B2B Instagram Strategy – Humans of Business for Sage
In January 2016, B2B software company Sage wanted to launch a global Instagram channel. But how could they engage people across many different countries with one Instagram account? How could a company synonymous with business software stand-out on a channel famous for fashion, food and feel good?
Investing in Instagram would future proof the Sage social media strategy, ensuring they stayed relevant and attracted emerging start-ups looking for cutting edge technology solutions but Sage needed to act fast and achieve impact if they were going to stand out with the new SageOfficial Instagram account.
Finding Inspiration on Instagram
As part of the social media team in Sage, it seemed that the only way we could engage a global audience with one Instagram account was to create a content strategy around a universal theme.It is often the most universal of themes that are the most personal. We are all more alike than we think.Click To Tweet
I wondered what universal themes inspired business owners and I thought back to when I owned a small business. It was the hardest time of my life, every day a struggle. I could really have done with some inspiration, some sense that I wasn’t alone and that other people had faced and overcome the same challenges I had.
Back in Sage, Humans of New York stories were showing up on my Facebook feed every day. I saw one story about a man who had experienced the ups and downs of business life and I thought what if there was a social media channel that shared business owner’s stories every day. Humans of Business was born.
If this was going to work Sage had to step aside from any corporate ego and accept that @SageOfficial would never be about Sage. Humans of Business is about the audience Sage serves, small business owners, and the stories they have to tell. On Instagram, the Sage brand lives through business owners and their stories.
Instagram Content Strategy
Once we had the big idea we developed a content strategy for the account. We had to have striking images that featured real people in each story. To support each photo we needed the story behind each small business owner. We decided that the content for @SageOfficial would be audience generated or at least created with the audience. It is their voice, their life, their world, curated by Sage.
We loved talking to start-ups in @boxpark last week. We met Matyas and Wanda from @maiden_uk. Matyas had some great advice on starting in business: “Even if you think you’ve got the best idea, make sure to push down initial costs because they will unexpectedly multiply even before opening your business. As a small business, we have been lucky to receive a lot of help from our friends. Eight years on, we are still relying on their help and we’re extremely grateful for their support.” #humansofbusiness #human #sageadvice #smallbusiness #business #friends #boxpark #shoreditch #London #popup #shopping #retail #retailer #businessman
Our Instagram content mantra goes like this:
On Instagram our content will:
- Put customers at the center
- Be user generated content (or created with them)
- Be authentic and human rather than ‘constructed’ branded content
- Be content that we’re not using on our other social channels – to achieve channel distinction
- Leverage social influencers by sharing their content
- Relate to the experiences of starting a business around the world
This presented a new challenge, finding the right content.
Sourcing Content for Instagram
Here is how we find great business stories to share on the @SageOfficial Instagram account:
- Searching on hashtags like #startup and #entrepreneur helps us find great stories. Once we find the right content we reach out to the owner via the website link in their Instagram bio.
- Sage customers tell the best stories. With millions of customers Sage knows a lot of business owners we can invite to be featured on our Instagram account. Often we combine this approach with hashtag searching by searching for Sage hashtags like #SageOne. Another approach is to look for customers that were photographers, designers or otherwise creative as they likely have good photos that they are already sharing on Instagram.
- We hits the streets. Some of the best pieces of content we have for Instagram are from when we went walk about and stopped by some small businesses. Once we show them @SageOfficial they are often happy to take a photo and share their story with us. Sometimes they take the photo, sometimes we do. We try to capture the business owner at work in their business.
- Influencers are a great way to get the word out and often have strong content too. Sage already have a social influencer programme that we use to source content. When we launched the @SageOfficial Instagram account we featured some stories from business owners in our social influencer programme.
- Events work really well for Instagram content generation. At Sage Summit we invite our customers to share their best Sage Advice in video for publishing on @SageOfficial. Sometimes they share their stories too but we find that layering some stories with business advice is a good way to increase the value of our Instagram posts for our audience.
