Can social media work for wholesalers?

In her latest data and digital media masterclass, Tanya Pepin shares her top social media tips.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I haven’t exactly embraced social media and social networking in my personal life, let alone at work. I have a Facebook page but I am one of those people who never update their statuses and just check in to read the updates from witty friends who have mastered the art of the short and punchy statement. I am slightly better with LinkedIn: I have an up-to-date page, quite a few contacts and I have posted the odd update to my contacts. That said, to date, its benefit to my business is pretty intangible.

[pull_quote_right]Wholesale being wholesale, the sector will undoubtedly embrace social media when it can identify an opportunity for it to drive extra sales[/pull_quote_right]

My point is that I suspect my current adoption of social media is not dissimilar to many wholesale professionals’. I also imagine that, like me, colleagues and the wider media are prompting most wholesalers to consider whether they should be using social media more and whether it is the next big route to market.  

Wholesale has been relatively slow to embrace e-commerce, so it is inevitable that the sector is also behind the curve on social media. However, as sectors go, it is true to say that wholesale is quite disparate, which can make social media adoption especially challenging.  

Communication for retail and catering, on-trade and off-trade, is not always the most collaborative of channels – competition between operators can certainly limit cross-sector activity. However, wholesale being wholesale and driven by profit, the sector will no doubt embrace social media when it can identify an opportunity for it to drive extra sales.

For my part, I have certainly noticed that winning new business is more challenging now than it was before the economic downturn: budgets have been cut and businesses are averse to risking money on new budget lines. Therefore, it is becoming ever more important for a company to get its name out there.  

Social media is undoubtedly a useful PR tool for raising awareness. As we are a consultancy, we have only a few clients, so relationship-building is easy. But for a wholesaler, building individual relationships with all its customers is virtually impossible. Again, social media is a great way of building relationships and getting quick feedback from large numbers of people. Awareness- and relationship-building might not go straight to the bottom line but they are certainly key contributors.

To that end, here are my own top tips for developing a social media strategy:

Purpose and strategy: Decide why your business will use social media – usually, you will be raising awareness, driving traffic and developing relationships.

Identify your reach: Think about whom you will target and the best ways to get to them.

Decide what to say: You will need ongoing, interesting and fresh content to be noticed and to keep your audience coming back. 

Engage in dialogue: Comment on your audience’s social media channels and respond when they comment on yours.

Do your research: Understand whether your business is already being talked about online and what is being said. 

Find out what’s trending: This is usually marked with a hash-tag (#) so include it within your social media channels to widen your reach. 

Choose the right person: You will need a consistent ‘voice’ to manage ownership of your online persona – who has what it takes to represent your business online?

Integrate sectors: Include your social media presence in your marketing agenda and alongside other communication activities in the business. 

Communicate internally: Ensure that all your staff are aware that you are embracing social media and why. Get them involved so that they can promote it.

Communicate externally: Tell your customers and potential customers that you are online and opening a new avenue for communicating with them. Ask them what they would like to see.

Develop a content calendar: Certain things, such as promotions, are cyclical and can form the basis of your social media content, since they can be more instant and impactful. 

Who can you collaborate with? Signposting your customers to other content that can help them develop their businesses will make you more valuable to them.

Assess your progress: Regularly review your content. Be honest about whether it is delivering against the strategy. Adjust things that are not working. 


  1. Hello,

    I run a wholesale company in the Netherlands and I stuggle as well with implementing a good social media strategy.

    LinkedIn gives me some good leads, but I would love to use other social media platforms as well only I cannot think of good content to post…

  2. Linkedin is great for us to talk to our wholesale and retail friends. We also use it to learn about our ever evolving business from people doing exactly what they love, in wholesale or in retail.

    BW mag has mastered this, by keeping us updated with great articles and insight just like this one using Social Media really very well.

    It is a great way to listen to and stay close to your customers. Thanks Tanya, great article.


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