Instagram is a dream for businesses that have visual evidence of their product or service in action. Users can passively scroll through pictures and double tap to show their appreciation. It’s very simple to show off visually.
For B2B businesses that provide more intangible services, it’s a little more challenging. These businesses rely on relationships, word-of-mouth referrals and hard data to communicate the value of their consultancy, bespoke service or support – all the things you can’t easily take a picture of.
So can B2B businesses use Instagram? If your business is in a industry like consulting, finance, deal making or IT, should you just skip it?
Of course not. You too can take advantage of Instagram and use it to connect with your audience and reinforce what you and your team are great at. You just need proper set-up, planning, and a great bank of images to fill in the gaps.
Here are some B2B Instagram tips to consider:
The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing for Business
Don’t do any of these things…
Before we dive into what you should do, I thought I’d share the top three types of cringeworthy Instagram posts to avoid.
1. Avoid the ugly. Popular Instagram channels are filled with beautifully constructed shots often with amazing light, balance, and composition. While you may not be an expert photographer or be able to hire one, you should think twice before posting ugly images. The ‘before’ image of a pre-renovated property or a pre-decluttered office should be shared with caution.
2. Don’t share flyers. Pictures of event flyers or website pages often don’t translate well into a square image – they are often too crammed with info and cropped in all the wrong places. Certain elements and information can certainly be used but they should be put into a separate design that is created especially for the square image format.
3. Links never work in captions. While you may be tempted to share your latest published article in an Instagram post, it’s quite pointless – the link won’t work. The text will stay static. Instead, link to it in your bio or create a unique visual that goes with your article (but fits well within the square format) and use the caption to reiterate a summary of key points.
For proper set-up, you will need three things: a 160-word bio including a link to your website or business, a good quality version of your logo which shows up well in Instagram’s little circle icon, and at least six well-planned, visually appealing images.
Once you have posted a grid of six images so your Instagram doesn’t look totally empty, you can follow others on Instagram who are in similar industries to you so that your stream initially is filled with relevant images which can provide post inspiration.
You will get much wider reach for your posts if you use hashtags, so one useful habit is to have a few lists of hashtags saved in your phone’s Notes app to copy, paste and edit where relevant.
Here are my top five tips for successful B2B Instagramming.
1. Plan for consistent activity
Social media is a commitment, and whichever channel you choose to use for your business, it requires consistent activity. If you neglect this, and your feed is empty or inactive, then anyone who clicks on your B2B Instagram profile will be disappointed. They will go from thinking, ‘Ooh, they use Instagram, how exciting!’ to ‘Oh, not much happening, how disappointing’.
It’s definitely possible to do a great job with Instagram without it taking over your life – you just need to be organized and do some planning!
2. Get everyone on board
Gather your team together and get everyone on board to get some buy-in, and more importantly, assistance.
One person should be in charge of posting images, along with all that goes along with it – cropping, filtering, writing captions, hashtagging – but original images can be contributed by anyone in your team. I recommend creating a WhatsApp group for sharing potential images or setting up a folder in Dropbox. Just make sure you agree on who is posting and how often, and what the guidelines for images are.
3. Understand ‘evergreen’ vs. ‘spontaneous’
If the aim of your company’s Instagram is to show off how great you are, then you need to think of different ways of showing this. Variety is the spice of life and advertising your services, sadly, should be last on the list.
Think creatively: find fun ways to show your team in their daily lives, and make images and videos of you guys doing what you do – out with clients, out at events, interacting with each other, delivering your product or service. Of course, not every day is a photo shoot day. Sometimes you’re too busy, and sometimes, the entire team has a bad hair day.
This is when you’ll need ‘evergreen’ images (and videos – don’t forget Instagram can have up to one-minute videos). These aren’t images that are perpetually green, but rather images that aren’t time-sensitive. They may include branded images that have quotes or sayings that resonate with your company values, images of completed projects or testimonials from clients. A bank of evergreen images means you can stop getting stuck in ‘I had nothing to post today so our Instagram was quiet’ mode.
4. Create ‘content buckets’
Of course, how you creatively arrange your Instagram pictures in terms of frequency and style is up to you. The content bucket method works extremely well for many businesses. People will generally access your Instagram images in two ways:
- One at a time, as they scroll through, in between those shared by other accounts they follow
- In a grid, if they look at your profile.
The aim is to not have all images be the same as each other. A variety of image types means that you don’t risk boring your followers. Imagine if all your images were inspirational quotes, or they were all team selfies? It would never work!
Here’s how you can ensure good variety:
- Create folders on your shared drive, or in Dropbox, named after the type of images you’d like to share – for example, Team at Work, Behind the Scenes, Wise Words, Our Portfolio, Team Pets, Quotes, Clients Testimonials, Tips & Tricks, Stats & Numbers, Events, etc. Try for five different folders.
- Fill these up with as many images as you can of each type. Some of these may be just ideas in raw form – for example in the ‘Wise Words’ folder, you may just put a spreadsheet with a list of famous quotes by people who you think had smart things to say and get these designed into images later.
- Create branded images. For some ideas like quotes, you might want to enlist the help of a talented designer. Note: with quotes and sayings, be sure to credit whoever originated the saying, if you can. And it’s also fine to ask the team to contribute things they always say at work – to clients for example! Put these branded images into the shared folder, handy for the main person who posts images.
- Since Instagram allows multiple images in a post, some of the posts can have groupings of images that have something in common with each other.
5. Embrace ‘Instagram stories’
These are temporary images and videos that you can share which show up in the top bar for people who follow you. Not everyone is doing these, so if you do, it’s another chance to be noticed.
Stories disappear after 24 hours and don’t stay in your feed so it gives you a certain freedom. You may take a video of someone in the team or do a bit of talking to the camera about who you’re meeting that day, or something you saw on the way to work that gave you unexpected inspiration. Take this footage or these images with your normal phone camera, and then click on the little plus sign on your profile avatar, and choose from recent images/footage to add to stories. The extra cool thing about stories is that you can actually see exactly who viewed your stories if you want to be nosy.
One final point about quality…
Sadly, some of the B2B Instagram channels I have seen make it necessary for me to point out that your design, composition, and typography should be impeccable – it reflects how professional you are as a company. Check spelling, grammar, and punctuation on your hashtags.
Good luck, and happy B2B Instagramming!
Guest Author: Keren Lerner is the CEO and founder of Top Left Design, a London based design and marketing agency. Founded in 2002, Top Left Design specialises in bespoke designed websites, brands, and marketing material with integrated marketing advice. Keren regularly speaks about design and digital marketing at seminars and workshops for industry organisations across different industries (property, HR, interior design, travel, food, film, finance, and law). She advises on social strategy and communication and trains businesses and teams on how to effectively market themselves online.