How B2B Businesses Can Grow With Instagram
If you’re in charge of your B2B business’ social media account, you might think Instagram isn’t the place for you.
After all, Instagram is a visual platform. So much of its marketing appeal seems meant for consumer goods, and not for brands without a photogenic, tangible product. It’s easy to envision someone following their favourite cosmetics company or craft brewery. It’s much harder to fathom that many people would follow a software company or Wall Street titan.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that good posts bring followers to your account, whether you sell artisanal cheese or cloud computing applications. B2B businesses on Instagram can attract thousands of meaningful followers with the right content strategy, audience targeting, and a comprehensive social media strategy.
With 1 billion Instagram users around the world, there’s endless potential for B2B businesses in any market. The key is finding the right audience, and creating content that they can’t ignore.
Why B2B Businesses Can’t Afford to Ignore Instagram
There was a time when Instagram appeared to be “for the kids,” and not for businesses. But that stopped being true in 2016, when Instagram launched its first business tools. Companies quickly took to the platform — particularly those selling tangible or visual-centric goods to consumers.
Instagram’s value add for B2B companies wasn’t immediately inherent. Marketers struggled to figure out how they could tell their story on a visual platform if they didn’t have a physical product to photograph, or a visually attractive process.
But as with all social media networks, successful business strategies soon emerged, which gave B2B companies a pattern to follow. Instagram is the perfect platform for brand storytelling and increasing awareness. Now, companies like Intel, Hootsuite, and Morgan Stanley tell stories through their Instagram accounts — without the variety of physical products and models that consumer packaged goods companies can tap for imagery.
The pathway to B2B success on Instagram is well-worn at this point. Selfies, food photos, and envy-inducing beach snaps no longer predominate the channel. More than 80 million photos are posted every day on Instagram, and B2B companies have found ways to post content that drives new business, recruits new talent, and skyrockets their brand recognition.
What Works for B2B Businesses on Instagram
Successful B2B Instagram accounts serve a common purpose: humanize the brands.
Some companies do this by showing off their workplace culture and employees. Others focus on user-generated content by re-posting their followers’ photos. Plenty of B2B companies highlight their own history as a way to build real connections with their followers, and make their company more than a logo or a slogan.
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Here’s a rundown of some of the top content categories for B2B businesses on Instagram, as well as a few idea starters for how they might work for your business.
Highlight Your Company’s Work Culture
Companies can use Instagram as a tool to spotlight their employees, which forges a personal connection with followers that goes beyond brand recognition. The more people see the individuals behind your company, the more personable it becomes. And this isn’t just true for large companies, either: smaller B2B businesses can use the same tactics to show off the people who make their company special.
Every kind of organization can spotlight its employees at onsite functions, off-site events, or any other place where your culture is on full display — all with the goal of showing outsiders why your company is a great place to work.
Connect Through User-Generated Content
User-Generated Content (UGC, for short) can provide tons of value for B2B businesses across any industry. For starters, they can help you build closer relationships with your clients by highlighting their photos on your account. This also creates cross-promotional opportunities for you to expose your audience to their accounts (and vice versa, if they return the favour!). UGC showcases your product or service being used by real people, helping viewers see how it could work for them.
You can also encourage clients to snap photos that are relevant to your business in the hopes that you’ll regram their shots on your account. And last but not least, you can create a favourable impression with prospective leads by showing off how fun your company is to work with.
Embrace Your Company’s History
Every business has an origin story. If yours is unique, offbeat, or steeped in rich local or regional history, you may have a great source of Instagram content. IBM, for example, does a great job of blending its compelling brand history with its latest innovations. Their Instagram account features archival photos from the dawn of the computing era, as well as descriptive captions that helps followers understand how the company’s past informs its present and future.
You can still take advantage of historical content, even if your company isn’t several decades old. For example, if your storefront has historical roots in your town, you can dig through town records to find older photos to post, along with information about what used to occupy the space.
One of the best advantages B2B business have on instagram is their client success stories. Unlike consumer or retail brands, B2B companies are designed to help other businesses succeed. This creates an opportunity to develop visual case studies that show off your business by way of demonstrating its value to your clients.
If you offer a unique service that’s helped a client overcome an obstacle, reduce challenges, or find success, there are plenty of ways in which you can showcase this on Instagram. Best of all, this tactic also opens up the opportunity for you to show your clients how important they are to your company, and can yield cross-promotional opportunities.
Measuring Success on Instagram for B2B Businesses
Even the strongest Instagram strategy requires hard work, flexibility, and the willingness to adapt to your audience. Most successful accounts go through several iterations of their Instagram strategy before landing on one that not only gains them followers, but compels their followers to keep coming back.
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You’ll never know if your strategy is working unless you make a concentrated effort to measure results. Track your account’s followers to see if you’re growing your presence, and measure your engagement rate to make sure that your followers actually interact with what you post. It’s tempting to measure other values, such as likes and comments, but these indicators only tell part of the story.
Be sure to take a broad look into your weekly and monthly stats to determine which posts stand out, and which don’t resonate with your audience. Use this data to constantly improve the content you’re sharing on Instagram.
There are plenty of ways to make a B2B business’ Instagram strategy flourish, and these are only a handful of options. The key is to put together a comprehensive strategy before you start, get plenty of post ideas together before you publish, and to monitor how well your efforts resonate with your audience along the way. It’s never too late to get your B2B company on Instagram — but it’s vital to follow and adapt a solid plan in order to see that rapid growth.
Meredith Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.