Instagram is the home of the ‘#nofilter’, your friends holiday snaps and Kim Kardashian. So why is it that businesses are putting more and more marketing resource into Instagram? I can give you 400+ million reasons why. Users. Instagram is the social network for sharing photos and videos. It’s a place for people to engage with friends, family, hobbies, and brands they love through likes, shares and comments.

If you’re not already familiar with Instagram then let’s just briefly look at how it came about. It was originally a relatively quiet social network just for sharing images with friends. That was until Instagram incorporated photo filters making images pretty, then ‘BANG’ the whole thing blew up! While celebrities like Justin Bieber and Tom Hanks snapped photos of their breakfast and cars accumulating millions of likes, Facebook saw the power and ferocity at which this network was growing and continues to grow. Zuckerberg and his team acquired the app for $1 billion in 2012.

Some believe the Facebook.com era is dwindling as people turn to the Instagrams and Snapchats of the world. I partly agree with this statement. Seldom do I use Facebook these days, but Instagram and Snapchat? I check both multiple times per day. So how do businesses utilise the power of Instagram?

Learn the language

At SalesSeek we realise the importance of visualising your product. That’s why we put so much time into making our platform, not just functional, but pleasurable to look at and use. On Instagram, visualising your brand is king. Every social site has it’s own language; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat etc. Don’t fall into the trap that these all simply fall into one box: ‘Social Media’. They all have their distinctive voice, producing a specific type of experience that users go to when they want the specific content the platform provides. So what is Instagram’s language? It’s beautifully constructed visual content.

PayPal did a great job over the holidays by using a striking image and asking their followers to engage with their brand at an emotional level.

An example of PayPal's Instagram Post

Realise the limitations

There are a few technical limitations to Instagram: although Instagram does have a web version, it does not let you post images from your browser. Instagram is primarily designed for iOS and Android mobile users on the move, but remember not everybody has an iOS or Android device.

Images are not linkable, therefore you will not be able to push someone back to your website or a landing page. However, you can put a link in your profile: think past just adding your website URL, your Instagram content might naturally want to link to a blog or a resources page on your website, this can also change if you’re running a campaign or making an announcement. These limitations are by no means disadvantages, look at them as simple guides to communicate using this language. Millions of users deal with it, so can your business.

How others use Instagram

People are on Instagram to explore during their private time, they do not want be sold to. Therefore it’s imperative that we respect the fact that if you are hard selling and pushing your b2b offers you are most likely intruding into people’s private space and time. If your business is new to Instagram, you don’t want to start selling straight away. The best way to start is by expressing your brand in a way that enhances existing user experience. Naturally the people that align with your brand values, aesthetic and story, will begin to like your content, follow your page and share your message. This often means you don’t even have to hard sell.

Below, UPS creatively wish their followers a Happy New Year.

Share your story

So if you can’t link a post to a page what can you do with Instagram? Your brand, like every other, has a personality and a story. Instagram is the perfect place to share with the world your brand values and personality through picture and film.

Identify a few key points that make your company special and show them through visual story. Show users how your business helps people and makes their lives easier, and what you care about. Maybe it’s a chance to tell a side of your story that you haven’t been able to before. A behind the scenes look at what your company does. Some good examples of b2b companies using Instagram often show the team behind the product. You need to put the product aside almost completely and instead show the why, who and how behind the product.

Xero do a great job of telling the stories of clients who use their software

Xero sharing client stories on Instagram

Share your culture
How do you motivate your team on Monday? Early morning rave? Aerobics? How does your team socialise? Do you have weekly celebrations of work you have completed? Employee of the week?

Vayner Media celebrating Fridays in style, expressed through Instagram

Your Instagram doesn’t always have to feature an amazingly well crafted image that’s part of a carefully thought out campaign. Don’t be afraid to just snap an image of your after work drinks on Friday or your colleague presenting a new release or product. Maybe you have a ‘bring your pet’ day and feel like capturing some of the chaos? If your company has existed for a long time, it can also be a good opportunity to share your history and bring out the ‘once upon a time’ side of your story.

Share your news
Celebrate progress, new clients, partnerships, show events you’re attending and announce upcoming ones. When you have started to grow your list of followers, they want to know about news. By creating a following on a specific platform it’s also a great way to give them access to news that you won’t release on any other platform, or they get first dibs. And who wouldn’t prefer a beautiful image over a typed press release?

What are the essential tools to start with
1) Good story tellers, a strong story and creative minds.

2) A good camera. You don’t have to use your camera phone. There are plenty of ‘how to’ articles online for getting your DSLR image from your camera to your phone so you can post it on Instagram.

3) Some strong ideas about what you can post

4) A good eye. Some of your posts will want to be well constructed images, especially if a campaign or post requires it. Make sure you have a good eye handy.

5) Time and resources needed to deliver a lively account. Like any social site, to meaningfully connect with an audience on any platform, you need to put time and resource into growing your community and engaging them with high quality content.

6) Oh, and good light! No matter if your taking an image on your phone or if you have the person handy with a DSLR, make sure the light enhances your photo, not ruin it. Good natural light brings out the detail and makes for a pleasing view. Avoid using flash unless you want the 90’s rave.

An important thing to consider is what your company’s specific needs are right now. Where are you at? Are you a young startup with a small team and limited resources, are you managing a number of other social sites, what’s the nature of your business? As great as Instagram is, lead generation, getting your team culture right, or even owning your company story might need to be your main focus. When you decide to cross over into the Instagram world just make sure you consider the points above and be consistent. Be sure to reserve your companies name if you can. If you get it right you will unlock a whole new community wanting to engage with your brand. You’ll also have a whole lot of fun!