- By cross promoting Humans of Business onto well established Sage accounts on Facebook and Twitter we are able to source content from an already highly engaged social audience.
- We invite business owners to submit their photo and story for inclusion. If you want to submit yours you can fill in the form here.
- We created a pop up content studio with the Startup Van to create lots of posts to feed our Instagram account for weeks and months to come. More on that in another post.
— Sage UK (@sageuk) August 12, 2016
Instagram Content and Audience Targets
Looking at the markets Sage were active in and cross referencing those with the markets that had the largest Instagram user base we selected the countries with the biggest opportunity for follower growth and content sourcing. It makes sense to source the most content from those markets where we want to grow our followers. When we set up @SageOfficial, the number of businesses active on Instagram within our target markets was 400,000. This gave good scope to find relevant content and grow our followers. Our captions are usually posted in English with a translation into the local language of the person featured. We also tag the location of the business and I’m proud that we have featured business owners from many different countries and languages. We see again and again that the experience of being a small business owner has many similarities around the world.
Creating a Process
Sourcing content is not easy and the process behind Sage content curation on Instagram is quite complex, involving legal forms that we ask people to sign to give us permission to use their content. A photo of a person is legally considered to be information about that person so there are very strict legal rules about how we store and use that content. It’s not just a matter of finding a photo and sharing it that day on Instagram, a lot of work and administration goes on behind the scenes to ensure we are following the correct process and maintaining legal compliance.
Crafting a great Instagram Post
As well as adhering to a strict process we also take the time to curate a compelling story to go with each photo. Usually when people share a photo on Instagram they don’t write a Humans of Business style caption to go with it so the social media team in Sage often interviews them to discover their story and find an element that will resonate with other followers.
As our social media team are sourcing content from a wide variety of sources we also created our own guidelines for finding and selecting the best images and stories. Thanks to these guidelines created in collaboration with the Sage brand team, there is a consistency across all of the images we use on @Sageofficial. This guide tells our social team to look at our Instagram feed as a big picture.
To create a consistent feed, we need to view our Instagram as a whole rather than lots of separate images. When we are posting an image, think about how it will look like next to our other photos. This means that all your photos should have a consistent element or theme to tie them together. – Austin Maguire, Creative Director, SageOfficial Instagram.To create a consistent feed, view your Instagram as a whole rather than lots of separate images.Click To Tweet
We also strive for quality over quantity and ask our curators to not settle for poor quality images just to get a post published. Our Instagram guide advises: Instead of treating your photo as a line item on a to-do list, it should be sourced and respected as a meaningful moment. – Austin Maguire, Creative Director, SageOfficial Instagram.
We’ve been inspired by all of the business owners we met this week but especially by Simona from @nojolondon – Each day she has welcomed us to Old Street by bringing her healthy crepes into the @startupvan Pop Up Studio. Simona spoke beautifully about her business: “My motivation is my son, I want him to be proud of me. My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner.” #humansofbusiness #human #startuplife #startupbusiness #startupyourhealth #foodbusiness #picoftheday #photooftheday #crepe #creperia #businesswoman #womeninbusiness #likeaboss #london #oldstreet #entrepreneurship #entrepreneurquotes #kindness #entrepreneurmom #inspire #biz #nomnom #lunch #healthy #food
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Winning with Instagram
Of course sourcing and publishing content is only one part of the job. Community management and promotion of @SageOfficial is an equally important part to grow followers and increase engagement and it’s all paying off. Sage has been recognised as one of five software companies rocking Instagram and with the following awards for Humans of Business content:
- Best Use of Social Media – Advocate Marketing Academy Awards 2016
- B2B Marketing Exchange Killer Content Awards 2017
- Finalist – Content Marketing Awards 2016
The @SageOfficial Instagram account has over 3,000 organic followers and continues to grow. Most importantly @SageOfficial has built a highly engaged community of business owners who trust Sage to share their stories with the world.