How 12 B2B Companies Are Rocking Instagram & Why It Works
ADRIENNE WOLTER | 22 OCT 2015
Over the last couple of years, Instagram has seen the kind of meteoric rise that all social networks dream of but a rare few actually achieve. It was the fastest growing social network in 2014, with over 300 million users as of their last milestone announcement in December 2014.
Instagram’s young, trendy audience and image focus can sometimes throw marketers for a loop. Some brands, mostly in the B2C community, quickly embraced Instagram because it gave them a direct path into their customers’ streams.
B2B companies have been a little slower, as a whole, to adopt Instagram.
On a network that revolves around original content, some brands may feel they have little to offer in terms of aesthetics. Maybe their demographics do not match the typical user. It can be hard to know how to stand out on Instagram, or tough to pull together the resources if you have a smaller company. For example, we don’t have our own Instagram account.
However, we looked into what some other B2B brands are doing, especially larger companies, to stand out on this fast-paced network. It turns out that B2B companies can thrive on Instagram under the right strategies!
For example, even if your products are intangible or highly technical, they can create their own kind of beauty, or offer a new perspective. If part of your product offering is an amazing team, Instagram can be their time to emerge from behind the scenes. And some companies use Instagram as a platform to tell a highly visual story about their brand.
Here are a dozen B2B companies that are using exactly those strategies to delight their audiences on Instagram.
Don’t underestimate your ability to take incredible photographs. Maybe your asset is your product; this is what many B2C companies rely upon for Instagram. But you can dig deeper than that. Maybe your asset is your location; a beautiful office or a scenic city. Maybe your asset is the unique perspectives your service can provide, perspectives that few outside your industry ever see. No matter which is the case, maybe all your Instagram feed needs is a little eye candy.
The miracle of flight awes and delights some people, who have a real appreciation for aircraft. Boeing knows and embraces that fact with their Instagram, @BoeingLovers. The feed is filled with shots of Boeing aircraft landing, taking off, in the air and on the ground.
Why It Works: The feed features both professional shots and those contributed by other Instagram accounts in tribute. This approach offers a unique way to connect with related accounts and their follower bases.
Caterpillar is a well-known heavy construction equipment manufacturer whose products come in a recognizable bright yellow. Different product lines are used for a variety of purposes all over the world, and their Instagram feed highlights that fact with epic photography. Some of the landscapes are actually incredibly beautiful, and the construction equipment is just a small element of the image. Additionally, they can connect with their audiences over another product line: their toy construction vehicles, which in photos are often juxtaposed with the real things.
Why It Works: Caterpillar beautifully captures just how dependable and rugged its products really are. Their fanbase regularly participates in the conversation on their #BuiltForIt hashtag, providing user-submitted photos to repost and show appreciation for those customers.
CBRE is the largest real estate services company. Their Instagram feed is full of beautiful urban photography, highlighting their properties and the cities around them. Their account appeals to lovers of cities and skylines, and they tag each shot with both city-centric hashtags and branded hashtags of their own creation, such as #TheViewFromFriday. Images consistently garner over 100 favorites; some, in more popular cities, surpass several hundred.
Why It Works: Cities have a romantic atmosphere around them that CBRE captures in their gorgeous shots. The professional photographs jump out from run of the mill photos in users’ feeds, relating to their business and appealing to the imaginations of their followers.
Intel manufactures the inner workings of our computers and devices; their Instagram feed lets you in on the inner workings of Intel. Featured on their account are macro shots of processors, hackers and hackathons, and plenty of robots. Many are in series; for example, recently they have been covering the innovations to be found at Maker Faire in New York City. Their 171,000 followers regularly net them several thousand favorites for each image.
Why It Works: Intel makes technology, high-tech manufacturing, and the people that create these things beautiful. Their followers appreciate their highlighting of innovation, and the unique perspectives they can’t find anywhere else.
Viewed from afar, the world of shipping gets a highly patterned and strangely beautiful look to it, which is what Maersk Line highlights on their Instagram account. In addition to epic shots of their oversize oceanic vessels, they feature freight traveling by land, including one particularly incredible shot of backed up traffic at the US West Coast port. Few people ever get to see the shipping industry from this angle – which is part of the appeal of an Instagram account that has earned over 37 thousand followers.
