On episode 516 of Marketing Smarts, host George B. Thomas and Instagram expert Jenn Herman tackle the question, Why Instagram, and why now?
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"The number one reason is your audience is there," Jenn says. "The largest demographic on Instagram is the late-20s, about 30-ish....They're the ones making business decisions....The other reason is because most people don't do it well, and if you can do it well, if you are showing up and using Instagram strategically to connect with your audience, it's such a unique way to get their attention."
The platform can be understandably intimidating for a B2B marketer. Everyone seems to think they know the magic formula—and they love to be loud about it. "Everyone has a theory on how to gamify the system, like only use this many hashtags or only do this many Reels, or do this with your Reels to get this," Jenn says.
"Before you jump on any sort of gamified bandwagon, stop, do some research, listen to what other people are saying, and honestly, do what works for you."
That's not to say there aren't best-practices—linking your bio to a landing page, going behind the scenes in your content, and offering educational material, among them. But what makes an Instagram account stand out, Jenn explains, is just a sense of fun. And that can be a challenge for B2B marketers.
"One of the things we see with B2Bs is they come out and they take that graphic that was created, slap it up there, and call it a day," she says. "That does not work on Instagram.... We need fun. We need photos, we need some behind the scenes content, we need bloopers, we need something that's like bring-your-pet-to-work day."
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George Thomas: I have to ask you right now, at this very moment, are you leveraging Instagram for your B2B marketing strategies? Today, if so and if not, this episode is for you. We're going to be talking to Jenn Herman, and it is the magical combination of B2B marketing and Instagram. We're going to talk about what keeps Jenn up at night, we're going to talk about how to get started if you're not, we're going to talk about tactics and things and all sorts of Instagram and B2B marketing goodness.
Jenn Herman is a social media consultant, speaker, and globally recognized Instagram expert. She is a sought-after international speaker providing tips, resources, and training for organizations of all sizes that need to structure their social media strategies. Her business background includes administration, sales, human resources, and marketing. She enjoys bringing all of these skills together to help you grow your business.
Jenn has been featured in Inc, Fox News, BBC News, Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur, Huff Post, The Verge, CBS Radio LA, and numerous other podcasts and publications. Guess what? Today, she is here with you. Not to mention Jenn is the author of Instagram for Dummies, Instagram for Business for Dummies, and The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing.
With that out of the way, let's go ahead and get into the good stuff.
Marketing Smarts Podcast listeners, you know me, you know the word I'm about to say. Can you guess? That's right, I'm excited because I'm here today with Jenn Herman and we are going to be talking about a topic that you as a B2B marketer, hopefully, are paying attention to. If not, hopefully will be paying attention to. Let me quit dilly-dallying around and let's just dive into the first question here.
Jenn, when thinking about B2B marketers specifically... By the way, I kind of hate that, because it's really H2H, human to human, but I'll get off my soapbox for a second, because the question truly is when you're thinking about B2B marketers using or not using Instagram for their marketing efforts, what the heck keeps you up at night?
Jenn Herman: It's one of those things where I think the biggest thing that I'm always like "challenge accepted" is when B2B say it doesn't work for them. It's because people think of Instagram in that B2C way. They think of it from that I don't have a pretty product, and I don't have influencers out here taking photos of my service, how am I going to use it, and they try to hard to do what they do on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter and translate it to Instagram. It doesn't work and then they just throw in the towel and say, "It doesn't work for me."
That's when I'm like, challenge accepted, I want to help, I want to get people using it in a way that is advantageous. It is actually a very valuable platform in the B2B space, and I want people to know that.
George: I love this. We'll probably eventually get to a portion of this conversation where we're talking about some dry, potentially dull, hopefully they're not listening because I don't really want to position them that way, but these companies that might originally be like, "Nope, not a good fit," but look what they did, some success stories. We'll get there.
I want to dive into your brain, because you're like challenge accepted, which I love that because I'm always up for a good challenge. Why do you think on the other flip side of this that Instagram is a great platform for B2B marketers to be leveraging towards the end of 2022 and into 2023 and beyond?
