoulders above your competition. Whether it’s your incredible customer service, your flexible return policy, your fast and speedy shipping, your customizable plans, or your laser-focused emphasis on your customers’ ROI, there is probably something about your company that none of your competitors can beat.
In B2B, the customer consideration phase and path to purchase can be a long and winding process, and even small details can have an impact that ultimately results in thousands of dollars coming to you or going to a rival company. If you can somehow imprint in those decision makers’ minds what makes you stand out, you have far more of a fighting chance when it comes to closing the sale.
An example I love to use is Caterpillar. Construction equipment is expensive, and very specific requirements about what it needs to be able to do means that the consideration phase is typically a long one.
So what does Caterpillar do to drive home their Point of Difference, that their products can withstand even the toughest projects? Over and over again, in nearly every update, they emphasize that their equipment is #BuiltForIt.
The hashtag often accompanies quotes about their products or stories about what it was used for.
It’s also so short, snappy, and easy to remember that their customers use it when sharing their own Caterpillar shots on Instagram!
Not only does this give them a stream of content to potentially repost, but it is a constant reminder of what sets them apart.
2. Tell Your History with #TBT
It is good practice to incorporate the most popular hashtags into your posts whenever appropriate, but one tag has particular relevance for brands: #TBT. Standing for “Throwback Thursday” (in fact, #ThrowbackThursday is another popular hashtag, though not quite as frequently-used), lots of users take advantage of this tag to share an old photo or funny memory.
Along the same vein, brands, and especially long-standing ones, can use #TBT to give followers an interesting glimpse of company history.
Depending on your posting frequency and the amount of history you have to draw upon, a #TBT post every single week may not be appropriate. But there’s definitely room to make it a monthly or possibly bi-weekly staple on your social media content calendar!
The key to a successful #TBT is to make it interesting, relevant, and concise. #TBT is not an excuse to shove your entire company history down your followers’ throats.
Instead, zoom in on one specific fact, almost a piece of trivia, that has helped make your brand what it is today. And, of course, an eye-catching and relevant image is essential.
If you have a company pictorial archive, awesome. If not, it may be time to create one, but you can probably get by for the moment using free image sources such as Wikimedia Commons and Public Domain Archive.
Wells Fargo is a great example of a brand doing this well:
I love these kinds of updates. The Pony Express example can send amateur history buffs like me on a whirlwind Wikipedia dive (#notashamed), and now I’ll connect those positive feelings back to Wells Fargo. And the second example, of early female employees, is a great connection to a broader observance, Women’s History Month.
3. Feed Your Customers’ Passions
What interests do your customers have, really? Chances are, if your customer base is all in one industry, or clustered around one activity, they probably have some pretty consistent interests. Make your Instagram feed an ode to those passions, whatever they are, and your customers will feel connected to your brand on a personal level.
Adobe does an amazing job at this. Their customers are primarily people who work with images in some way – be it as photographers, graphic designers, web developers, or even artists.
This is a crowd who appreciates artwork, and to fuel their passion, Adobe curates an eye-catching feed of reposts and original content.
Their followers love seeing beautiful images in their feed and discovering new artists. Adobe loves how much of that content is created or edited using their product suite. Everybody wins!
4. Recruit Top Talent
Is your company an incredible place to work? Then there are probably plenty of Kodak moments just waiting to be shared with your Instagram followers, a crowd which likely contains some job seekers.
Either way, sharing shots of happy employees grows a positive vibe around your brand, since happy employees create great products and provide top notch customer service. It’s great for your internal culture, because it helps connect departments and celebrates your team’s strengths. And it’s great for business, because your customers want to support a company that treats their employees well.
In my opinion, at the moment, no brand is doing this quite as well as Buffer. Buffer has unique transparency policies and a majority work-from-home workforce that makes it an attractive company for job seekers. With all that talent knocking at their doors, they can hire the cream of the crop, and their product is all the better for it.
I would estimate that about two-thirds of their feed is dedicated to Buffer being an incredible place to work, and they’ve even created a variety of repeatable themes based on that idea.
One of my favorites is #WhereInTheWorldIsBuffer, a hashtag they use to share the diverse locations their team gets to work from (not to mention company-wide trips and a travel policy designed to get their people to take more vacation).
Another good one is #WeekInTheLife, where they invite different Buffer employees to take over the company Instagram account for a week and give a glimpse into what their life is like. With content like this, someone would have to be crazy to not be interested in working for Buffer!
5. Connect to Current Events
As I’ve already mentioned, appearing in your customers’ Instagram feeds is a very intimate thing. Your photo is there, wedged between baby and kitten pictures, so the more of a connection you can build with your followers’ life, the better.
One time-tested way to do this is by connecting your brand to current events. This is tricky territory, as connecting your marketing efforts to holidays and current events can be seen as selling out or worse, a major faux pas. However, there are still brands that do this very successfully, and there are some good opportunities here for B2Bs.
Though these types of images are just a small part of Cisco’s overall strategy, I love the way they connect their networking products to different cultural events:
This is a B2B twist on the well-known marketing images Oreo makes with their products, and it has so much potential for all kinds of companies.
Like plain Oreo cookies, colored Ethernet cables make for a great Dzblank canvasdz of sorts that can be used to make images for all sorts of occasions. And look at how many likes Cisco racked up for such a simple concept?
Although the benefits of Instagram are readily apparent for B2C companies, there is a lot of opportunity for B2B companies to grow their business.
Even better is that because the benefits aren’t as obvious, not as many B2B companies have jumped on the Instagram bandwagon yet, giving you the opportunity to fly ahead of your competition.
Whether you are emphasizing what sets you apart, digging up interesting pieces of corporate history, playing to your customers’ passions or cultural connection, or building a reputation as an incredible employer, Instagram is a great way to make a positive impression on your audience. The best strategies incorporate a few of these ideas, too, making for a compelling and intriguing feed.
What are your favorite B2B Instagram strategies? Have you seen a B2B company do something interesting lately? I’d love to see your favorite examples in the comments below!