Here at PLANOLY, we love seeing how some of the world's most renowned consumer brands use Instagram to build their communities, tell impactful stories, and of course sell their products. At the other end of the spectrum, however, are another group of innovative companies who are also using social media to generate more clientele and awareness — Enter B2B companies. With that in mind, today's article demonstrates a few ways to leverage Instagram to create a relevant (yet social media-friendly) narrative as a niche B2B business and also highlights a few relevant companies in the space that are uniquely using Instagram to grow their brand.
The B2B Landscape
As we touched on in our article "Understanding B2B + B2C Content," B2B brands vary from B2C companies in that they are targeting other businesses as their clientele as opposed to individual consumers. When assessing the landscape, the rise of consumer brands has inevitably helped to create opportunities for B2B companies to offer their specialized agency, technology, manufacturing services and more. We'll showcase a few specific examples later in the article, but no matter the industry, below are a few ways these particular companies can utilize Instagram as a form of accessible brand and community-building.
1. Educate. We touched on this in our past article, but as a B2B company, an important way to generate new business is to establish yourself as a leader in your industry. That's where educational content comes in. And coupled with Instagram's readily-available in-app tools, there are a number of ways to translate educational content into something that's fun and digestible. Depending on your business' service offering and industry, the kinds of content within this category may vary from sharing data and statistics to Q&A's with existing clients or collaborators in your industry that support your company's overall mission. Using Instagram to do this can be especially game-changing, as you have the ability to not only tell your story through content but reach a whole new global audience (and with that, potential new customers too).
2. Innovate. As a B2B business, you must be up to the challenge of not only exceeding expectations in the quality of your services but demonstrate how you're innovating in your particular industry (and in turn, why a customer should come to you over your competitors). You can showcase this further by using Instagram to differentiate yourself through dynamic and creative content that is ahead of the trends. For example, if you notice your competitors posting more static imagery on their Instagram grids, consider how posting video testimonials or customer spotlights may set you apart and provide something more interesting for your social audience. Chances are, if you can use your Instagram posts as a way to show how innovative you are with content, your audience will be further enticed to see how that same thoughtful point of view and approach translates into your actual service offerings.
3. Inspire. While you're always in the market for new business, when using Instagram, it's important to find a happy medium between posting content that is storytelling-focused versus overly promotional. In fact, many of the best B2B brands have mastered the art of doing both in one post. At the end of the day, business in any capacity is all about engaging PEOPLE, so posting inspiring content that appeals to their values and interests is the best way to create a memorable experience that captures and maintains prospective clients' interest. And while this type of content may not overtly result in sales, it is an organic way to begin building long-term relationships and sparking conversations with relevant clients and collaborators by offering something that is of value that they'll want to share with others.
While there is a big difference in the target audiences between B2C and B2B companies, thanks to our digital-first landscape there is still overlap in the way both of these businesses can attract and retain customers through social media storytelling. Below are a few examples of B2B companies who have mastered the art of Instagram not only to build relationships with new customers but maintain them as well. Let's look at Lumi (@lumi), a company that creates packaging for brands in fashion, lifestyle, and more. Despite their specialized offering, the company has done an incredible job at building a fresh and consistent social narrative across channels. Looking at their Instagram specifically, Lumi shares beautiful product photography of their finished packaging for a wide range of clients. This approach not only helps cultivate a recognizable aesthetic but further reinforces brand credibility as it shows prospective clients that Lumi works with some of the leading companies in their respective industries. Lumi has also taken this one step further with a few storytelling series including #BehindtheBox (which primarily features brand founders on their Instagram Stories), a holiday gift guide series spotlighting socially conscious brands (and featuring interactive Stories and beautifully-shot Grid post imagery), along with a dedicated highlight for their brand podcast Well Made. All of these initiatives demonstrate Lumi's creative acumen and understanding of the immense opportunities that come with using Instagram to make an otherwise very specific need or service something that's exciting for everyone.
Our next example is Mailchimp (@mailchimp), an email marketing platform for small businesses. Similar to Lumi, Mailchimp has managed to tap into the spirit of the business community and use Instagram to educate and inspire its users. If we look at Mailchimp's Instagram 2018 content as a whole, we'll see some variation visually but through the brand's use of a humorous tone of voice, Mailchimp has managed to consistently tap into to the funnier, more human side of the business which can also appeal to the greater Instagram community outside of its immediate customer base. Through dynamic visual media, Mailchimp has also used the platform to market its services through fun lifestyle customer spotlight videos, Q&As with collaborators, and other creative media to reinforce the chimpanzee as being part of its brand identity. This approach shows Mailchimp's thoughtful strategy as the company continues to provide content that relates to their services in an easily digestible way while championing their team and collaborators through creative content.
Our last example is WGSN (@wgsn), a leading trend forecasting and insights company for fashion and lifestyle brands. This global company offers a plethora of products, services, and events tailored to the specific needs of their customers. However, WGSN has done an incredible job at honing its Instagram content to both market its service offerings and also share its editors' perspectives through industry- specific and lifestyle posts. Additionally, much of the content also points back to larger stories featured on WGSN's blog "WGSN Insights" for customers and non-customers alike. And when looking at WGSN's Instagram Stories and IGTV content, the company also uses these aspects of the in-app experience to further educate its follower base through reportage, trend round-ups, and real-time industry news at events like fashion week. With all of these details in mind, this example further demonstrates WGSN's strategic use of culturally-relevant content to touch on its different services while also engaging with those in the greater fashion and design industries, and in turn, potential customers.
As Instagram continues to evolve the app experience and roll-out new features, there are many ways that both B2B and B2C brands alike can grow their audiences and foster opportunities for new business. However, one takeaway we hope B2B brands can learn from this particular article is that creating a fun and accessible brand story on Instagram is an essential way to capture and retain the attention of your customer base! We encourage you to use PLANOLY's grid planning ability to curate a fun and visually engaging feed that tells the story of (and services offered by) your brand. For more information on how to do this effectively, be sure to peruse our Best Practices section here on the PLANOLY Blog or reach out to our team directly!