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Instagram: A Suitable Platform For Businesses?6 min read

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When the world is littered with Kardashians and their many loyal followers, hipster cafes serving all kinds of avocado toast, and cats in pyjamas, Instagram’s success as a social media platform follows as a mere logical extension of users wanting to share and capture a moment of their day.

It comes as no surprise that Instagram works well on an individual basis. But when the platform is largely used to satiate the narcissist within us (don’t lie, we’re all guilty!), can it also be compatible with the needs and wants of a business, particularly that of one in the B2B industry?

Does Instagram’s evolution facilitate business success?

Instagram are now seeing themselves not just as the platform of self-promotion, but as a useful business tool. This is evident from their recent rolling-out of Instagram Business Tools, which I actually found whilst scrolling my own personal Instagram on my train into work the other day.

To take advantage of the new business tools, you need to switch your Instagram profile to a business profile within your account settings. By doing this, the platform fits your business, as opposed to your business fitting the platform.

Whilst you can use it for its original purposes, the Business setting allows you to add a phone number, email or location to allow potential customers to reach you directly from a button on your profile.

In a similar vein to Adwords or Facebook for Business, Instagram also gives you access to Insights which can be used to take stock of your post performance and learn more about those who are engaging with you.

The platform itself is actually owned by Facebook, which means the two platforms can be easily linked together and ads can be rolled out across them both. As well as this, Instagram have taken inspiration from Snapchat’s ‘stories’ to share live(ish) content with followers.

This now begs the question as to whether businesses should take Instagram seriously as a business platform, or if it should be left to the #selfiequeens and hipster cafes of the world.

If you’re in the B2C industry, then Instagram is a big double-tap for your business!

For B2C businesses, it generally works pretty well, providing you target the right audiences. In particular it seems to work well for those selling very visual products, such as food, automobile, music, travel, fashion and beauty industries. Instagram allows them to expose images of their beautiful products and brand identities directly to their potential customers whilst they scroll through their feed to try and attract them away from Instagram and onto their website.

Whilst some use it as purely channel for raising brand awareness, increasingly brands have been successfully using it as a channel to increase sales. For example, HARD Events, a gig organiser used the platform to drive ticket sales, resulting in a double-digit return on ad-spend. In addition to this, Sparkle in Pink, a Children’s fashion retailer, increase their monthly sales by 9% using video ads on Instragram.

The key to their success lies within getting their posts in front of the right audiences, which unfortunately isn’t just those who already follow them. To reach beyond an existing follower base, you have to pay to advertise to your desired audience, which means that in order to really make it a platform worth investing much of your time on, you should also be willing and able to invest some of your marketing budget.

Think outside the box for B2B

For most B2B businesses, the jury is still out as to whether it is worth investing time and money through Instagram. The biggest challenge for B2B businesses comes with generating visual content that will appeal to their target audience whilst they are on a platform which is not traditionally used for business.

There are few B2B Instagram case studies, and even fewer which detail any stories of return on investment. Instagram list only one on their long list of success stories which comes from B2B giant SalesForce, who used Instagram to drive registrations and boost awareness for its Dreamforce 2015 conference. They highlight that the campaign reached almost 5 million people on Instagram and had a click-through rate of 1%. There is however, no mention as to how many of the 5 million visitors actually registered.

Though lead generation through Instagram could work for B2B based on these numbers, for now it may have to take a back seat; we have not seen the evidence to suggest it can bring a return and as such, we would be hesitant to invest much of our advertising budget into the platform as a B2B business ourselves.

There is an argument, however, for B2B businesses to use Instagram as a tool for successfully increasing brand awareness and engagement. The SalesForce case study does indeed show the power Instagram advertising has for business to reach large new audiences and to bring them to the site.

What about for smaller B2B businesses?

Keeping your Instagram marketing personal and occasionally unrelated to your business can be really successful.
Keeping your Instagram marketing informal and occasionally unrelated to your business can be really successful.

For those smaller businesses who don’t necessarily have the money to invest in brand awareness campaigns, we see non-paid posting as an opportunity for B2B businesses to step away from formalities and show a more human side of their business. The content should be less formal, and something that will engage others on their commute into or out of work, on their lunch break or indeed, just people who have stumbled upon your page through the ‘explore’ function (provided you are using hashtags in your posts). In a world where “people buy people”, showing ‘behind the scenes’ and presenting the overall business identity and personality could be the key to B2B Instagram success.

For B2B, Instagram can be used as a more personal outlet. A place where you can undo the top button and loosen the tie of your business. Yoma UK, a fellow digital marketing agency does this well with the often-used but largely successful methods of posting cute quotes and fun facts, as well as daily updates from the office or when the team are out and about.

If you are going to give it a go, we strongly recommend that you make sure you measure performance based on the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your objectives. For brand awareness and perception focus on the engagement from each post, through comments, likes and shares, and keep an eye on how much traffic it actually brings to your site each month, and then how long they stay on your site and how many pages they look at. As with all other marketing channels, controlled testing and measurement is key to really answer the question as to whether ANY channel is worthwhile for any business!

As a small agency, we’ve been researching the utility of Instagram extensively before we took the leap into showcasing our business and brand on the platform. However, as the New Year looms ever closer we think it may be a worthwhile project for Q1, so expect to see us on there soon! Now to figure out which filter to use first, X-Pro II, Valencia or Lo-Fi? Hmm…

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