How to Use Instagram for B2B Marketing


In a platform dominated by selfies, latte art and cute puppies, many businesses are hesitant to jump on the Instagram bandwagon. But with more than 75 million active daily users and 150 million monthly users, Instagram is a marketing channel that’s too significant to ignore. B2C brands use Instagram to connect with customers, build brand loyalty, and promote culture and community – can B2B brands do the same? Absolutely! B2B brands should be using Instagram as a tool to promote their corporate culture, brand and community to a larger audience.

Instagram 101: What It is and Why It Matters

Instagram is a photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking service that allows users to apply digital filters to photos, turning ordinary iPhone snaps into visually-dazzling images. Thanks to full integration with other social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr, Instagram makes it easy to instantly share these photos with a wide network. In addition to photos, Instagram users may also record and share videos of 15 seconds or less. Once a trendy iPhone-only app, Instagram is now a massive social network with an Android and web presence.

With more than 75 million daily users and 150 million monthly users, Instagram is the new must-have network. Since Instagram is a visual medium, it’s been argued that Instagram is only fit for companies selling products or services that translate well into visual experiences. We’d like to respectfully disagree. Instagram is more than a collection of self-indulgent selfies; one out of every four Fortune 500 companies is active on Instagram. Major B2B companies, including CBRE, General Electric and Cisco, are successfully using Instagram for corporate culture and recruitment as well as more generalized brand marketing, according to HubSpot.

Getting Started with Instagram

Are you new to Instagram? Here’s how to get your B2B account up and running in just a six easy steps:

  1. Set up an account. By default, Instagram accounts are public, which means anyone can see your photo feed. While may also elect to set up a private account, in the interest of raising brand awareness and building your business, we recommend a public account.
  2. Download the mobile app. Instagram is primarily an app-based social network, so you’ll need to download the free app to your phone in order to maximize the network’s potential. The mobile app works with both Android and iOS phones so you can snap and filter to your heart’s content.
  3. Ready, set, filter. Use your smartphone to snap photos of objects or places that are relevant to your B2B. Next, apply a filter; Instagram currently comes with 17 different filter options, many of which have ‘vintage’ effects. Add a border, tilt shift your photo to alter depth of field, and then tap the share button to post the photo to your Instagram network.
  4. Be discoverable. Just like on Twitter and Facebook, you will want to mark your Instagram photos or videos with hashtags (e.g., #techaddict, #manufacturing, #technology, etc.) allows others of like-minded interests to discover your posts even if they are not currently following your Instagram feed. Be sure to create a hashtag for you company, too, and consistently use this hashtag any time you post photos.
  5. Start a conversation. Also like Twitter and Facebook, Instagram users can tag other users following the “@mention” tagging convention. This tag will notify the user of your post. For example, if your business is sharing a photo originally taken by a client, you would @mention your client. For example, GE posted a photo to their feed depicting the view from a crane operator’s cab at the CSX Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal. GE tagged the employee who original took the photo, and also used hashtags for #CSX and #crane operator.
  6. Enhance your photos with third-party apps. Do your Instagram photos lack artistic appeal? Take your images to the next level with popular, low cost or free add-on apps. We recommend Photo Editor by Aviary (for one-tap colour correction), Slow Shutter Cam (for long-exposure images and motion blurs), Overgram (to add text), and PicFrame (to combine multiple photos)

Be Discoverable: The Importance of Hashtags

Wondering what’s the point of all these hashtags? Yes, it’s tempting to make fun of them, especially the more self-indulgent ones like #firstworldproblems. When it comes tohelping your content go viral, hashtags really do matter across all social media platforms. For example, tweets that contain at least one hashtag are 55% more likely to be retweeted than those that do not contain any hashtags, according to HubSpot social media scientist Dan Zarella.

