The Curious Case of B2B Marketers Avoiding Instagram

Challenge: Stop making excuses as to why your B2B company shouldn’t be on Instagram.

First thing’s first: Can we agree to make a pact to stop making excuses and dismissing why your B2B company can’t or shouldn’t be in Instagram? Instead, let’s solve the problem and do something about it. Some common objections that I’ve heard from B2B clients (and B2C for that matter):

  • “Our Audience/Customer Base aren’t there.” 
    Instagram eclipsed 700M users a month ago April (400M Daily). So unless you’re target market is incredibly niche. Then your customers are on the platform.
  • “Instagram is something only kids use — that’s not our target.”
    The fastest growing demographic is in the 30–49 demographic. It’s the same trend that Facebook followed early on. It was adopted by college aged kids, who became adults, and eventually the older generation came over.

Statista: Instagram Users in the U.S. by Age

Statista — Instagram Users by Age-Group
  • “Our business doesn’t have content that would be interesting on Instagram, so why would our customers care?”
    Well, hopefully your customers and employees feel differently about your product/service. If they don’t find you interesting or of value — then how are you even in business to begin with?
  • “Instagram is for CPG and lifestyle brands. It’s people taking selfies, Kardashians and pictures of food. That’s not us”
    This type of content is prevalent — but there’s over 40M photos uploaded to the platform PER DAY so that’s not ALL Selfies and food. More importantly, there’s B2B businesses that have embraced the platform and are reaping the rewards.
  • “Instagram is all CPG and lifestyle brands, people taking selfies, Kardashians and pictures of food. That’s not us”
    This type of content is out there — but there’s over 40M photos uploaded to the platform PER DAY so it’s not ALL Selfies and food. More importantly, there’s B2B businesses that have embraced the platform and are reaping the rewards.

Why Instagram at all for your B2B business?

Instagram may be chock full of people taking photos of their food, hip clothing brands, or a Kardashian hocking their latest paid product placement to their masses of followers. While these examples make up a stunning amount of the channel’s content. It doesn’t illustrate the full power of a platform with this massive scale of active users.

Is your brand or business focussing marketing efforts on Brand Awareness/Affinity, Relationship Building, Improving Trust / Public Perception, and desires to Drive Engagement with new and existing customer bases? Then Instagram is THE social media playground for your business to be on.

If you are marketing to customers that are 25–54, then they are on Instagram. In fact, the fastest growing segment in 2017 is females, 40–50. Much like Facebook, it may have started with 20 somethings but it’s rapidly being adopted by older demographics.

  • Instagram grew their last 100M users faster than they grew their first 100M users.
  • Instagram is projected to hit 1 Billion users by October 2017. Does that have your attention?

You may be thinking, Instagram is a B2C world. Sure, it may be easier for CPG or lifestyle brands to run these types of UGC campaigns, but it’s a crowded marketplace of those brands. Which is why the opportunity for B2B companies to succeed on Instagram is ripe for the taking — there’s less brands and competitors doing it.

When evaluating Instagram, please eliminate the notion of B2B versus B2C. It’s all P2P (PERSON-TO-PERSON).

B2B brands large and small are succeeding on Instagram and HOW they are doing it isn’t as complex as you might think. They are successful because narrowed in on their customer’s interests and passions. These brands took consumer behaviors and turned them into an audience that consistently feeds them content and insights.

User-Generated-Content (UGC) is the Gateway to Success

Brands that are successful on Instagram align their values with those of their customers, and make their customers the focus. You’ve probably heard the line: “make your customer the hero” before. Instagram storytelling is the practical application of how to do this seamlessly.

This, may come as a shock, but people like to share their opinions and BE SEEN on social media. When a brand empowers them, enables their behaviors and needs, AND gives them a broader platform to showcase it, then it spreads like wildfire.
“Millennials are 50% less likely to trust material from traditional marketing sources, than user-generated content.”
 — Crowdtap,
“Advertisements with UGC content get 4x higher click-through rates. Plus, user-generated content is 35% more memorable than other media.” 
 — (Crowdtap)

Think of User Generated Content as a testimonial for your brand. It’s social proof that you are a good partner, and offer a quality product or service. Naturally, it would make sense to tell the world about your satisfied customers. Right?

So, here’s how you leverage UGC into Instagram success. Promote new products, services or limited time opportunities. Encourage your followers to use branded hashtags in their own content. This organically increases your brand’s visibility and taps into your audience’s network.

Branded/Owned Hashtags = Discoverability

This can take form of consistent, evergreen content that runs or in shorter contests that have a set end date. With either, your brand can amass boatloads of UGC and curate the best content for publishing on your channel. This is content gold.

