Getting Visual with Your B2B Marketing: Pinterest or Instagram?

by Jennifer Beever

Instagram vs PinterestA client recently asked me which visual social media platform should they choose – Instagram or Pinterest. I didn’t have a quick answer, because, well, it depends. Here’s what you need to know….

First, if there is any doubt in your mind that your marketing must become more visual, dispel that doubt now! Not only do people not have (not make?) time to read, they are bombarded with information (thanks, Internet!) and most are using smaller devices. So, use great images or photos when you share on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, but you should also think about expanding into some new social media platforms. And, yes, this does work for B2B marketing!

Instagram and Pinterest have had very high adoption by individuals when they got started. Both are used by businesses and offer advertising. Pinterest encourages sales and has partnered with Shopify to facilitate business commerce on its platform. Instagram, not so much. Let’s look at some of the differences and opportunities on both platforms.

1. What are Instagram and Pinterest intended to accomplish?

Instagram started as an app similar to Foursquare, where people could check-in, communicate and post photos. With input from investors, the app was pared down to photo sharing and the name changed to Instagram. Instagram had 100,000 downloads the first week, the same the second week, and in less than two months had a million users. It’s only skyrocketed from there, as Instagram now boasts 400 million users (according to their blog post) and was acquired by Facebook for an unprecedented one billion dollars.

Pinterest started with the intent of making it easy to pin photos to a board (think bulletin board). Once it had traction and the interest of investors, the purpose of Pinterest was allowing people to post items that pertain to the important projects in your life. The founder’s thought was that one’s Pinterest board would suggest a person’s interests and personality (see the article here).

For example, individuals remodeling a room in their home or creating a wish list for their vacation wardrobe can easily click and pin without worrying. The adoption rate was so fast on Pinterest, of course it got the attention of businesses who want to create brand awareness and promote their products and services. And, Pinterest users (pinners) are using it for their business projects, pinning information about solutions and products for the project. Some businesses even use Pinterest for collaboration – at New Incite we sometimes use it to analyze brand identity and other marketing things for our clients.

2. Are Instagram and Pinterest intended for marketing and selling?

Instagram was not created for selling. It was created and still exists for people to express themselves through photos. This applies to businesses as well. Just as a person can get across their interests, beliefs, and activities on Instagram, so too can a business. Photos and images of work activity, products being developed or used, fun events and stories about people or about your company – it’s all good on Instagram.

Some people post products on Instagram, but there is no link per post that you can direct to a shopping page. I’ve seen some blog posts about how to post product information on Instagram with a general link to your website will help viewers find you, but I think that’s spam. More savvy social media marketers know that Instagram is a much better platform for storytelling that engages and entertains your audiences, creates brand awareness in prospects and more loyalty for existing customers or clients.

As mentioned before, Pinterest is intended as a way to collect items under an interest category or an actual project that an individual or business is working on. As a result, Pinterest is a great way for a a person or business to showcase their interests, activities and values (for a business that would be their brand and culture). And, its very nature of pinning items with links per pin is naturally suited for sales.

3. The Demographic is Different on Instagram and Pinterest

Instagram is about 50-50 men and women, whereas Pinterest users are mostly women (70%, according to this article by Agora Pulse). Interestingly, Instagram has at least half of its users outside of the United States. According to a Pew Research report, Instagram users have higher education, but the use is highest among people under 30 years of age (55%) and users have more of an even distribution of income. Pinterest users have higher incomes and education, and 70% are under the age of 50, pretty evenly distributed.

4. User Behavior on Pinterest and Instagram is Different

Our observation with our clients’ and with New Incite’s social media is that Pinterest gets traction and creates awareness of your brand faster. This is probably because it’s so easy to pin items – usually a two click process. Following people also includes a couple of clicks and it’s relatively easy to find others that share your interests.

My observation is that Pinterest is highly “spammy” for consumers. There are many brands and online sellers on Pinterest masquerading as individual pinners. The result is that they can flood your Pinterest pin feed with spam images, just as bad marketers flood your email inbox with spam emails.

Instagram is where you can take your marketing to a more sophisticated purpose: engaging and perhaps entertaining your audience. A successful Instagram profile that tells your story and attracts and engages followers is well worth your marketing efforts.

On Instagram, there is an expectation that your photos are artful, your narrative and hashtags creative, and that you are engaging. So, it takes more time to post on Instagram, and it takes time to build a following.  If you’re doing it right, you spend some time editing your photos and creating some interesting text to go with them. Instagram has a cool hashtag feature, where as you start typing the hashtag you’ll use popular tags are displayed for selection so you can be more a part of the conversation.

5. Both Need a Strategy to Get Marketing Results

Because the opportunity is to tell a story through images, it’s very important to have a strategy before you get started. If you don’t strategize first, there’s a chance that your pins and posts will be random, fragmented, and will fail. (This is true of all social media.) Random, haphazard social media activity will not represent your brand let alone engage and entertain your audiences. What will convey both what you do as well as what you stand for? Your philosophy? The intangible benefits of your products and services?

On Pinterest, what boards will you create to which to pin images for your business? It’s not just about pinning your product. It’s about pinning many things that relate to your product, your industry, your company, and your customers. For example, if you sell software that results in productivity improvements and you sell it to businesses run by executives (as I did for many years), you might have boards that showcase client or customers success stories, product features and business operational issues.

Then, add to that boards that emphasize what your customers and prospects are personally and professionally interested in. Executives from your customer businesses and your employees probably work and travel a lot, so how about images, articles and stories about time management, a healthy lifestyle, mindfulness? The point is, find out what’s on your customers’ minds and pin to those topics! For some example of B2b Pinterest success, take a look at this board of major B2B brand pinners created by CaptureHits Marketing. And, look at our very own New Incite board of creative ad campaigns and other marketing and my personal interest topics.

On Instagram, choose images that will tell your story and convey your culture, philosophy, reason for existing. Many marketers say that success on Instagram is about choosing an angle or a theme and sticking with it to grow followers. If it’s interesting enough, people will follow you. For B2B inspiration, check out enterprise software company Contently’s list of 5 top B2b Instagram accounts.

In summary, I think Pinterest is great for generating brand awareness and getting your products and services in front of buyers more quickly. Instagram offers more sophistication as well as more engagement and loyal followers, if you do it right.

Never use either Instagram or Pinterest solely for selling, since that is spam.

My answer to my client? Most of their customers are women. They sell services and products to businesses and individuals. Pinterest is my first choice, and when time permits and we have a strategy, I think the benefits of a thoughtful, strategic Instagram profile will only add success to their marketing mix.

Need advice and implementation support or outsource on Pinterest, Instagram or other social media? Contact me at New Incite today. I look at your total business and marketing strategy before formulating a tactical approach that will work for you.


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