How to use Instagram for B2B marketing in 2019

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(3-4 minute read)

Instagram can be a powerful visual marketing channel for B2B businesses. With each new update come new ways to connect with, inspire and grow a loyal community.

That said, it’s common to assume as a B2B business that Instagram isn’t the right channel to be spending your time or money on because it’s not where your audience is.

Wrong.

With over 1 billion monthly, active users and the highest rate of engagement across all social media platforms - meaning that of the major social sites, Instagram fosters the highest number of interactions per number of followers - Instagram is full of opportunity for those B2B brands that are willing to give it a go.

There are now more than 25 million business profiles on the platform and 8 out of 10 people follow a business account.

Even if the businesses you’re targeting are not on Instagram as businesses the people behind them are. It’s important to remember that even when you’re a B2B business, you’re still talking to people and the decision makers you want to speak to use social media on a personal level not just through their business accounts.

All that said, it still needs to be done right and isn’t as easy as posting nice photos. Simply recycling content from LinkedIn or Twitter and hoping for the best isn’t going to work either – your content needs to be original, creative and engaging.

46% Of users say they would unfollow a brand that’s overly promotional – not selling, sells on Instagram.

The key is to behave less like a business and more like a human in order to build a relationship with your audience. More real-life stories less billboard style ads.

The Challenges for B2B businesses when it comes to Instagram

Boring content

One of the primary challenges B2B businesses face is a lack of exciting/interesting content.  

If you’re an accountancy firm it’s not going to be easy to compete with the ‘instagrammable’ restaurants and adventure travel brands that appear to dominate the platform. But, that’s not to say it’s impossible to do well, you’ve just got to get creative.

Thinking of creative ways to showcase your brand is essential to success on Instagram. There isn’t a one size fits all solution, something that works for one business may not work for another. The main objective is to humanise your brand in order to build a connection with your audience.

 

Actionable tip:

Don’t focus on the service or product you sell, focus on the benefits for your customers.

If you’re an accountancy firm working with small businesses, showcase all the incredible things your clients will have time for/be able to afford if they use your services. Or, offer them other advice that will help them turn their small business into a big business (help them achieve their goals).

Decide what your customers need from you most and put a strategy together that’s designed to give them what they need in a creative way.

 

What should you post?

How do you know what to post?

Even once you’ve decided that you’re going to help your customers by providing solutions to the problems they face, it’s important that you take time to establish how to do that effectively.

Sharing bad photographs with difficult to read captions is not what’s going to help you build a loyal following. In fact, it can have the opposite effect – if you’re cutting corners when it comes to your brand, where else are you cutting corners?

 

Actionable tip:

Once you’ve established what it is your audience needs from you, work out the best way to go about sharing that content.

If you’ve got a writer on your team, put your advice into blog posts and use short, attention-grabbing Instagram captions to direct people to your blog (alongside good photography or graphics).

If you’re more comfortable speaking to the camera, video your advice and cut it down into small clips you can post to Instagram and offer value directly in the feed.

Remain consistent in your approach and put the time and effort into doing it well.

So, how can you use Instagram For Business to grow your B2B business?

Instagram is a powerful platform, but it’s also really easy to get it wrong if you don’t have a plan in place.

There are a lot of businesses out there that use their company page like a personal page and completely forget about brand consistency. This weakens trust in your brand and confuses potential customers.

To avoid making the obvious mistakes most B2B brands make on Instagram, follow our advice below and build an engaged community around what you do.

Let’s start with the basics (before you start posting)

Make sure your channel is branded properly

There’s nothing more confusing for customers than inconsistency. Instagram is a visual platform so brand your channel well.

  • Choose a name that is the same as your existing social media channels. If you don’t use social media at all yet use a name that is available on all channels you want to use. This isn’t mandatory (it’s getting harder and harder these days) but it does make it easier for customers to find you.

    Check username availability.

  • Upload your logo to where your profile photo would go on a personal profile (the ideal Instagram profile picture size is 180 x 180 pixels).

  • Complete your bio (150 characters) – Writing short social media bios is a great exercise, it helps you to think about exactly what it is you do/ how you can help your customers and makes you articulate that message in the simplest way possible.

 

Make sure you’ve got a Business Account set up

Setting up a business account gives you access to a whole host of analytics that personal accounts do not get as well as providing you with extra contact options. You also need to have a business account set up to be able to run ads and set up Instagram shopping.