UGC creates trust with your customers because it’s inherently genuine. It’s about your customers, not about your brand. Your branding plays an important part in the content, but it’s on the customer’s terms and not the brand’s. It’s a simple tactic to show that your brand is in-tune with your customer’s needs and wants and care about them.

B2B Companies that are Crushing It on Instagram

Buffer
buffer takes their mission of being #digitalnomads and bring their brand ideals of Work, Culture and Travel to life on Instagram. Using evergreen, branded hashtags #BufferCommunity , #BufferSpaces , #bufferlove #bufferstories, they feature UGC from customers around the globe. The brand showcases how customers live, work and play.

Buffer also uses Instagram for influencer account takeovers. Which brings in relevant partner brands to mix up their content (and Instagram Stories). While still adding value and interest to their audience.

Hootsuite
Hootsuite is another brand that has successfully tapped into the thematic of showcasing customer’s workspaces. Through the #ThisisWhereIWork contesting hashtag, they showcase customer content and have close to 6k tagged entries to date.

Pay-Pal
Peer-to-peer money transfer and bill-pay… Yawn, right? Not if you’re PayPal, with over 58k followers. The brand empowers their customers to submit their own content and tell their small business story using the hashtag #PayPalIt. A hashtag and a brand can become so universal and in the cultural lexicon that it becomes a VERB! That’s called branding, people.

The UPS Store
The UPS Store: Not a brand that you would expect to have a well-defined mission and audience on Instagram. But they’ve nailed it. They have a clearly articulated a target audience that they want to engage and champion, and it’s front and center in their bio: @TheUPSStore: Here to champion America’s makers, crafters & small business doers. Celebrating all who’ve chosen a life of entrepreneurship.

The UPS Store’s Instagram channel feed pays off what their bio states. Scrolling their feed feels more like an ETSY shop than a consumer and small business storefront where you’d ship goods. The UPS Store made the small business owner the hero. Through “Maker Takeovers” that showcase actual customers and stories. Recently, the brand has just launched a contest to celebrate National Small Business Week with their Pitch Off campaign. What better way for an international shipping brand to empower and embrace the little guy?

Creative and Quality Still Remain the Barriers to Success

First, B2B content doesn’t have to be boring, regardless of the industry. If your brand is already on Instagram or venturing into it for the first time, priority number one is MAKE it interesting through visuals. It can be pictures, video, motion-graphics. Find your visual-voice and stick to it. Understand the platform, understand the audience that you’re trying to reach, and you’ll be ahead of the game. Even if you’re late to it.

Second, you don’t have to publish UGC from customers if it isn’t on brand. It still needs to reflect your brand the same way that your own branded content would. Identify the UGC that best reflects your values, mission and “essence” and focus on publishing that — not the crap. You must curate. You are still the brand steward and owner of your content. This can actually train your audience on how to get featured — “Oh, that’s the type of thing they like. I can do that”.

If your product or service isn’t something that can be visually stimulating or interesting, then find what is. Oftentimes, the brands that are successful are the ones that are telling their CUSTOMER’S stories.

UGC and Customers first. Are you starting to see the pattern and throughline of success from all of these brands? The content and message isn’t about them, it’s about their customers.

Here’s a two more from Microsoft and Squarespace, just for kicks and giggles:

Microsoft
Squarespace

The Last Thing: Be Proactive, Engage. It is SOCIAL Media after all

When you are sourcing UGC, don’t rely on customers to come to you. Search relevant hashtags, locations, browse your follower’s content and engage with them. Reply to them, like their posts, and use the platform like a person, not a brand. i.e. Treat your customers like people.

Respond to posts using your hashtag, ask questions, thank them for posting. Keep the conversation going! This is the easiest path to genuinely prove gratitude and connect with customers.

No more excuses or reasons NOT to do it. If you’re still not convinced that your Business can succeed, then I’ll lob you this final one. There’s zero reason that you can’t do this and get traction. It’s already proven out.

Bonus Tip → #DogsofInstagram

  • Many of your customer’s own pets. True or False?
  • Your employees also own pets. True or False?
  • Can pets come into your workplace? (if so great, if not — it doesn’t really matter.)

Do you see where I’m headed with this? Guess what does well on Instagram?! Pets! (and dogs, specifically)

So…Post photos of your employee’s dogs. Period. 
Post photos of your customer’s dogs. Period.
Dogs play well on Instagram. Period.
Dog owners use Instagram to post photos of their dogs and look at other photos of dogs. Period.

Could there be anything more simple to help your brand organically connect with your customers than through a mutual love of animals? There’s a reason why so many successful businesses post these types of images of their corporate Instagram accounts. It works. Period.

Use the appropriate dog/pet related hashtags. Over 800k posts tagged with #dogsofinstagram and #officedogs. It’s like fishing with dynamite.

I mean, how easy is this? It’s fundamental Organic Brand Building