Over 300 million people are on Instagram these days. This creative, visually-led social network is rapidly becoming a place where people hang out online, engage with brands and find content to share. And many brands have fast cottoned on, like Instagram-devotees MailChimp and Microsoft who reap the benefits of this huge, engaged audience.
Yet many B2B companies dismiss Instagram as not being right for their brand. I get how this happens – Instagram doesn’t immediately spring to mind when you think of B2B marketing. It doesn’t drive traffic to your site, or allow for links to your products or latest blog post.
But there are huge opportunities to promote your brand values. As Hannah argues in this post, meaningful brands [need to] stand for something above and beyond their products or services. Specifically, only brands that ‘mean something’ will survive.
As with the other social channels you’re using to promote your brand, you’re going to have to create a specific strategy. Yes, using Instagram for your B2B involves more than hastily loading the app onto your social media manager’s phone and telling them to ‘go forth and make us popular on Instagram’. I mean, that’s a great start, but let’s take a step back before you start uploading team selfie photos. (Don’t worry, though, we’ll totally get to those later.)
In this post, I’m going to show exactly what Instagram can do for you.
It’s a powerful way of telling your story
Storytelling has become a great way to give B2B brands a personality. It’s about connecting with your audience and moving away from the self-centred, sales-orientated advertising that just doesn’t work for B2B brands anymore.
How? The key to leveraging Instagram as a marketing tool for B2B brands is to not think of it as a marketing tool at all. Instead, you want to think about Instagram as a way of telling your story as part of a larger online marketing strategy.
Fedex do this very well. Their Instagram feed is full of beautifully composed photos, many of which feature their easily-recognisable Fedex trucks and planes. In fact, you can’t scroll through the Fedex Instagram feed without feeling as though, while you’re idly scrolling, they’re hard at work. The impression, here, is that Fedex trucks are always moving, always delivering, always there. And, for businesses who rely on deliveries being on time, that’s a really important message to be able to take away.
It’s about establishing long-term connections
What’s becoming clearer is that the lines between B2C and B2B are being continually blurred. What works for B2C markets often works for B2B markets. The approach, however, is sometimes different. B2B brands need to embrace the fact that marketing on Instagram is less about selling the benefits of your products and services, and more about establishing deeper connections with people including industry thought-leaders, employers, and prospective clients.
Instagram is a channel where building and maintaining awareness of your brand needs to come before lead generation. Unlike Twitter and LinkedIn, where you can drive traffic to your site, think of Instagram as a way to grab the attention of industry influencers and prospective clients at a time when they’re not really in ‘work mode’. When they’re not in ‘work mode’ they’re not going to be clicking links, they’re not going to be interested in being ‘sold to’. This is your chance to seamlessly inject your brand values into their Instagram feed so it doesn’t look out of place amongst the B2Cs, friends and co-workers they also follow on Instagram.
It’s a way to demonstrate your skills
MailChimp do an awesome job on Instagram. Fun, frivolous, and always brightly coloured, their Instagram updates give you a sense that they’re a cool company to work for, and therefore a cool company to manage your email marketing through.
Product launches are teased in one Instagram update after another, colour is used to make their brand stand out, and their tone of voice comes across as fun and helpful. Like, they’re a cool company, but you know what’s even cooler? Getting your email marketing right. MailChimp’s Instagram feed reaffirms the fact that they’re pros when it comes to visual communication; who else would you want to use to communicate with your email subscribers than a company who can help your company create visually-engaging emails?
You can humanise your brand
Another way you can give people an insight into your B2B’s culture is to use Instagram to offer a behind-the-scenes look at your company. People are, generally, a bit nosy and love seeing what goes on in other people’s offices. Showing people that you’re not stuffy, that you’ve got nothing to hide, humanises your brand. It can be as simple as snapping a quick photo at your company’s weekly ‘beer o’clock’, or taking a photo of one of your employees to publicly wish them happy birthday. Whatever behind-the-scenes updates you use, don’t worry too much about them seeming unprofessional; B2C brand’s social media channels thrive on being relatable and yours should too.
It’s a way of creating a community
Instead of (or, you know, as well as) giving other people in your industry a behind-the-scenes look at your company, how about using your Instagram updates to inspire your followers? Microsoft did this with their #DoMore campaign when they hired a photographer to travel the world and take photos of entrepreneurs using Microsoft products. Ok, so maybe you can’t send someone around the world to take photos for you, but you can get out there and meet the companies who are using your products and services and put the spotlight on them. You’re kind of saying to your followers, ‘look at the awesome work you could do if you used our products!’ without actually saying it.
As a National Geographic photographer, Stephen Alvarez has lugged heavy camera equipment to every corner of the planet, but he wanted to see if he could #DoMore while carrying less. When @natgeo asked @salvarezphoto to photograph the Seven Natural Wonders of the World using only Microsoft Lumia smartphones, he jumped at the opportunity. To learn more about Stephen, visit news.microsoft.com.
Highlighting other businesses and entrepreneurs also makes you look good; it gives the impression that you’re creating a movement around your brand as opposed to being in a constant ‘selling’ mindset.
Taking the time to understand the benefits of using Instagram to communicate your brand values to potential clients and industry influencers is something every marketing manager should be doing, especially if you’re looking for new ways to engage with your B2B community. This visually-lead social channel might have its roots in B2C marketing but, with over 300 million subscribers, can your B2B brand afford not to be on Instagram?