If you haven’t got an Instagram account at all, here’s how to set one up.

If you already have a profile for your business and a handle that you want to keep then follow these instructions to convert your profile to a business account:

  • Open up Instagram

  • Go to your profile

  • Tap the three lines in the top right-hand corner

  • Tap settings

  • Tap account

  • Tap convert to Business Account and follow the instructions

Create an instagram strategy

Starting an Instagram account is almost like building a brand all of its own. It’s something that takes time, commitment and a well-formulated plan. Putting together a strategy – in the same way you would for your entire business - helps keep your content on brand, your ideas structured and, if you’re a large team, keeps everyone on the same page.

Your strategy will determine what you post and how you post it as well as your tone of voice, visual style and the way you wish to engage with others on the platform.

Now that you’re ready to start posting, here are our tips for growing a loyal and engaged community.  

Not all of these will be suitable for your brand, but you will be able to implement most of them in one way or another whilst maintaining brand consistency.

Curated content

Only using your own professional photography/graphics can sometimes make your profile feel too polished and sales focused. Sharing authentic customer imagery can help to humanise your brand. Sharing UGC (User Generated Content) is a great way to show your audience that existing customers love what you do – its relatable.

If your service is something your customers are unlikely to talk about on their Instagram profiles, think about ways you can encourage them to do so.

If you helped a business secure their first office space, tell them if they take some photos and tag you in them that they’ll be in for the chance of winning something for their new office.

You could say this to all the business you’ve helped relocate and then every quarter host a prize draw and announce a winner.

 

Transparency

Brand trust is at an all-time low. Transparency around your supply chain, your culture and the way you work is a great way to build trust with your audience. Transparency gives you the opportunity to show your audience that you care about the same things they do. According to a study by Havas Worldwide 73% of consumers believe companies should do more than just offer a product or service, with 57% prepared to boycott a brand that doesn’t align with their social beliefs. Show your customers that even if you’re not there yet, you are working towards making a positive impact. Be honest.

 

Highlight your workplace culture  

Not only is Instagram a great place to attract new customers, it’s a great platform for attracting new team members. Sharing behind the scenes moments of the day to day activities within your organisation help your audience see the human side of your brand and imagine what it would be like to work with you.

 

Fun, colourful and creative visuals

Just because the industry you’re in isn’t exciting and colourful it doesn’t mean your Instagram profile can’t be. B2B businesses are known for playing it safe and ending up with feeds that are boring and unattractive. You don’t have to go crazy – remember to always keep your audience front of mind - but remember what you’re up against when it comes to your customers’ attention.

 

Stories

The stories feature on Instagram is something often overlooked by B2B businesses. Stories are visuals that are only available on your feed for 24hrs unless you save them to your ‘highlights’. Instagram announced that 500 million people are now using the stories feature every day and that number is only continuing to grow. Stories are perfect for the less ‘polished’ content and showing a human, in-the-moment side to your brand.

Tips on how to maximise Instagram Stories success.

paid advertising

It’s no secret that it’s harder to reach a big audience organically these days. Organic and paid social media should no longer be seen as separate entities, they are both part of an overall social media strategy and should be used in tandem to achieve the best results.

Here’s how to set up an Instagram paid advertising account.

 

It’s not easy to build a successful Instagram account that increases brand awareness and drives business growth, even the owners of some of the largest accounts on the platform (the ones that make it look effortless) will tell you just how much hard work goes into maintaining a flow of high-quality content.

There are, however, some brands that are absolutely nailing it.  

Here are some of the best B2B brands on Instagram to take a little inspiration from:

www.instagram.com/wework

www.instagram.com/buffer

www.instagram.com/mailchimp

www.instagram.com/generalelectric

www.instagram.com/socialchain

www.instagram.com/appearherehq

www.instagram.com/kerbfood

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If you have any questions about getting started on social media, don’t hesitate to fire them at us: needahug@huglondon.com.

If you know you’re ready to start reaping the rewards Instagram has to offer, but you know you don’t have the time or resources to do it properly, perhaps we can help: Social media for businesses.


This piece was co-written by Alishia Gardener who interned at (hug) during her working year at university.

 
Social mediaKatherine Heath