Instagram turned four years old this past October and shortly thereafter surpassed Twitter in number of users – 300 million. A picture is worth a thousand words – or at least more than 140 characters – yet few B2B marketers have effectively incorporated Instagram into their content marketing strategies.

Sure, nearly everyone scrambled to sign up for Instagram when it arrived on the scene, just as they do with every other new social media site, but the keyword here is “effectively.” Like most social media sites, Instagram naturally lends itself to B2C, and brands have been able to easily tap into the appeal of an image-driven approach to storytelling. Instagram offers the same benefits to B2B companies, but B2B marketers seemed to be stumped by how to go about creating a clear content marketing strategy that maximizes the potential of the image sharing site and drives digital word-of-mouth.

Do B2B brands really need to include Instagram in their content marketing strategy?

Most definitely. The brain process visual information 60,000 times faster than the time it takes for the brain to decode text. As a result, storytelling has given way to visual storytelling or, more accurately, storyshowing. Instagram offers a way for brands to do just that. An Instagram account becomes a visual profile comprised of images that illustrate the company’s story, products/services, technology, culture, educational content and geography. Photographs help to humanize a brand, which is just as important for B2B as it is for B2C. People buy from people, and at the end of the day it is a person at a business that will decide whether or not to make a purchase.

How can B2B brands best utilize Instagram?

  1. Embrace the Geek. As a B2B company you may think your products, services or technology are too boring for the masses, but that is just not true. Geek is chic so let it shine. Share pictures that take followers behind the scenes, highlight what you offer and include team members getting involved. Photos with people get more shares. You can also post educational or instructional photos and videos to showcase what you do best.
  2. Tap into Hashtags. Use #tbt (Throwback Thursday) to share old images of flagship products, your business journey and employees. Identify “holidays” like #StarWarsDay, #HumpDay or #NationalDonutDay. Get creative and join the fun by tying the themes back to your products/service or featuring images that highlight your company culture.
  3. Share record events, anniversaries, new investments, success stories and achievements to highlight the company journey and people in your business. Don’t forget to share images from team building and out-of-office events to show more of the company culture.
  4. Drop a Pin. Include pictures from each of your offices, business trips, events and trade shows. Create a visual travel blog and tell a story through your journey. Use geo-tagging and hashtags relevant to the city, location, or topic to ensure your post reaches more ideal customers and local people on Instagram.
  5. Up the Design. Use filters and third party apps to enhance photos and make them more engaging. Keep in mind that you aren’t just limited to photos so unleash your inner graphic designer with Canva and add a logo, slogan or call to action within the image.
  6. Encourage Employee Involvement. Making Instagram a part of your employee advocacy program is one of the easiest ways to broaden your brand’s reach and increase engagement via digital word-of-mouth. Comment on and like your employees’ photos from your brand account to boost relationships within your company. Let different employees take over the company Instagram account for a day and document #DayInTheLife. Make it a competition and see who can get the most shares. (Don’t forget to have your social media guidelines in place first.)
  7. Engage with Influencers. Follow influencers in your industry, like and comment on their posts, and pay attention to the hashtags they are using. Join the conversation by sharing relevant images and using the same hashtags. Connecting with group leaders, bloggers, and forum moderators provides brands with the opportunity to reach target audiences via trusted advisors – the influencer and increase digital word-of-mouth.
  8. Bonus Tip: While Instagram doesn’t allow you to include a URL in the body of your message, there is another way to drive people to a link. Change the link on your profile and direct people to click on that. Change it up as often as you need. Mashable has seen success with this.

Which B2B companies are killing it on Instagram?

If the above ideas aren’t enough to inspire you to take your Instagram account to the next level then check out IBM and Mailchimp. IBM has an engagement rate 4.04 percent and Mailchimp is hot on the computing giant’s heels with an engagement rate of 3.98 percent. To give you some perspective on those numbers – top retail brands have an engagement rate of 4 percent. Companies need to remember to not just focus on increasing followers, but rather switch their focus to creating content that resonates with their audience. IBM and Mailchimp are prime examples of how B2B companies can integrate Instagram into a content marketing strategy and tell their story visually. Their posts are varied, engaging and creative. So snap those photos, experiment in Canva and don’t be afraid to have a little fun.