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What You Need to Know About Instagram Stories for B2B Marketing

Instagram Stories for B2B Marketing

Instagram Stories for B2B Marketing Why would B2B brands be interested in using Instagram Stories as a marketing channel? It starts with a very simple premise: B2B customers are people, and people use Instagram, which eclipsed 1 billion active monthly users over the summer. And when it comes to the platform’s “Stories” format, it surpassed the similarly oriented Snapchat in users within a year of its 2016 launch. Instagram Active Users Of course, the issue here is more one of context. Can business-focused content really succeed on a social network that slants so strongly toward casual, leisure surfing? As we’ll see, B2B companies are showing that yes, it can. And there’s plenty of opportunity to take it a step further.

Businesses Are Taking Interest in Instagram Stories

As Digiday noted last month, the popularity and versatile functionality of Instagram Stories have prompted advertisers to shift more of their ad spend to the platform. In the same piece, we learn that completion rates for Instagram Stories are on the rise, and younger age groups have been gravitating toward them. With these insights in mind, it’s easy to see why Instagram Stories are attracting a larger share of commercial consciousness. There’s also one feature in particular that makes this format appealing for marketers, even compared to standard Instagram advertising: The ability to integrate links and calls to action. Typically, Instagram only allows you to include an external hyperlink in your user bio. But with Stories, you can drop a CTA into each individual piece of content. For B2B brands, which are often more focused on measurable marketing outcomes than their B2C counterparts, this is huge. This turns each piece of content into its own referral opportunity, and it allows connected pieces of content to be organized into a living content funnel,” writes Jonathan Crowl at the Content Standard. “While the experience of watching multiple pieces of connected content can function as a content funnel, qualifying users and leading them toward a conversion, each individual piece of content can potentially serve as its own CTA, leading users to a corresponding external destination relevant to their position in the content funnel.” Reports suggest that links in Instagram Stories were generating “swipe-through rates” of 15%-25% within a month of the functionality being rolled out.

Why Instagram Stories Are Gaining B2B Buzz

In his aforementioned article, Crowl cites examples of IBM leveraging Instagram Stories for thought leadership, and MailChimp using it to showcase company culture. These are mainstays for B2B content marketing, and Instagram is well suited for them as a platform. “Stories is the one place where brands are able to actually give people a peek behind the curtain in terms of who they are and what they’re all about,” said Instagram’s Morgan Cornelius in a recent interview with Fast Company. “This allows them to establish authenticity with their customers.” As we frequently emphasize here on the TopRank Blog, authenticity is a critical differentiator for B2B brands, albeit a difficult one to nail down. The other big advantage of Instagram Stories lies in serialized storytelling. This style of content delivery can drive much greater engagement and build trust with storytelling — both top B2B priorities. Clever use of narrative in combination with the CTA functionality enables marketers to “create a mini-funnel to drive viewers toward a conversion,” suggests Nina Zoukelman of Oktopost, pointing to a campaign where Cisco strung together interactive visual insights from its Annual Cybersecurity Report before inviting viewers to click and download the PDF: Instagram Stories Tutorial [bctt tweet=”The other big advantage of #InstagramStories lies in serialized #storytelling. – @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

Why Many B2B Brands Remain Reluctant

As we alluded earlier, there are some lingering hold-ups when it comes to using Instagram for B2B marketing. One is the mindset and demographics of its users, who tend to skew younger and more casual. There’s also the makeup of Instagram’s content, which is primarily visual. This often works well for B2C companies marketing products, but not necessarily as well for B2B companies marketing solutions or services. The Instagram Stories format itself has some drawbacks as well. For instance, Digiday points out that these are not great for increasing your overall footprint on the platform: “Posts that aren’t Instagram Stories generate three times more reach on average compared to those that are.” This is offset by the highly engaging nature of this content, but if you don’t have much of a following on the ‘Gram yet, your brand may not find a ton of value in this approach.

