How to use Instagram for B2B Marketing

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Instagram isn’t just for the B2C space.

By utilizing the platform correctly, and using the three E’s: Educational, Engaging and Entertaining content on Instagram, you can get great results.

Dive in to the specifics below:

Ross: So many marketers make the mistake of just completely writing off channels. I see it in forums. I see it at presentations. I see it on Twitter. Marketers saying, “You can’t use this channel. It doesn’t work for this specific industry.” We’ve all heard it. And I’m sure you’ve even seen this in your own situation. Have you ever been traditionally told that a channel won’t work for your space, but then be met with a wild surprise on the other end when you do run with it?

Talia: Oh, yeah. I actually had a really funny thing happen to me a couple of years ago. I opened a Snapchat account and I was using it and I thought, “You know what? I’m just going to try and do videos.” And everyone kept saying to me, “You’re wasting your time on Snapchat. Snapchat is not for B2B, just invest in LinkedIn and other channels.” But I persisted because I am who I am. And basically, every day I posted a video, explaining something, breaking down an idea, a concept. I think I did it for three weeks, every single day, and I ended up with so much traffic to my website that I was blown away, blown away.

Ross: Amazing. I love that. That’s what it’s all about. So many people are just like, “No, you can’t touch Snapchat. You’re a B2B.” And it’s funny, this is what I want to talk about today because one of those channels that people always say, “You can’t use that to drive results. It doesn’t generate leads. No business people are using it,” is Instagram. And I think Instagram and Snapchat for some reason have this bad reputation and now TikTok as well, but those are all episodes for another day, that get this bad reputation around not working for B2B, but they can work.

Ross: So what I want us to talk about today are some ways in which B2B professionals, whether you sell a service, whether you work for a software company, whether you’re in a manufacturing company, whether you’re in any type of B2B industry, freelance, you name it can leverage Instagram to drive results. So let’s jump in. I think it can be used in the first part that I want to reference to folks is at the core, we’re talking to people, right? No matter what channel you use, whether you’re using LinkedIn, you’re using Facebook, at its core, you’re talking to people. And the same thing that connects with people on those other channels connects with the same type of people on Instagram.

So for example, when you think about the type of content that connects with the B2B professional on a community forum or on LinkedIn or on Twitter, for the most part that same type of content can work extremely well on Instagram. At its core, is fundamental understanding of storytelling. And if you can understand how to tell stories that resonate with people, that move people, that can consistently give value to people, I think you can be successful on Instagram, just like you can be on any other channels. If you were to talk about, from your perspective, that element of storytelling and how it can be used on Instagram, do you have any perspective on that as a whole? What do you think folks need to know when it comes to using Instagram for B2B marketing?

Talia: Well, I love the concept and the idea of leading with storytelling. When people think about B2B marketing, they think about data. They think about numbers. They think about graphs and reports. When in fact, there’s people behind the screen that have feelings and emotions, they’re not robots, right? They’re people.

Ross: Right.

Talia: And at the end of the day, what people really connect with is the story. It’s what happens behind it. It’s the motives, the intent, the different emotional triggers that affect us and that guide us. So when we’re using storytelling, we’re doing a great job at essentially guiding people towards a certain feeling, towards a certain conclusion. So I feel like Instagram and even Facebook stories and even Snapchat in the past, or maybe TikTok today can be used so well in order to tell that story versus other mediums that are very specific to B2B, but have a more serious tone to them and are harder to use in that way.

So when you utilize storytelling and you tell the story of the customer, of the audience, something they can relate to, something they can look at the screen and nod or laugh or say, “Oh my gosh, this person really gets me,” or, “this Brian understands me,” then you are doing a better service for your prospects than any LinkedIn ad can or any blog post on your official blog of the website can. It really does at the end of the day, depend on the way you tell the story and what the story includes.

Ross: A hundred percent. And I think one of the pieces that is key that you mentioned there subtly within your conversation is the power of being a human, right? A lot of times we forget the fact, especially in the world of freelance and service providers, that people do business with people. So if you are running your own business, you can also leverage the fact that you are a human to build deeper connections with folks. And I think that, that’s also a very underrated element of storytelling is showing people who you are as a human and then connecting with people through that.

Ross: So let’s get into the tactical side of things. So when we’re talking about content on Instagram, there’s essentially in my mind, three different types of content that you can create. And I want to have a bit of a dialogue and give folks some examples, or maybe try to give some top of mind inspiration around what they can do here. It’s what we call the three E’s so to speak, educational content, engaging content and entertaining content. If you can create content that fall into those three categories on Instagram, I believe you will be able to create an Instagram account that is able to drive results.

I grew the Hustle & Grind Instagram account to over 150,000 followers back two or three years ago. It was not B2B, but the same philosophy and the same ideas that grew that account has worked for B2B brands. So let’s dive into that first one a little bit, educational content. It’s very explicit in the title, what it is, what it means, it’s content that educates. And if you go to your discover screen on Instagram and you start to scroll through, it’s very likely that at some point, you’re going to see some type of content that educates you on something.

Now, a lot of times when I say educational content, people get caught up in this idea that, “Ross, are you talking about being like a professor? Do I have to be very educational in terms of putting on a suit and a tie and being overly analytical?” No, not at all. When you’re educating people about something, you could be educating them about new products that you’re launching. You could be educating them on new theories, new ideas, new tactics. You can educate people on all of these different things. And if you’re wondering, “But I thought Instagram was just for images,” it’s not. You can also use infographics. You can use rich media, you can use graphs, you can use charts, you can use a variety of different types of content to go into that educational story, to drive results for yourself, just the same as you would on any other platform.