Jenn: The number one reason is your audience is there. Like you were saying, it's still human-to-human, there are still people on the other side of this transaction. The largest demographic on Instagram is the late-20s, about 30-ish, upwards of 50-year-olds. They're the ones making business decisions. So, your audience is there, and it's a chance to get in front of them. The other reason is because most people don't do it well, and if you can do it well, if you are showing up and using Instagram strategically to connect with your audience, it's such a unique way to get their attention. Whether it's a DM, your Stories, your content, whatever it is, but to have those conversations and dialogue in a way that you don't do on other platforms, and in a way that your competitors aren't doing, and it sets you apart.
George: I love this idea of it's easier to stand out because there are a lot of people doing it wrong, badly, or not at all, whatever word you put in there, because they have the same mental perception. Marketing Smarts listeners, I'm going to be transparent for a hot second. There was a time where I was like Instagram, no, I just can't, it's not for me, it's not going to be the thing. Then I posted on it, and I was like, "Aw, crap," because I actually got engagement, and I wanted to be right that it was the wrong platform for me.
Going back to your statement that the audience is there, what I will say is even this idea of testing if it is, but that leads me to my next question. There are going to be B2B marketers that might not be on Instagram that listen to this. How do they quickly (or not so quickly) diagnose if they should be putting efforts into marketing on Instagram or not? Because all platforms aren't for all people, although we are having the conversation that Instagram might be for you.
Jenn: It's one of those things where, like you were saying, it's not just B2B, it's human-to-human, it's people-to-people. There are people on the other side of these transactions. The biggest demographic on Instagram is that kind of late 20-year-old, about 30, upwards of 50-year-olds, and they are the ones making business decisions. If they're there, this is your chance to get in front of that audience. This is your chance to connect with them, because that's where they're hanging out.
Additionally, a lot of B2B brands aren't doing Instagram well or even at all, so it's your chance to stand out from the competition. It's your chance to create some unique content and actually connect with people and build relationships, and have those conversations in the DMs that you don't do on other platforms, and build that opportunity to actually create relationships and drive those sales conversions down the road.
George: I love that. Let's just jump into this next question. How can B2B marketers diagnose if they should put effort into marketing on Instagram? While it might not be for everybody, we're trying to help them figure out if it's for them.
Jenn: Right. That's something that I always tell people. Instagram isn't for everybody. Anybody can use Instagram. That doesn't mean everyone should use Instagram. One of the first things you want to look at is who is your target demographic. If your target demographic is 85-year-olds, maybe Instagram is not the best place to be. If your target demographic of people that you're talking to and other brands in your industry are in that kind of age range of 30 to 50, there's a good chance they're on Instagram.
Additionally, what does your content look like? Is it something that you can create visually? Everyone always says to me, "I don't have a business that can have photos," and I tell people, sure you do. Imagine you had a reality TV crew following you around for a day. I'm a little bit of a Housewives junkie, so imagine the Housewives crew is out following you around. You're on the phone, you're working on your computer, you're working with clients, you're off on job sites, whatever it is that you're doing. Those are things that can still be photographed and documented, and they all have context. Those are things that your customers want to know. If you have anything that you can share with your audience that you can in some way convey with videos or photos, then Instagram absolutely can work for you.
The last thing that I usually tell people is if you're starting out, if this is something that we're trying to figure out if we should be on Facebook or Instagram, be where your audience is and be where you're comfortable. If it's one of those things where you have LinkedIn nailed and you have Twitter running smooth, then maybe it is time to add Instagram. If you feel like you're just starting out, you're a newer business, and you feel like Instagram is just so awkward for you, then hold off on that. Reserve your username and get yourself locked in, but commit to building your other platforms where you build your audience and build your tone of voice, and then come over to Instagram where you can focus on the visual.
George: You blew right past that pro tip; at least get your username. Lock that bad boy in, trust me. I hate the fact that I'm Mr.GeorgeBThomas on Facebook. I should have grabbed GeorgeBThomas at the beginning. That is a pro tip right there. I love about what you just unpacked is this idea of you might think your life is boring, but people aren't in your life and they actually will find it fascinating.