Instagram’s search feature is only for hashtags. If you don’t tag your content, then it is impossible for a non-follower to find it. Brands must set up their content to succeed. On Instagram, this means using consistent and relevant tags. According to research by TrackMaven, there is a clear correlation between tags and engagement rate. Add up to five hashtags for maximum impact. Beyond five, the benefits of hashtags are diluted as your post content begins to look a bit like tag spam.

Building Buzz with InstaVideo: Making an Impact in 15 Seconds

While the majority of B2B companies are not selling a tangible product, that doesn’t mean they cannot build buzz using visual social media networks like Instagram. B2B companies can still build buzz around their services, corporate culture, and brand values. For example, Nitrogram, an Instagram analytics and engagement platform, uses Instagram to showcase the company’s unique corporate culture, including team traditions, like Squashpong and their Friday lunch gatherings. Every other week, Nitrogram passes account access to a different team member with the freedom to share (within reason) different elements of the company’s corporate culture and brand.

Major B2B providers including Intel, Maersk Line, VMware, Cisco and General Electric have been experimenting with Instagram video since it first launched. These B2B companies are finding new ways to deliver their brand’s message in a concise manner by embracing the move towards brevity with innovative, creative content that makes a major impact in just 15 seconds.

Benefits of using InstaVideo include:

  1. Make tech understandable. One of the major reasons that reporters, bloggers and other influencers turn down B2B tech stories is that they do not fully understand how a new tech platform works, and they simply do not have the time or bandwidth to do the necessary research. Insta Video is the perfect platform for presenting a new technology product and the 15-second time limit forces the presentation to be simple, concise and relatable.
  2. Show your business’s personality. Does your business made products that are smarter, faster or more environmentally-friendly? Showcase your company’s strengths and show how your products can make a difference. Give the people behind the technology their (literal) 15-seconds of fame: showcase
  3. Be helpful. B2B buyers and end users live by tech manuals, guides and handbooks. However, these guides can be time-consuming to read and difficult to decipher, especially for individuals not familiar with the technical jargon. InstaVideo is the perfect platform for creating a short, 15-second “how to” video or troubleshooting a common problem. Or better yet, encourage your Instagram community to submit their own videos; you can feature these videos in a “user-generated” manual on your company’s website.
  4. Share testimonials. Ask your customers to record 15-second testimonials. In addition to posting these testimonials on Instagram, share them on your blog and embed them in your next case study.
  5. Geek out – and still be cool. Most B2B companies exist in unique verticals and industry niches, such as embedded technology or clean tech. Chances are that your business has mountains of data sheets and endless PowerPoint slides. Turn this unusable data into a series of short, creative InstaVideos.
  6. Market for free. The beauty of InstaVideo is that you can shoot it all on your phone, use Instagram’s editing feature to make a cut, and then add filters to make the video really pop. The production cost is quite literally zero dollars, the level of difficulty is low, and that amount of time required to produce the video is next to nothing. Talk about some serious ROI!

Not sure how to get started with InstaVideos? Consider the following InstaVideo ideas for your B2B company:

  • Short product demos, with the hashtag #demo
  • Short how-to guides, with the hashtag #howto
  • Making an announcement? Build momentum with a 15-second teaser.
  • Unveil a new product? Like the announcement video, tease your new product launch with an InstaVideo.
  • Hosting an event? Unveil your speaker lineup with one-at-a-time 15-second interviews with each speaker; include a link to learn more and register for the conference.
  • Create a short “highlights” video from a conference, event or exhibition

InstaVideo v. Vine: Which One is Right for Your Business?

In general, it is always better for your business to minimize the number of social media platforms and tools. Focus your attention on a limited number of platforms that best reach your target audience and spend your time creating consistently great content. While Vine (a video platform associated with Twitter) blew up very quickly last spring, since Instagram introduced InstaVideo, Vine’s growth has slowed. There’s no need ofr your business to be on both. Deciding between the two platforms? Here are a few reasons to stick with InstaVideo:

  • Instagram’s relationship with Facebook gives InstaVideo the benefit of a massive community. Vine, in contrast, is only available as a mobile app and via Twitter, which limits its reach.
  • Instagram’s features include custom sharing streams and embedding, which enables the “Holy Grail” of social media and content marketing.
  • Sharing via Instagram is not limited to Facebook, so photos and videos will benefit from other social amplification.
  • Hashtagging InstaVideos is the best way for your content to be discoverable and potentially go viral.

