If you think Instagram is useless for B2B sales, you’re not alone. That’s what makes it a perfect opportunity. Most brands are doing a miserable job, if they even have an account. As of this right now, standing out is not hard.
When I tell sales and marketing leaders to get on Instagram, I usually get one of two reactions: either they scoff or they tell me they don’t have enough travel photos.
I get it. There’s a lot of glitz and glamour associated with Instagram. If you’re only familiar with the influencer aspect, it’s easy to conclude that the ‘gram is best left to jetsetters, teenagers, and the Kardashians.
Another common misconception is that Instagram is for young folks and play. The reality is that as Instagram matures, so does its audience. In fact, roughly half of American adults aged 30-49 use Instagram. Last I checked, that is working age.
I’m not going to pretend that the majority of CXOs are scrolling through Instagram (although several have profiles). But with 1 billion active monthly users, I guarantee that at least some are only one or two degrees away from decision makers at your target companies.
If Linkedin were an office, Instagram would be the golf course. It might not be where you close the deal but it’s where you start the conversation.
Before diving into why and how you should use Instagram for your B2B brands, let’s get clear on the premises we’re working off.
- There is a person behind every screen. Yes, bots exist. Yes, people automate their posts. But whether it’s a business account or a personal account, someone is behind it. And that someone might just help you get your foot in the door.
- Any user on Instagram has the potential to be a decision-maker. Just because you don’t know someone is a decision-maker based on their profile, that doesn’t mean they aren’t one. Even if they’re looking at memes, what they see on Instagram still influences them.
- You can learn on Instagram (and lots of people want to). There’s no doubt that many, if not most, people look for entertainment on Instagram. But there are subsections of users who hop on Instagram to learn.
What you can do with a B2B Instagram account
Instagram is the Frankenstein’s monster of social media. Eventually, all the best features from other platforms end up being sewn on.
What started as a photo-sharing platform has become a dynamic amalgamation of video, captions, Stories, polls, quizzes, gifs and, recently, Reels (Instagram’s version of TikTok-style videos). You can post everything from a 30-minute podcast episode to a 400-word microblog.
Great! Instagram has all the features but you’re probably wondering, what type of impact can these features have?
Reach and warm up leads
Imagine you could give someone your business card and every few days that business card would pop back into their hands. That’s essentially what Instagram does. If a lead isn’t ready to buy at that moment, they can save the thought by following your page.
What makes Instagram better than a business card is that it lets you teach and engage your audience. With every post, they learn a little bit more about your brand. Hubspot does this flawlessly on Instagram by providing bite-sized educational content.
Funnel traffic to other places
If you have a newsletter or blog, you need an Instagram presence. Take it from Morning Brew.
Reaching 10k followers unlocks a feature where you can link landing pages directly in your stories. Until then, the link in your bio does the trick. Even better, business accounts of any size can use the “contact” feature, which allows users to contact you directly.
Instagram Stories are a unique way to gather information about your audience. You can use quizzes, polls and questions to get a pulse on who is watching and what motivates them.
The iconic three column grid makes Instagram an incredible index system that users can scroll through quickly. Unlike other platforms, where thoughts can get lost in the ether, Instagram posts are referred to over and over again.
“People kept asking me the same questions,” says Jon Swift, a UX designer who runs @uxcaliber, “Finally, I made an Instagram account to have all my answers in one place.”
Are you hiring? Looking for guest posts? Want to be on a podcast? Instagram has a search bar function and most professional hashtags will lead you to great sources. There has been an increasing trend of thought leaders adding their position in their bios. This shows up in the search as well.
A short list of B2B Instagrams that are doing it (somewhat) right:
Salesforce (and Salesforce Jobs)
How to create compelling Instagram content
Companies fail and quit Instagram because they believe their content needs to be “fun.” The truth? You don’t need eye-catching photos or viral videos. Many successful accounts post simple designs using free tools like Canva and Kapwing. You also don’t need to be cool or funny (if it’s not part of your brand). You just need to know what you’re talking about.
With all the different features Instagram offers, there is a lot of flexibility for what type of content you can share. But for the sake of simplicity, there are only two types of posts you need to be concerned about when starting off: feed posts and stories.
Jimmy Slagle, co-founder of Advest Marketing, says, “Provide as much value as possible.” Every post should educate, entertain, or inspire your target audience.
Chances are, you already know what content fairs well amongst your ICP. If you don’t, it’s time to pull up your analytics. Repurposing is the name of the game. Chop up your best written content into captions, then slap the headline onto a branded template for the image.
If all else fails, take screenshots of Tweets or Linkedin posts from your team. I promise that it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. As long as the post provides real, actionable information, it does not have to be visually interesting. Contrary to popular belief, Instagrammers love to read.
Feed posts are planned and formulaic. Stories, on the other hand, don’t have to be. The caveat here is that they can be and there isn’t a problem with that. But because they disappear in 24 hours, Stories can be used to show a more human angle.
Some ideas for interesting stories:
- Ask team members to do takeovers. What does the day-to-day look like in their role?
- Quiz your audience on information in your feed posts
- Film mini-lessons
- Share content from relevant accounts
Stories are a great place to get a pulse on your audience. Use polls or quizzes to ask them what type of content they’d like to see. Prompt them to ask questions about your area of expertise. Use them as a soundboard for what’s working and what needs to be tweaked.
Finding relevant communities
It can feel like anyone and everyone is on Instagram, making it impossible to reach your target. Luckily, humans never fail to separate themselves into tribes. On Instagram, this is done via hashtags. You can find communities for tech geeks, data nerds, marketers, sales, and everything in between. The key is to know which hashtags to search.
Fortunately, Instagram does a lot of the work for you. Search a generic term (for example, #webdeveloper or #datavisualization) and it will auto-generate relevant hashtags. As you find your ideal clients and influencers in your industry, pay special attention to which hashtags they use and follow.
A note on paid vs organic reach
If done well, Instagram ads will accelerate your growth, but they aren’t necessary to be successful. However, you also can’t drop content and expect it to perform well. The same way publications need SEO, Instagram posts need hashtags. Actively following and serving your target communities will help you either way.
Still not convinced? Use it as a playground.
If you haven’t already noticed, the internet converges. The features, content, and culture from other platforms bleed into each other, to the point where you log into Linkedin and wonder if you’re on Facebook.
Even if you never use other social media platforms, familiarizing yourself with these channels will help you capitalize on trends as they move onto platforms you do care about. Let me put it this way - if you had gotten on Instagram earlier, you would know what to do with Linkedin Stories now.
Instagram is an amazing playground full of ideas for marketers and salespeople alike. Test your content there and then build it out.
For anyone who is interested in pursuing Instagram as a serious marketing and sales channel, the first step is to follow relevant accounts and hashtags. Once you have a grasp on the hashtags and trends in your industry, repurpose your existing content into posts and voilá.