There have been so many times where I've shared something on Instagram that I was like, "I don't even know why I'm sharing this. This is the dumbest thing in my day, although it was kind of a cool part of my day, but nobody really gives two craps." Then all of a sudden, people are like, "That's amazing." Like okay, maybe I'll just continue to post things, because we all have different lives.
You also mentioned in that section getting started. When people are getting started with Instagram, what are a couple of things that they should be thinking about along the way?
Jenn: We mentioned the username. That is super important. The name and the username. Your username is how you are known on Instagram. A lot of people pick JohnSmith1234. Is that really brand related? Make sure that your username when you're setting it up is relevant to your business name.
In my case, it's Jenn's Trends, it's two words. If your business name or brand has two or three words, consider using dots or underscores to separate those names, because we all know if people see one big long run on word, sometimes we don't read them the way they were intended to be read.
I always use the example of a girl that I know and her username is A Guide To, and I started trying to read it in Spanish because it was all one word. I couldn't see that it was A Guide To, I thought it was some other word. Think about that when you are working on your username and coming up with that.
Another thing to keep in mind is your profile bio. This is a goldmine for your brand in the sense that this is now actually SEO ranking. It didn't used to be, but in the last year, bios are now SEO ranking. We're not keyword stuffing, but we want to be relevant to who we are and what we do so that it helps Instagram sort us.
Also, keep in mind that profile bio is probably only going to be read by first time visitors. Once somebody is following you, once they're actively seeing your content, they're not coming and reading your profile bio. So, we want to write that for the 30-second elevator pitch, that first time visitor, who you are, what you do, and what's in it for them.
I've often told people don't write it yourself, because let's face it, we suck at writing about ourselves. Even if you are your own PR person or you have a PR person, they probably aren't that great at writing about you in 150 characters. Ask your clients, ask your colleagues, ask your coworkers, ask your friends and family to pick a few words that describe your brand, or if they could summarize your brand in one sentence, what would it be. Find what those similarities are and use that to write your bio.
Then, super important, especially for the B2B space, is that link in bio. That is your ticket to all of your traffic. What I always tell people is do not send people to your homepage, especially in a B2B space. I use the example of if you walk into Nordstrom, if you put everything that's on that mannequin right next to it, you can grab all of your sizes and you buy that outfit. If the shirt is up on the fourth floor, the pants are somewhere on the second floor, the shoes are somewhere in a clearance bin, you can't buy the outfit. The homepage is what happens if you send people and you don't put things next to the mannequin. They're going to get lost. They said go to link in bio to find that podcast, but I don't know where to find the podcast link, which one is it.
When you have a dedicated landing page, now you own all of that traffic, now you can retarget them with ads or anything else, but you can also see audience behavior. You know that everyone who came to that landing page came from Instagram, and you can see 60% of your traffic is going to blog posts, or 20% is going to webinar registration, or during this week when we ran the campaign we had this influx of traffic, because your Google Analytics are going to manage that page, you have all of your website traffic details and everything.
It allows you as a B2B to really start to manage what your audience is doing, where they're going when they get on your website, but then of course getting them into those lead gen forms, those registrations opting into your newsletter, any of those sorts of things, to be able to capture those leads strategically.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, you know what I'm going to say. We've officially hit the rewind point. There are so many good nuggets of information that you need to write down and put into the strategy that you're going to use moving forward.
I love this next question, but I also hate this next question because my fear is the B2B marketers will only go do tactics. They'll think if I just do this tactic, and that's not really what it's about. It's about being human, it's about communicating. I also want to give them the things to be successful, which is why I love this question, too. What a couple, one, two, potentially three tried and true tactics that they should be implementing as they use Instagram moving forward for their B2B marketing?
Jenn: First of all, education. Education is huge in the B2B space, and I'm the biggest advocate for people being able to do educational content, whether that's in Reels, Stories, feed posts. It can be DIY tips, it can be something about how to use our product or how to get access to our service, or anything. I work a lot with people in real estate and commercial real estate. People don't know what they don't know, so educate them, teach them.