The Untapped B2B Opportunity in Instagram Stories

According to annual benchmarking research from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, Instagram adoption hasn’t increased all that much for B2B. In 2015 the percentage checked in at 24%, and here in 2018 it’s only up to 30%. So clearly, despite its dramatic user base growth, Instagram still hasn’t caught on with the B2B marketing community at large, in part because of the downsides mentioned above. While Instagram may always be a more B2C-friendly social channel, I have little doubt that it’s going to start gaining more B2B traction, with the business-friendly nature of Instagram Stories helping foster this growth. And since advertisers are still finding their way with Instagram Stories, the cost of placing ads within them remains relatively low compared to the main mobile feed format. Creative and ambitious B2B marketers can get ahead of the curve by using this feature to:

  • Showcase thought leadership and behind-the-scenes company culture
  • Increase authenticity with audiences
  • Create content funnels leading to strategic CTAs
  • Craft compelling serialized stories that engage and inspire

Much like Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories offer a nascent playground for B2B marketing. If you’re looking to experiment with new channels as you peer ahead to 2019, these both stand out as great opportunities. To learn more about the current social media marketing landscape from a B2B-centric perspective, check out these other posts from the TopRank Marketing Blog:

[bctt tweet=”Much like #FacebookStories, #InstagramStories offer a nascent playground for #B2BMarketing. If you’re looking to experiment with new channels as you peer ahead to 2019, these both stand out as great opportunities. – @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

The post What You Need to Know About Instagram Stories for B2B Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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How to Intertwine Online & Offline Tactics to Cultivate B2B Influencer Relationships

Effective B2B influencer marketing is rooted in brands developing and nurturing relationships—relationships with individuals who have the relevant topical expertise, reach, and resonance to align with the goals of the brand.

Of course, those relationships are often cultivated in the digital realm via social media, email, and audio or video conferencing. And that's OK. We've all gone digital.

But there’s simply no replacement for face-to-face communication—and B2B marketers may have more chances than they know to proactively facilitate interactions or take advantage of in-person opportunities as they arise.

It’s time to bridge the digital divide. How? When? Where? Let’s dive in.

#1 - Highlight influencers and/or their brands with live event coverage.

B2B industry conferences and events are marketing gold mines. Not only do events give you an opportunity to have facetime with customers, prospects, and industry experts and influencers, but also the opportunity to create insightful (and influential) content.

If one or more of your warm or targeted influencers or another representative from their brand are delivering a keynote address or are part of a learning track that’s relevant to your audience, plan to attend their sessions and amplify the insights they share via social media, blog content, or both. Giving influencers this kind of thoughtful attention benefits everyone, helping you:

  • Deliver your wider digital audience with credible, relevant, and valuable content.
  • Capitalize on event engagement and reach.
  • Deepen your connections with existing influencer partners.
  • Help grow your partners’ influence among your audience and within the industry.
  • Get on the radar of prospective influencer partners.
  • Provide additional perspective and insight into who your current and prospective partners are, helping you further vet or find new connection points.

[bctt tweet="Cutting edge B2B influencer marketing focuses on both online and offline engagements. @konstanze" username="toprank"]

#2 - Conduct on-site video interviews at industry conferences and events.

Co-creating content with influencers provides influential experts with a medium to share valuable insights and gives your audience a mix of perspectives—upping your brand’s storytelling capabilities and credibility. Industry events and conferences provide the perfect platform for capturing original insights—especially on video.

Set aside the fact that video is an increasingly preferred learning and entertainment medium for modern consumers and buyers alike. When it comes to working with influencers, video can help capture their essence as well as their expertise. This can add a new degree of authenticity and credibility to their insights and resonate more deeply with your audiences.