Why It Works: Maersk Line’s Instagram feed places shipping in a real world context. It is easy to forget about the nearly invisible world of shipping, but this account beautifully brings it to life. The aerial shots unlock access to a point of view few will ever experience firsthand.
The Team Behind the Brand
Many B2B companies provide a digital product, or a service that is intangible. In these cases, your best product is your people. Showing the team behind the brand is a strategy that can humanize your company. It is great for recruitment – you can show, rather than just tell, how great you are to work for – and it’s also great for customer happiness to see that you’re having fun while you work.
Sprout Social’s Instagram feed is the definition of work hard, play hard. Shots show their team in various volunteering programs, contrasted with motivational quotes and photos of their gorgeous office. Photos tend to be more informal, spur of the moment shots than accounts in the previous section; this gives their followers more of a “behind the scenes” look at their company.
Why It Works: Nobody wants to hire someone that hates their job. Sprout Social’s feed is clear evidence that everyone on their team is loving their company and the work they do, which translates to better work.
Unbounce celebrates their team on Instagram with regular group photos, shots of their new office space, and more. I loved their team birthday card to a remote coworker, and their customer appreciation-gram.
Why It Works: Unbounce knows that potential customers and potential hires alike will be checking out their Instagram account, and they flawlessly cater to both. The customer appreciation Instagram and #UnbounceLove hashtags invite positive interaction.
Zendesk is not shy about how much they love their team – which makes sense for a customer service company. Their feed is full of wacky team photos (fun fact: new hires wear a funny hat on their first day), quirky shots of their office, and appetizing photos from their Tiny Lunch Club. I enjoyed picking out some of the recurring themes – funny hats, tiny foods, and lots of bright green.
Why It Works: Unbounce’s Instagram account is a perfect showcase of their company culture.
Telling a Brand Story
Instagram is a great canvas on which to tell the multifaceted and ever-evolving story of your brand, and some B2B companies truly take this to heart. Some are highly-staged while others shine the spotlight on the people who make it all possible. Regardless of how they do it, these companies are using Instagram to its full potential.
American Express’ Instagram feed reads like a curated collection of life experiences you can unlock with your AMEX card. Many of the shots feature the card in some way, whether thrown down beside an amazing looking meal, being held up to the camera, or reinterpreted by an artist. It is obvious that American Express thoroughly stages their shots before taking them, and it shows in the quality of the set-ups.
Why It Works: I want to go buy food with my American Express card. Right. Now.
Where will Owly the owl end up next? HootSuite’s Instagram is an ode to their beloved mascot, whether he’s printed on the HootSuite team’s swag, featured in a timely newsjack, or accompanying the team around the world like the gnome in Amelie.
Why It Works: HootSuite’s mascot Owly is a great way to tie together a collection of otherwise very diverse images. Playing up a cute mascot is a great way to win brownie points for your brand.
MailChimp is a company adored by its users – what other brand can get away with putting up billboards that don’t even have their business name on them? – and scrolling through their Instagram was one of the most fascinating adventures I’ve gone on recently. Images were highly staged and color-coordinated and weird. If their over 20,000 followers are anything to go by, I’d say it’s working for them.
Why It Works: Each of MailChimp’s images is a delightful surprise. The images are iconic and really stand out on the feed, which is great for keeping their service at the forefront of their users’ minds.
There’s a lot going on on the UPS Instagram feed. Many shots were posted in series; one series followed friendly UPS driver Jeffery Lee throughout a day’s deliveries; another followed the story of “United Problem Solver” Jennifer Vandgrift as she devised the safest and quickest way to ship West Nile Virus test kits around the world. Meanwhile there’s UPS truck-spotting and shots from conferences and other initiatives. The series really work for them to tell a well-rounded story about the people behind the brand.
Why It Works: It’s easy to think of UPS as nothing more than that guy in the brown uniform that brings me my mail, but the company’s Instagram feed shows that it is so much more than that.
There’s no denying it: Instagram is as great a platform for B2B companies as it has proven to be with B2C. You’ll just need to get creative. In some ways, you’re the lucky one – B2C companies focus on their products, but you have the freedom to focus on your people, your unique perspective, and the context your products live in.
By injecting your company’s images right into your followers’ social stream, you’ll always be on their mind, which translates to great customer interactions and repeat sales. So what are you waiting for? Follow in the footsteps of the twelve great examples aboe, and make Instagram work for your company today.