They're not there just for mindless entertainment. There are things that they need to know, commonly asked questions. There are so many aspects of education that you can share and people in Instagram still want to learn from an expert and a leader in the industry. Don't ignore the educational component. Make sure that you are setting yourself up for success in that respect.
The other thing to do is remember to have fun. One of the things we see with B2Bs is they come out and they take that graphic that was created, slap it up there, and call it a day. That does not work on Instagram. You can take all that content in PowerPoint or Photoshop or whatever it is, and it's a whole bunch of text, a whole bunch of colors, and a whole bunch of crazy town, and take the text and put it in a caption, but we need fun. We need photos, we need something behind the scenes content, we need bloopers, we need something that's like bring your pet to work day.
People are on the platform for entertainment content. You capture them with something visually appealing and then you give them the context.
George: It's so interesting. On that, you hit education and you hit entertainment, which then leads me to if you can do this edutainment where it's education but it's entertaining, there's this happy mix. Also, you rattled off with quickness Stories. We already know we're talking about images or photos. Then you mentioned Stories, all the things, all the Instagram things.
Which then leads me to B2B marketers might be wondering what type of thing in Instagram, and let's just add on what type of content works best. If you're going to test the platform, what are the best ways and types of content to test it with? I would love for you to just take a couple of minutes to unpack your brain on that thought.
Jenn: Absolutely. Like I said, traditional Instagram that we all know and love is square photos. We all know that is evolving right now, Instagram is going through a lot of changes, but photos still work. Photos are still the most dominant piece of content that is created and consumed. That doesn't necessarily mean it gets the highest engagement rates, but that is still the traditional form of content on the platform.
Instagram is moving toward more video, but the stats are still a little questionable. They made a comment, I think it was around Q2 of 2022, like 20% of users are consuming Reels on a regular basis. I was like that means 80% aren't, but yet we're all about the Reels. You do want to do Reels, they are the highest-engaging type of content. Those are the full vertical videos. They can be up to 90 seconds right now. Or if you upload any video now to Instagram, it goes into Reel format, so you can have a Reel that is three and a half minutes long. That's the video component.
They both are essentially feed based, that's the main feed when you're scrolling through. You need to decide what works for you for content creation and for your audience for content consumption. If your audience is used to you creating videos, you're going to want to do more Reels. If your audience is used to you doing written content, you're going to want to do more feed posts.
Then you're going to test. You're not going to be like I'm all in on Reels and not do anything else. You want to test them both. Same thing with Stories. Stories are a mix of all of the different things, and that's the short 24-hour content. Whatever you choose to test, give it six solid weeks. This is not something where you go in and say, "I did a Reel. It didn't work," or, "I did a Reel and it went viral." That's not a test.
If you're doing one Reel a week for six weeks, now you have a baseline. You know what your average engagement is and your average reach. Same thing with feed posts. If right now you're posting once a month, that's not a really accurate reflection of how your content is performing, so you might want to up that to once a week and start to look at how that content is performing.
On that note, because you're probably going to ask me, how often should you post? It should not be every single day, especially in the B2B world. The only people that should be posting every single day are brands that have constant stream of content, like media or sports. Those sorts of things can post every single day. Most B2B brands are totally fine doing one to two times a week in terms of their general content. Maybe a little bit more in Stories and staying top of mind, but you do not need to overdo it with content.
George: I find it funny in that last section you were like it went viral, but that's not a test. I would love to lean in and say, B2B marketers, it's really about value trumps virality and it's kind of this long haul on any of the platforms that you might use.
Speaking of the long haul, I am super curious. One of the things we like to do on this podcast is diagnose the potholes or hurdles that people might fall prey to as they take this Instagram journey. The question is what are some Instagram hurdles that you would want to warn the Marketing Smarts audience about as they're using Instagram moving forward?
