Want social engagement? Think visual


B2B companies are learning quickly that visual social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram are for more than just retailers of “beautiful” things. (Though who’s to say this isn’t beautiful?) They’re effective branding tools, regardless of what’s for sale and how well it photographs.

While the early adoption phase may be coming to a close, getting involved with these sites is still well advised. I know, I know. You’ve just finished getting your brand’s Facebook page and Twitter account up and running. Right when you thought the social media craze was dying down—or that you’d finally caught up—it goes and evolves. Here’s some advice: 1) get used to it and 2) use it to your advantage.

Social media sites are defined by their ability to foster interaction and communication. Visual social media works in the same way, only the communication is centered on images. With visual content, you can work to shape your brand identity, and better yet, humanize it. We all know what a picture’s worth, so isn’t it time you cashed in?

Your brand fits
Sure, there are brands like Kate Spade and Birchbox, a monthly beauty sample delivery subscription, that have image-friendly products and merchandise to display. Whether they hope to get any branding out of visual media sites or simply wish to showcase their wares, their presence makes perfect sense. But for the rest of the brands out there—especially B2B companies—don’t feel like you don’t belong.

Pinterest, for example, is more than just photo collections of gorgeous wedding gowns and DIY craft ideas linking back to ecommerce sites (though, let’s be honest—there’s a lot of that). It can be used relevantly for your particular brand, even if making a sale isn’t the end goal.

While one of Pinterest’s best-loved features is the ability to link back to original product pages to facilitate and encourage sales, you don’t have to get mired in that concept. Think of it as more than a direct sales enabler; think of it as an interactive branding platform that allows you to tell your story with pictures in place of words.

Follow in GE’s footsteps
As far as early adopters go, General Electric has become the poster child of B2B visual social media use. GE, which was ranked the fifth-best global brand by Interbrand last year, is not a design house or a cosmetics brand or a baker of adorable cupcakes. Yet here it is, pinning interesting, brand-relevant content that’s garnered both appeal and interaction.

One of my favorite GE boards is titled “The Archives.” As you can imagine, a 120-year-old company like GE has plenty of impressive photos reminiscent of the good-ol’ days—like giant light bulbs with tungsten filaments, robots, and vintage fans.

One pinned image in particular shows a woman near a Silly Putty display. The caption under the photo reads: “Did you know a GE scientist accidentally invented silly putty during an experiment in 1943?” Just below that, there’s a comment from a follower that says: “I love you [sic] pics GE, and I am happy you are on Pinterest. Now you seem to be an even more friendly brand to me!” Pretty impressive for a company that manufactures unsexy products like appliances, jet engines and medical imaging equipment.

Hash it out
Just like on Twitter, the use of hashtags (#)—which allows you to create communication chains centered on specific themes—is a strategic way to elicit interaction from your fans and followers on both Pinterest and Instagram.

Virgin America, which I’ve mentioned before as a model brand, is proactive with its follower-focused hashtag creation. For example, the airline tweeted to its followers to upload their swanky travel photos accompanied by the hashtag VXglam. Anyone with a rolling carryon in an airport bathroom was encouraged to send in their photos from Instagram, which were collected on Virgin America’s Pinterest page. Other brands go one step further and incentivize interaction, offering discounts, prizes, or simply crowning someone top dog. Either way, encouraging visual communication is a productive way to build positive brand awareness.

The upshot
Visual social media sites are an effective two-way communications channel that allow for that healthy dose of interactivity that makes social media, well, social. How does your B2B brand plan to get involved in the visual social media craze? Tell us—or better yet, show us with a link to your Pinterest page.


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