Elit Rowland considers why more wholesalers should have a Twitter presence and how they can tweet well
Why should a wholesaler bother joining Twitter – is it really going to improve customer loyalty or generate more sales? The answer is no, not overnight, anyway. But there are an awful lot of independent retailers, caterers and foodservice outlets on the social media site, and with just a small handful of wholesalers to contend with, there’s a pool of opportunity for the taking.
One well-seasoned social media operator says that traditional methods of notifying retailers can be costly and, quite often, ignored. “Twitter, on the other hand, is seen more as a pleasure and a good way of getting the message across,” explains David Grimes, the managing director of Parfetts. “The right offers and deals bring people into the store. We do see good results.”
While the social media tool may not have a massive impact on the business, David – who is also on the Landmark board of directors – explains that it’s still a good way of sharing news and picking it up quickly. “Most of the news we get these days is via Twitter. It’s a good way of seeing what’s going on in the world very quickly.”
The group posted its first-ever Tweet in April last year, after David appointed PR and marketing manager Guy Swindell to keep an eye on the way that technology is changing the business. “Traditionally, wholesalers are slow to take on technology and social media – but those important areas need someone who is keen and dynamic,” he explains.
Guy has since used Twitter to drive traffic to the Parfetts website, shout about deals, discounts, trade days, exhibitions and own-label products, and even raise the profile of the company Facebook page.
For those wholesalers who think they don’t have the time to play around with Twitter, it need not be as time-consuming as they might think. Guy reveals a top tip: “I use a useful tool called TweetDeck, which allows me to stack up Tweets in advance and send them out at set times. It means I don’t have to think about it every day.”
For those operators who would like to hit the Twitter-sphere but don’t have a social-media guru to hand, we’ve put together five essential steps to help make Twitter work for your business.
What’s in a name?
Should you tweet from your company’s name or your own? It’s an important question and we recommend keeping business and pleasure separate, especially if you want to tweet about friends or family. BA Cash & Carry has the balance right: managing director Zahier Ahmed has his own feed, as well as a separate BA account, with a focused Twitter strategy oriented around good displays, up and coming trade days, and raising awareness of the group’s annual dinner for suppliers.
Followers versus following
As a rule, it’s always good to make sure you have more followers. Not everyone will be able to match Costco Wholesale’s 16,347 followers, versus ‘0’ following (and just four tweets), but making sure you get the balance right helps your business to look popular with customers. One of the best ways to generate a healthy following is to offer educational and action-oriented messages.
What do I say to engage?
As well as informing customers about deals, discounts, new products and trade days, it’s important to find other ways to engage with and entertain your followers. Elbrook Cash & Carry has tweeted pictures of celebrities in its depot, including boxer Nigel Benn and popstar Tulisa, while foodservice operators Wing Yip and East End can be found tweeting recipes and nutritional advice – that use ingredients available in its depot, of course.
Will my competitors be able to see?
Yes – even if you don’t follow them, they can follow you, but so what? Some of the best wholesalers on Twitter are shouting about their competitive prices, impressive displays and fantastic awards. It’s a great way to be seen and heard by existing customers as well as attracting new business. Some wholesalers, particularly Booker, have even used the channel to deal with customer feedback, such as discontinued lines or late deliveries. It has even prompted lines to be re-listed (see above).
It’s not all about wholesale
Twitter also offers trade associations, buying groups and other related organisations a useful way to share instant news with their members. The Federation of Wholesale Distributors tweets industry news daily to its 745 followers, together with updates on duty fraud and news on the illicit alcohol and tobacco trade. Meanwhile, Today’s Group appear to be the only buying group using Twitter, sharing ‘top retailer tips’ and pages from its Today’s Retailer digital magazine.