Curious about which marketing channel most B2B marketers ignore?
Well, when B2B brands are putting together their social media marketing plans, we hear a lot about LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. But there’s one platform out there that packs a powerful marketing punch…and gets almost no B2B marketing attention:
That’s right—the joyful photo and video feed where fashion and travel influencers go to craft the perfect shot. The artist oasis and book-lover haven. A place where art is king and users crave distraction and rarely doth a B2B marketer tread.
And I see you waving that hand dismissively. Instagram is B2C, you think. It sells books and destinations and that supercute sweater that looked way better on the 21-year-old influencer who spent 5 hours getting the perfect angle in that carefree-looking shot.
And you’re not wrong. Instagram is largely the playground of B2C brands. In fact, only 26% of B2B brands are currently using it.
But here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be just B2C. Just because most B2B brands haven’t figured it out yet doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable addition to your marketing efforts.
Because the truth is that an audience of 800 million people globally use Instagram—and right now they’re spending more time on it than ever. If you don’t think that includes B2B decision-makers, you’re not paying attention.
Before you dive in, it always makes sense to confirm that your target audience is on the platform, but with a platform this big, the answer is very frequently yes.
So, how exactly can B2B brands leverage Instagram to meet their marketing goals? Here’s where we recommend you start:
Instagram is for leads, not sales
If we go into Instagram expecting it to generate late-funnel sales leads like we might find on LinkedIn, we’re going to be disappointed.
Instead, think of Instagram as an early part of your sales funnel. A place to nudge people gently in with a compelling lead magnet, to set your brand up as a subject matter expert with tips and tricks posts, to build trust without coming in hard and fast with calls to action.
If you come into Instagram with jargony language and in-your-face sales pitches, it’s probably not going to do you any good. But come in with stories, tips, information, and a dash of joy and art, and you just might find your B2B influencers leaning in.
This is why a brand like Novartis has found such unexpected success on the platform. They use it to tell health stories, communicate their brand values, and establish their expertise.
Mailchimp is similarly successful, telling stories of their creative talent and helping their customers understand and embrace all things email marketing.
View this post on Instagram
We love to celebrate creativity at Mailchimp. Design BTS is a new series revealing the designers, wordsmiths, animators, photographers, strategists, and illustrators behind some of our best work. Up first is Albrica, an Atlanta-based photographer on our brand design team who’s been with Mailchimp for 2 years, and always has a camera by her side. Whether she’s building sets, shooting on location, or capturing colorful, lively portraits, Albrica’s creative energy is fueled by being around creatives. – “I love researching ideas, creating mood boards, and bouncing ideas off of my teammates,” she says.
How to engage on Instagram
So, now we’ve seen a couple examples. But how exactly are the most successful B2B brands engaging their audiences on Instagram?
In a nutshell, they’re:
- Promoting lead magnets to get prospects into their sales funnels
- Sharing short stories about their brands, customers, or products
- Interacting directly with customers in real time
- Embracing art that reflects their brand
- Funneling people to the website or next steps in the sales funnel
Humor is also a powerful tool for B2B brands looking for attention on Instagram. One brand doing this well is Hubspot, who harnesses customer pain points for a laugh and a feeling that the brand really gets what customers are going through:
Understand what your audience cares about—and talk about that
Often the best approach to audience engagement (across any platform, and especially one like Instagram, where people come for joy and escapism) isn’t to talk directly about what your brand can do for customers. It’s to serve those customers in the unique way only you can.
If you’re a bank targeting business customers, maybe that means posts about successful entrepreneurs that inspire new business owners. Maybe it means easy-to-digest information on how to choose the right type of business account, how to invest, or how to even find the right accountant. Maybe it means asking your audience relevant questions—like What’s the greatest financial challenge for your business? Or What’s your biggest business goal this year?—and then interacting with their answers.
If you’re an analytics platform, maybe you share data points, customer success stories, and tips for understanding data better.
If you’re a commercial real estate firm, perhaps you post cool architecture, architect stories, and information on how to optimize your commercial spaces for things like productivity and happy employees.
If you’re Shopify, you tell stories of entrepreneurs, partner with influencers to show off your customer successes, and share things relevant to your small business audience (such as government-relief program information during the COVID-19 crisis).
If you’re GE, you tell the stories of your engineers and worldwide innovations:
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A marvel of #aviation: the world's largest and most powerful commercial jet engine from @geaviation —the #GE9X. Standing next to this 11-foot diameter monster is GE test operation engineer, Kelly Dunham. Everyday, she comes to work in Peebles, Ohio to test the capabilities of the engine by pushing it to its limits. Kelly runs a slew of different tests such as crosswind testing, hailstorm testing, performance testing and endurance testing. #avgeek #engineer #engineering #aviation
If you’re Adobe, you promote and share creativity in all its forms:
The successful options always start with audience needs and are only limited by creativity.
Coming soon: Instagram guides
Instagram is already a hidden gem in the B2B marketer’s arsenal, but it’s about to get even better.
The platform’s latest feature—known as Instagram Guides—promises to be a boon to B2B brands who want to provide expertise and build up trust in their respective industries.
As Later.com explains, “The new feature gives users an easier way to consume helpful recommendations and tips from trusted creators, public figures, organizations, and publishers, with an initial focus on wellness and mental health content in response to COVID-19.”
And while the first guides are all health-related and the feature is only available to a limited number of brands so far, these early pieces of content offer a glimpse of future opportunities for brands focused on a variety of topics. Banks may weigh in on small business financial health. Tech platforms may weigh in on startup challenges. Email marketing platforms may weigh in on best practices.
As Instagram keeps rolling out new features like these, their value to B2B brands is only going to grow.
Is your brand missing out?
A whopping 800 million people use Instagram; 80% say they follow at least one business on the platform. And 83% say they’ve found new products or services through the site.
In other words, if you haven’t already, it’s time to take a look at whether Instagram can be a powerful tool for your brand growth.
And if you need someone to help you figure it out? That’s what we’re here for. Reach out anytime.