With 20 million hours spent on Facebook every day in the UK, research has shown Facebook to be the second most visited website in the UK after Google.

Not forgetting the other countless social media sites like Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn, the information age has resulted in a mass move into utilising online platforms to market companies through social networks. The question we always get asked from wholesale businesses – should wholesalers get involved in social media? What’s in it for B2B businesses like ours? Let’s start by looking at some facts. A survey carried out by Virgin Media Business has found that Facebook has over 1.5 Million business pages and 32% of the UK businesses questioned were active on the site.

Similarly, Kissmetrics have discovered Twitter users post 1 billion tweets a week, which demonstrates the mere scale of social networking sites. Furthermore, out of any social media platform, LinkedIn presents three times the opportunity for lead generation. With Facebook recently announcing its reach at 1 billion users and Twitter boasting over 500 million, there’s no denying that such substantial numbers present an opportunity on some level to either showcase your brand or get your business message out there.

Okay, so the potential reach is enormous, but for wholesalers it continues to go back to the question, if I dedicate time and energy to these platforms, will I really influence my trade customers?

If trends in the retail world are anything to go by, social media usage looks set to go in the same direction for B2B. Retailers are using social media to build their brand personality, showcase their products, offer fun and stimulating opportunities to engage with the brand and even the chance to shop via social commerce. The other side of the story is consumers are choosing to connect with brands they like, and interacting with social media channels as another form of communication. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become conduits for consumers to ask…”Where’s my order?” “Do you have it in my size”, “When is it coming back into stock” and lastly to complain about bad service they may have received. Retail brands; ignore this at your peril! This is a golden opportunity to respond fast with detail and show to the world what type of business you are.

So the question remains, why should business to businesses not engage with their customers in such a way? They already are. Dental Lab, a chain of dental laboratories has built a following of trade customers on social media sites, which are a captive target audience, ready to receive product messages, new innovations and furthermore they are using certain keywords to attract new potential customers.

Whilst the original ethos of social media is getting blurred with business pages looking to generate new leads and sell directly, if you can build an audience of trade followers who are ready and willing to hear your sales messages, why not? The secret for B2B business having an impact in social media lies in building a following of their typical trade customers, existing and new. And then you’re in business.

Here’s a few tips on how B2B businesses can start to make an impact on social media…

1. Create a clear social media strategy that outlines your short & long-term goals and plan of action.
To make a successful social media impact, you should have a social media strategy in place which
features a breakdown, by whichever timeframe you prefer, of your planned social media activities.
As well as your goals, this should also feature your target audience, your methods of measuring
success and maybe a section monitoring your competitors’ social media activities.

2. If you can’t afford Google ads, Social media is a far cheaper alternative to get the word out on your company. Forecasts by The Royal Bank of Scotland show 87% of mid-to-large sized UK firms will increase or at least maintain their social media spending this year. It’s a sign that larger scale businesses are reaping some benefits for being active on social media 3. Showcase your products on these sites for the world to see. Let people have a chance to see what you’re all about and the services you can offer to them. Wholesalers can, pick their best products and use seasonality to their advantage. Let social media become a window to your store.

4. Put your efforts into getting your existing trade customers follow your business on social media. Then give them a great experience. Communicate, add value, provide information and inspiration and keep them posted with what’s going on in your business.

5. Whilst it is always maintained to be the personal voice of your business, stay professional. Your social media is another face to the business and if you want potential customers to take you seriously, always keep a good balance between being fervent and professional

6. The final tip would be to keep it short. Twitter’s 140 character limit may have had an impact, but in today’s day and age, ‘more is less’. Keep your points short, to the point and allow people from all demographics to understand and enjoy your posts

In conclusion, whilst research organisation Experian Hitwise, boldly (and controversially) claims that only 1 Facebook fan equals 20 additional visits to your website. However traffic is not always going to lead to sales. Social media may not be for everyone and may certainly not be for your trade customers. Knowing your target market’s usage of social media remains all-important. Your target market must use these sites in order for your marketing message to be received.

Additionally there is an emerging argument that the business social media market has become saturated. As people get used to social media ads, they’ll pay less attention to them. Public reaction to business information is dampening and so firms are always on the quest for innovative ideas to gain consumer attention. We say keep your time investment in social media realistic, but if you’ve the resource to implement it and a willing target audience to join you, why not give it a go? Williams Commerce has optimised the execution of social media for many firms and can also help you.

For more information about how social media can help, or to begin your journey into implementing social media for the benefit of your company, contact Williams Commerce for a chat on 0116 326 1116.