ClearEdge Blog: From the Edge

Is Instagram the Next Social Media Sweet Spot for Building Your Brand?

October 3rd, 2012 | Jennifer Higgins

A look at this insanely fast-growing photo-sharing platform for B-to-B Marketing

From sports teams and coffee beans to energy drinks and designer clothes, Instagram is making its way as a key component of the marketing mix for many brands. Companies like Puma, Starbucks, Burberry, Red Bull and even sports teams like the Boston Celtics have successfully integrated this photo sharing site as a way to connect with their target audiences. But is there a place for Instagram in the marketing mix for businesses who sell a service – like technology consulting, IT staffing services and business solutions?

In talking with a handful of ClearEdge clients about the use of Instagram for B-to-B marketing, the response is mixed. Some have only recently been introduced to this free photo sharing program – thanks to their kids – while others are in fact using it personally and to professionally promote their business. Most people I’ve talked to are somewhere in the middle – they use it personally, but don’t quite see the connection to using it as part of their company’s marketing strategy.Instagram logo

With Instagram’s recent acquisition by Facebook, the number of registered Instagram users – currently at 100 million – is sure to grow and its use by businesses will likely do the same. One more social media platform to leverage – great, right?!

The benefit of Instagram for promoting products is clear, but what are some ways that professional services companies can use Instagram today? In the short-term, following are three ways we at ClearEdge see Instagram being effective for B-to-B use:

  1. Building Culture. If your company engages in volunteer efforts or hosts company outings, post to Instagram and you’ve suddenly shared a slice of what your business stands for. Promoting your company’s alignment with charitable organizations through Instagram also lets that organization share your company’s volunteer efforts with all of their connections – further spreading the word on your company’s culture. And with the domino effects of adding hashtags (the # sign) to keywords in your comments on Instagram, you’ve even further expanded the reach of your post if someone searches your hashtag. For example, say you post a picture of your client outing at a major sports event. If you write a caption that reads “ABC Company having a great time at the #ChicagoBears #football game”, people searching for the terms ChicagoBears or football may see your photo.
  2. Employee or Candidate Recruitment. For companies looking to recruit employees or candidates, Instagram is a great way to go behind the scenes and share photos of work in action, brainstorming sessions, client sites, etc. Let employees take part in the posting – as your most loyal brand promoters, what better way to get a real picture (no pun intended) of life at X company. Of course, clear guidelines on proper photos should be set, but work to make sure that the guidelines are not so restrictive that they stifle clever and creative contributions.
  3. Promoting an Event. If your company is hosting an event or participating in one, posting photos before, during and after on Instagram will have far-reaching effects. It’s a great way to not only promote or share what’s happening at the event, but also build credibility for your company around the event topic. Plus, with the “geo-tagging” feature, the user can easily transfer event location information to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Foursquare. In fact, the Instagram app incorporates a photo map to show where the photo was taken.

The long and the short of it: Instagram is a social media network to watch. We anticipate its use continuing to evolve and expand to include more opportunities for B-to-B marketing. By design, Instagram is meant to work in conjunction with other platforms, so begin by asking yourself the following question: Thinking about our target audience and the goals of our social media marketing efforts, what are some creative and value-add ways we can integrate Instagram into our existing strategies? It’s a free platform – so why not give a couple ideas a try?

Have you used Instagram for B-to-B purposes? We invite you to post your stories and share ideas here.

One Response to “Is Instagram the Next Social Media Sweet Spot for Building Your Brand?”

  1. Thibaut Davoult Says:

    Hey Jennifer, that’s a great article with 3 guidelines that are paramount to a successful brand presence on Instagram.
    I’m writing my comment because still think you’re missing a very important opportunity that Instagram offers: the capacity to truly interact with customers and fans, in ways other networks (that don’t have this photo-DNA) cannot. I’d go even further and say brands should encourage their fans to create content for them: like TOMS shoes are doing with their “How We Wear Them” page.
    One of the ways to do that is to communicate personalized hashtags with your fans and tracking them (it’s also good to track events and contests) and then use apps that lets you repost this content directly into a Webpage or Facebook tab.
    Let me introduce you to a product I’m helping to build: Nitrogram. http://nitrogr.am is helping brands use Instagram for Marketing. It’s a web-based tool that allows users to connect an Instagram account and track hashtags/users (by reach, number of photos, etc), so it gives analytics not unlike facebook does with fanpages. Then it allows to easily embed Instagram content into a web page, a facebook tab or a blogpost. Lastly, it allows for in-browser commenting and liking of photos.
    I’d be delighted to have your opinion on this: do you think Instagram is good to pull customer-created content too?

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