Jenn: One of the biggest ones, and this is kind of a self-plug, but stop listening to all of the crazy town out there. Everyone has a theory on why Instagram reach is down, everyone has a theory on how to gamify the system, like only use this many hashtags or only do this many Reels, or do this with your Reels to get this. There are so many theories out there, and people tend to hop on whichever one validates their opinion.
If you feel like Instagram isn't working, and someone comes up and says, "Here's why Instagram isn't working," you're like yes, I'm right, Instagram isn't working. But there's so many of these things out there that are just not accurate. It's somebody with an opinion, and not somebody who has done any testing, not somebody who has actually looked at more than five accounts, and they make an opinion.
This is why I said it's kind of a self-plug. One of the things that I pride myself on is working with people around the world to test things. When we hear that there's a glitch, we test things with people in different regions. We'll login to different accounts and say is this working, is this not working. We'll get new features and we'll beta test them so that we can actually see what's working and not jump to conclusions. A lot of times when new information comes out, you won't even hear from me because I'm in the background testing things and we're trying to figure it out before we jump on a bandwagon.
The biggest pitfall that I see people make is someone said to only use three hashtags. I'm like no. Why would you do that? Or only use this hashtag, or only create Reels. Before you jump on any sort of gamified bandwagon, stop, do some research, listen to what other people are saying, and honestly, do what works for you. My Instagram account is the exception to every rule known to mankind, so I never take advice off of my own account because mine doesn't necessarily work for anybody else.
Do what works for you. If doing one Reel a week is working, keep doing it, even if someone says do five a week. If doing Reels is hurting you, then stop doing that. Take the time to learn what works for your brand and do that regardless of what anybody else tells you to do.
George: Take the time to learn what works for your brand. That's the nugget. The whole thing is of value, but that little last nugget you threw in there is so great. I like to talk about the flip side. At the beginning, I alluded that we would get to this point of what does Instagram success look like. If you've navigated the potholes and the hurdles, you've now reached that number one platform, you have the Instagram Olympics gold medal around your neck.
How did we get there, what does that look like for folks, so they can see up the mountain and be like this is what I'm trying to achieve? Maybe it's a company that you've seen that it was like they're actually kind of dull, or you wouldn't think they wouldn't use it, or however you want to tell the story. What does Instagram success look like for B2B marketers?
Jenn: I think each brand has to define their own success. It's not the number of followers you have. It's not the number of engagements you have. It's not how many people saw that Reel. That is not success. It's going to be if you said we want to increase sales by 20% by end of Q4, and you hit that goal, then that's Instagram success. If you said that you wanted to generate a certain level of brand awareness for a new startup, and you feel like you've achieved that, then that's success. Every brand is going to have a different reason for using Instagram and what that looks like from their capacity.
That being said, it doesn't look like big numbers necessarily in terms of likes and followers, but some of my favorites that I like out there…
I actually love @Maersk_official, which is a shipping line. They ship cargo containers across the ocean. They're great on Instagram. They have beautiful photos, they talk a lot about what they do, and they talk a lot about logistics.
One of my other favorite accounts is @TSA. Yes, the people who make you take your shoes off at the airport are hands down one of the best Instagram accounts on the planet. If TSA can do it and everybody hates TSA, anybody can do Instagram. Right? They have educational content, but it's edutainment, like you said, it's funny. They always have the worst photos. The moment you see it, you know it's a TSA post because it's not a pretty photo. It's literally a picture of something in a bin that was photographed by a TSA agent in an airport. It's not pretty by any means, but they have great captions. They're dad-joke level, but it's educational and they answer questions. They show in their Stories and answer regular questions that people have, and they're always there to help.
These are two examples that are definitely larger organizations, but they're extreme versions that you would be like this is so dry and boring, how would they ever have good content. Go look at them. It doesn't mean you have to turn yourself into a dad joke bonanza, but there are things that you can do and look at inspiration to say if they can do this, I can do this.
George: There's nothing wrong with a good dad joke every now and then. I love the idea, the tidbit that you bounced into there was they're always answering questions. If you're paying attention to the voice of your customer and then spinning that around for giving them the thing that they need to know, it can be so powerful.
