Are businesses really active on Instagram? Isn’t it just for pictures of food and pets?
Well, you might be surprised to know that there are now over 25 million business profiles on Instagram, and over 80% of Instagram users follow business accounts. It doesn’t matter if you work in B2C or B2B, Instagram simply has the most amount of people of all age ranges using the platform every single day.
In addition, there’s so much more to Instagram than purely just posting photos onto your profile for the world to see, and for you to gain likes and followers. For example, 300 million users now use the ‘Stories’ feature on a daily basis. There’s also the use of hashtags, video and live video, so the platform can be used in a variety of different ways.
So, to answer the question – “Are businesses really on Instagram?” the answer is a resounding yes.
This blog is for any B2B company that hasn’t quite made the leap to Instagram yet, or has done but is yet to generate any real engagement and interest, to show how you can start generating and nurturing leads, as well as current customers with the platform.
Three steps to lead nurturing using Instagram
Step One: Find and connect with your current customers
Don’t forget about your existing customers when it comes to your marketing activity! Did you know that it’s 5-25X more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer?
With this in mind, get your account management team to find and follow all of your current customers on Instagram from your company account (they might even follow you back). By following your customers you not only show that you care but you also give them an opportunity to get better insight into your company as a whole; not just the products or services that you provide.
Step Two: Find and connect with your current prospects
In a similar way to step one, find and follow all of your current prospects on Instagram. This is a fantastic way to keep your business front of mind and – if they follow you back – it also helps you to build customer trust and show off your business’ culture; one of the main reasons why many B2B prospects choose to work with certain businesses!
Step Three: Do all of the following!
So you’ve followed and engaged with your prospects and customers - now how do you properly connect and interact with them on the platform?
1. Share images of your team
If people can actually see who they are talking to and engaging with, it becomes significantly easier for them to invest time and effort into that relationship. People want to converse with people, so by posting pictures of your team – whether they’re being professional or having fun with colleagues – you can help your target audience to put faces to names and understand your business just that little bit more.
Images of your team help to add personality, excitement and – most importantly – authenticity to your business’s Instagram account, all of which will help to raise awareness of your business and increase the level of engagement it receives on Instagram.
2. Showcase your expertise and learning
What is your company doing to stay ahead of the game? Product improvement and development? Learning? Training courses? What are you doing to make sure your company is always evolving and moving forwards? You can document all of this to show your expertise – get images of product development and show the world what you are up to!
Also, by giving your target audience what is essentially a ‘sneak peek’ into your day-to-day activities, you make it easier for them to understand your business and see just how passionate you are – both of which will help to improve sentiment and engagement.
You can also create an ‘Instagram Story’ – a feature that lets users post photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours – to let your audience follow your day-to-day activities!
3. Office space and culture
What does your office look like? Do you hold events? What about your office culture?
There are hundreds of thousands of businesses on Instagram (many incredibly similar to yours) so you need to convey to your target audience that your business is unique, interesting and exciting.
To demonstrate the above, you need to show off your office space, your employees, your clients, and the events you host and/or attend, to demonstrate just what your business and employees are about. This is not an exhaustive list but lays the foundation for portraying how authentic and unique your business is; no one wants to engage with a B2B company on Instagram that only ever posts product and service advertisements – they don’t exactly give any insight into the business!
Make people want to speak with you by making your business look exciting and interesting.
4. Use hashtags for events
Hashtags are the currency for Instagram – and you can use them to find new audiences. For example, are there industry events that you or your prospects will be attending? If so, find out the hashtags for those events, follow the people that use those tags, and post your own updates (make sure to include high-quality images) using those tags!
Anyone interested in those events will be able to see your posts if you include the relevant hashtags. If they click on your post and like what they see, they might even click on your profile and connect with your business!
5. Use stories to engage
A great way to engage with your following on Instagram is via Instagram Stories. As mentioned previously, the feature allows users to post photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours.
From a B2C perspective, the benefits are tremendous – for example, a retailer could run a 24-hour marketing campaign via an Instagram Story and post discount codes (which only work for a limited time) for their followers to use.
From a B2B perspective, there are a number of ways businesses can use Stories to increase engagement and nurturing. For example, let’s say you want to advertise the webinar you’re hosting; it’s free to attend and you want to determine just how many would be interested in attending.
So, for example, you could create an Instagram Story that includes a photo and poll advertising your webinar. First, create a photo post advertising your webinar; second, pose the question asking if your audience would be interested in attending; third, include hashtags to help other interested parties find it; and finally, add a poll with the options of ‘Yes, most definitely’ and ‘No thanks’, and post your story.
As the responses come in, you’ll be able to get a good idea of just how much of your following is interested and, equally as important, engaged with your business’ Instagram.
6. New announcements and demos
New announcements or product/service updates? Why not use Instagram’s live feed feature to announce them in real time and create a story afterwards for those who missed out? Live streaming is growing at an incredible rate and will continue to do so as more and more of us want content on demand. In 2016, the live streaming market was more than $30bn (£23.5bn) and is expected to grow to $70bn (£54.8bn) by 2021.
Many businesses recognise this simple fact and are using the live streaming features available on some platforms, Facebook and Instagram for example, to reach more customers.
So if you have any cool announcements or product/service updates you want to share with your target audience, why not run a live stream on Instagram? To maximise reach and engagement, create a campaign around your live stream in advance to build awareness of it. A simple Instagram post saying when the event is can go a long way – and don’t forget to include your own specific #hashtag so interested parties can find it when it goes live! Once the live stream is over, maximise its value by turning it into a Story – your target audience then has 24 hours to view it if they wish!
7. Schedule your posts
No need to rush or do everything live; if you want to make running your Instagram account much easier, create content in advance and schedule it. There are a number of third-party tools out there that you can use to schedule your Instagram content: Hootsuite, Buffer and Sendible are just a few examples. We use HubSpot (as it allows us to integrate our marketing and sales activities across the business) but it’s up to you what you use.
By scheduling well in advance, you can spend more time analysing your Instagram activities to determine what works, what doesn’t and how you can improve audience engagement and sentiment.
Okay, there are a lot of people posting images of food and images of their pets but don’t let the food make you hungry or the pets distract you. Done correctly, Instagram can deliver a steady stream of targeted traffic to your B2B website and, as your target audience come to demand more content in real-time and authentic interactions, you can use it to develop deeper and meaningful relationships with your customers.