4 Lessons from a B2B Instagram Star: General Electric

General Electric is, by far, the most visual B2B Instagram account. GE was one of the first brands to being using Instagram; its photos of engines inside planes and helicopters have drawn a rabid following. GE also jumped on the Vine bandwagon (and later InstaVideo) shortly after its launch. GE’s Instagram photos and videos leave followers wondering “what’s next?” The company even ran a contest to crowdsource beautiful photos to add to GE’s Instagram feed. GE asked Instagram users to take photos of GE products to win a trip to be behind the scenes at their next Instagram shoot. GE also produces science-themed videos to promote themselves as an innovative brand.

For example, GE created a short video last year celebrating the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus’s birthday. The video announced Copernicus’s famous discovery – “the sun is the center of the solar system” – as sunglasses landed on a portrait of Copernicus. While the content itself may not be revolutionary, the creative presentation keeps individuals engaged with GE’s brand. GE’s success on Instagram proves that geeky, science-oriented content is indeed cool – and in high demand. Here’s how to adapt the best of GE’s strategy to work for your business:

#1: Start small and grow. Start with a short campaign that has a clear end date; this will make it simple and easy to track. Be ready to engage in a genuine dialogue; interacting with other brands on Instagram is just as important as posting photos. Consider teaming up with bloggers and other influencers who also use Instagram for promotions and contests; leverage their followers to build your company’s Instagram following.

#2: Don’t shy away from “geeky” content. From GE’s Copernicus video to photos of welding shops, GE makes “geeky” content sexy and interesting by putting a creative spin on the images. What so-called “geeky” content can you make interesting?

#3: Techy can be beautiful. Some of GE’s most popular photos are of Qatar Airways’ GE-powered Dreamliner from the Dubai Airshow, along with airplane and helicopter engines. On its own, a photo of a cockpit or plane engine may not sound particularly beautiful. But with an artful Instagram filter and the right hashtags (e.g., #Dreamliner, #cockpit, #avgeek), GE has turned these photos into some of their most popular Instagram posts with thousands of favorites and comments.

#4: Contests drive engagement. Last year, GE created an InstaVideo to announce a “GE Superfan” contest; six GE super fans were invited to join GE as “co-pilots” at the September GE Aviation show. Instagram followers simply had to comment on the video with one sentence explaining why they were the biggest GE #avgeek ever for a chance to come along. Put a twist on this type of promotional campaign by asking Instagram users to share videos of them using your product for a chance to win a special giveaway or trip.

Next Steps for B2B Companies on Instagram

While getting started with Instagram may seem daunting at first, avoid being overwhelmed by focusing on quality content creation, just as you would with any social media channel. Before you launch your Instagram feed, take some time to think about your business’s strategy. What hidden resources exist within your company (e.g., PowerPoint slides) that you can mine for interesting facts and insights? What so-called “geeky” or “techy” imagery could you transform into a beautiful and compelling visual with the right Instagram filter? What hashtags are best for your business? What questions or problems are your customers facing that you can solve with a short video? By taking the time to put together a well thought-out strategy, your B2B company will be best positioned to capitalize on the viral power of Instagram to build your brand’s reputation and spread the word about your unique corporate culture.

Craig Bailey

Craig is the Founder and Technical Director at XEN Systems. He’s been involved in IT, web development and digital marketing for more than 25 years.

One thought on “How to Use Instagram for B2B Marketing

  1. Pingback: InsightfulCRM B2B with Social Media: Which network should you choose? » InsightfulCRM

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