Jenn, there's way more conversation we could have about Instagram, so I'm super curious. Where else can people dig in deeper to Instagram marketing strategies, where would you want to put them, where would you send them?
Jenn: Shameless self-plug. By all means, sign up for my newsletter. If you go to Bit.ly/jennstrendsnewsletter and sign up for the newsletter, the first Wednesday of every month I send out a giant newsletter packed with every single Instagram update in addition to other big social media news. On average, we have double-digit updates every month. I think last month we had 14 and the month before we had 22. These are not like Instagram updated one thing, these are a lot of things going on, so we break all of that down.
I also have my free Facebook group, Jenn's Trends in Social Media. We talk about a lot of the news and updates there. Matt Navarra is my go-to, I love that man, he's amazing, he has all the insights on all of the things. He has an amazing Facebook group called The Social Media Geekout, and he has a great newsletter. He is a full resource of information for all social media updates, including a lot of Instagram news and that sort of thing. He knows people that get all of the behind the scenes beta tests or behind the scenes coding and finding out what's happening on Instagram before anybody else does, so definitely check out some of those things.
George: Just as another tease, where are you speaking later this year, and what are you speaking about?
Jenn: There's this little thing coming up in October called B2B Forum in Boston. I've never been to Boston, I'm super excited. It's going to be a quick trip, but I'm so excited to be speaking in person. I've done a couple of the virtual events for B2B Forum, but to actually be in person this year in October in Boston and talking all about how to optimize your Instagram profile. A lot of the things that we talked about today, but in way more detail, really getting into the nuts and bolts of optimizing your Instagram account.
George: Which is super important because that's what people look at. Trust me, I know, they've reached out and let me know.
Jenn, as we land the plane here, you've given over 25 minutes of Instagram value for the B2B marketers, I always love to ask this as a last question because we've all taken the journey, we've helped other people take the journey, so we gain wisdom. What are some words of wisdom that you would want to leave the Marketing Smarts listeners at the end of this podcast episode?
Jenn: From an Instagram perspective, one of the things that I always tell people is just do it, get on there, but have fun. As marketers, we try too hard. As marketers, we tend to ruin everything like here's a tool, let me abuse it. Instead of trying so hard, don't be afraid to break things, don't be afraid to try something new and post that blooper or post that more personal photo, or try something totally different. If you've never shown the faces of your company, start showing the faces of your company.
Have fun with things and just open up the dialogue with your audience in that way. I think that goes across more than just Instagram, in general. Don't be afraid to just get out there and try it. Don't be afraid to break it. What's the worst that could happen? Probably something bad, but we won't go down that road. It is one of those things, like I said, just get out there and try it. If it doesn't work, if it doesn't generate the reach and the engagement, then you try something else. Just play with it and have fun.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, did you take lots of notes? I have to ask, what is your one thing, your number one execution opportunity after this podcast? Make sure you reach out and let us know in my inbox or on Twitter using the hashtag #MPB2B.
I also have to ask are you a free member of the MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to Mprofs.com/mptoday. You won't regret the additional B2B marketing education that you'll be adding to your life.
We'd like it if you could leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, but we'd love it if you would share this episode with a coworker or friend. Until we meet in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast where we talk with Jay Acunzo about a masterful B2B marketing unthinkable storytelling master class, I hope you do just a couple of things. One, reach out and let us know what conversation you'd like to listen in on next. Two, focus on getting 1% better at your craft each and every day. Finally, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B human. We'll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.
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Published on October 6, 2022
Jenn Herman, a social media consultant, speaker, and globally recognized Instagram expert. She is a sought-after and international speaker, providing tips, resources, and training for organizations of all sizes that need to structure their social media strategies. Her business background includes Administration, Sales, Human Resources, and Marketing, and she enjoys bringing all those skills together to help grow your business. Jenn has been featured in Inc., Fox News, BBC News, Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur, HuffPost, The Verge, CBS Radio LA, and many other podcasts and publications. She is the author of Instagram for Dummies, Instagram for Business for Dummies, and The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing.
LinkedIn: Jenn Herman
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