Here’s an example from our own vault. While attending MarketingProfs B2B Forum in 2017, our team conducted a series of interviews with marketing experts and influencers, including MarketingProf’s own Chief Content Officer Ann Handley. The “Content Conversations” series covered top marketing learnings from the year, predictions for the coming year and decades, and tips and insights to finding success in the future.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kM1BMOSMpw[/embed]

*SAP’s video coverage of its own SAPPHIRENOW event is a fantastic example of how influencers can play an active role in bridging the real and digital worlds.

Working in partnership with SAP, Eric Kavanagh, CEO of The Bloor Group and a respected technology analyst, actually interviewed SAP’s own Chief Innovation Officer Max Wessel. This is just one of several unique examples from the conference.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IITUVS34cec[/embed]

[bctt tweet="If you want content to be great, ask influencers to participate. @leeodden" username="toprank"]

#3 - Host a VIP appreciation and networking event.

There may be no better way to create meaningful connections than over good food, drinks, and great conversation. Whether it’s a cocktail hour, leisurely lunch, or sit-down dinner, inviting influencers to come together for a couple hours of relaxed fun is a great way to show your appreciation for their partnership, nurture prospective partners, and connect influencers with one another.

This is a practice that is near and dear to our hearts. We absolutely love the work we do and almost always carve out time for this while attending larger industry events. And of course, you can chronicle your interactions on your owned digital properties to let your audiences in on the fun. Here’s a little shot from our dinner at B2B Marketing Exchange 2019, courtesy of our CEO Lee Odden’s Instagram.

B2BMX 2019 Dinner

This sort of engagement can certainly be planned independently of any industry conference, but it can be yet another way to make the most out of your trip to an event.

[bctt tweet="Companies should approach influencers as partners, not just as people that they can use for their marketing efforts and launches. @AmishaGandhi @SAPAriba" username="toprank"]

#4 - Play matchmaker when the opportunity arises.

There will undoubtedly come a time during your work with industry experts and influencers where you can help them connect with one another. Whether they’re looking for insight, a new product or solution, or you’ve discovered two people share a common hobby or interest, take the lead on introducing them.

Why? Because you have the opportunity to provide more value. The relationship you’re cultivating needs to be mutually beneficial to go the distance, and helping influencers solve problems or grow their network has value written all over it.

[bctt tweet="We pride ourselves on cultivating and nurturing long-term relationships with our influencers … which means we are always looking to establish a ‘give to get’ exchange where all parties come out ahead. @ranimani0707 @adobe" username="toprank"]

#5 - Embrace the “show, don’t tell” mantra when it comes to influencer appreciation.

Your online efforts to nurture, engage, and showcase the expertise of your influencer partners are incredibly important. Your prospects are online. Your customers are online. Your influencers are online. The world is online.

But there is absolutely an opportunity to add a personal, human touch to show your influencer partners you care about and appreciate them. New job? Send a handwritten letter filled with well wishes. New baby? Send a congratulatory gift basket. New campaign launch? Deliver a tasty treat or bit of swag to give thanks.

A couple years back, we helped our friends at DivvyHQ introduce the world to Grandma Gertrude, as well as easy-as-pie recipes for content planning. Following the launch, we sent pies to the influencers who contributed their thoughts and insights.

DivvyHQ Pie for Influencers

[bctt tweet="Grow your influencer network long before you need them. The day to create an army of influential advocates isn’t the first day of the war. Find common interests and develop rapport. - @leeodden " username="toprank"]

Build a Bridge to Stronger Influencer Relationships

Influencer relationships are often cultivated in the digital realm. But they can be nurtured and grown to new heights in the real world.

Take advantage of any opportunity to spotlight, co-create, or connect with influencers at industry events. In addition, go the extra mile to create valuable, memorable connections. Taking action here not only helps you strengthen relationships and generate content for the digital world, but also plant the seeds of partnership.

What’s on the horizon for B2B influencer marketing? Check out Lee Odden’s rundown of seven B2B influencer marketing trends to watch.

*Disclaimer: SAP is TopRank Marketing client.

The post How to Intertwine Online & Offline Tactics to Cultivate B2B Influencer Relationships appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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