So anything to add to that, have you seen any examples or any ideas further to just demonstrate the power of educational content?

Talia: Definitely. I think one of the best things about Instagram is that you can use it to tease content that you already have. So for example, if you’ve created a wonderful guide or worksheet on your blog, you could use Instagram to tease it. That means that you could create specific images with a quote, or you could create videos telling people about this educational content and what you’re teaching them, maybe giving away one of the tips and sending people to that educational content. So on one hand you can create specific new educational content for Instagram, or you could use Instagram in order to promote the content that you already have and just drive more traffic to it.

Ross: Love that. Exactly. I think that’s the key. It’s to, again, go back to some of our fundamentals that we’ve talked about before. Don’t let your pieces of content die on the platform that you use to create them, start to republish and re-share that stuff on other channels as well.

So the second E that we talked about was engaging content. And this is interesting because for a lot of people, when it comes to social media, they view it more as a monologue, rather than a dialogue, but it’s called social media for a reason, folks. You’re supposed to be social. You’re supposed to interact with one another. And that is the key to having a successful account on Instagram. The comments is where the magic happens, in the DMs is where the magic happens. So if you can create content that sparks a dialogue, it could be as simple as asking people’s opinion on a topic or asking people what they think on a topic or what they would add to a certain list that you may have created. Engaging content on Instagram can do extremely well.

Do you have, again, any other ideas or examples that we could dive into around engaging content?

Talia: Yeah, I mean, not specific to Instagram, but I’m going to give a shout out to Karen who listened to our previous episode on how to set goals for yourself, went into Twitter and shared a screenshot of what she was doing and she was building her own goals. So I feel like when you take away that conversation, when you take away the opportunity for people to engage with you on any platform, you are doing a disservice to yourself and to your prospects. So engaging content is about essentially creating something that gets people interested, communicating and asking you questions and sharing more stuff. So I definitely think that it’s a great and important thing to do.

Ross: Yes. I love that. I think engaging content is oftentimes completely underestimated and it’s a super valuable channel or super valuable format that you can embrace.

So the last one, entertaining. And this is a tough one because I think a lot of people, when I say entertaining content, they think, “Ross, I’m not a standup comedian. I don’t have that type of personality. I’m not hilarious. That’s not something I can do.” But I think entertaining content is not exactly as hard as many people think. When I talk about entertaining content, we’re talking about content that is hearted, that might put a smile on your face, that is surprising or even inspiring. So anything that makes your audience feel good, can be considered entertaining content. And some folks may say, “I don’t want to be the person who’s always sharing inspirational quotes.” And sure, you don’t have to, but you can find your own lane where you start to create content that provides joy to your audience. And that does wonders.

Again, we have a episode all about Bob Ross and how he was able to provide entertainment to folks, not by being corny, not by being cheesy, but always just being himself and being a genuine human. And I think at its core, if you are doing that, you’re able to provide people with entertainment and that can work wonders.

Talia: Yeah, I think it always goes back to the fact that B2B companies really do think that they have to wear a suit and tie. It’s really hard for so many industries in the B2B space to embrace the idea that they can be more authentic, can be more entertaining, can embrace a more humorist tone. At the end of the day, you don’t have to be stuck into a certain way because we’re not in the 1950s anymore or the 1960s.

Ross: Exactly.

Talia: What people expect is a brand that communicates with them. And we connect with people. We mentioned this at the beginning, it’s all about human connection relate-ability. So even if you’re selling a software for accounting or for doing HR, we’re connecting with people. We are trying to form relationships and connections with people that we can trust. And when you are entertaining, and this doesn’t mean a video of you dancing, but even showing the people behind the screen, showing the company dog, or just sending out an email with a more personal story about why you created this product, how it began, where this journey started, that’s all entertaining because it connects with people on a deeper level than just here’s another email or notification about what’s going on in your platform. It’s just more engaging and it creates a better relationship.

Ross: A hundred percent. I want to share with folks, just a post that I saw from the company HubSpot, which is a marketing automation platform on Instagram. So they shared this during the crisis a few weeks back. And it just said, “Company started during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and then enlisted companies like Venmo, Square, Groupon, Slack, WhatsApp.” It listed some of the companies that were able to essentially be launched in a moment of turmoil and then eventually thrive. And they just had a simple caption. It said, “Remember, great things can emerge from tough times. Where are you going to find inspiration right now?” That post does everything that we’ve just talked about.

Talia: Wow.

Ross: It educates folks on brands that existed back then and were able to come out of it better. It’s engaging because it asks that question, “Where are you finding inspiration right now?” And it’s entertaining because it connects with you emotionally to make you feel inspired. They had over 50 comments and people were commenting saying, “This is the post that we need. This is the post that we want.” So folks, B2B brands, that is the blueprint. You create content that’s educational, engaging and entertaining, and you can unlock some amazing results through Instagram.

So with all that said, I want to wrap this all up by saying, folks also, don’t forget to embrace all the various formats, carousels, videos, your stories, et cetera. Instagram is always rolling out new features. So don’t be afraid to use them. Talia, over to you. How do you think we should wrap this up? Anything else to add?

Talia: Well, I’m just going to tell people to…

Ross: I think I know where you’re going to go with this.

Talia: It’s always going to be the same, isn’t it? Don’t forget to give us a five star review and meet us in our Facebook group, Geez, we chose a really long name.

Ross: We did.

Talia: See you later, guys.

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