By: Sarah Cornelisse*
Many businesses engage in both direct-to-consumers (B2C) and wholesale (B2B) marketing to diversify markets, minimize risk, or attain other business goals. Wholesale aquaculture businesses marketing to restaurant, grocery store, specialty store, and food wholesalers may question the role that social media can play in their marketing efforts.
“Social media marketing is often viewed from the standpoint of facilitating connections between businesses and individual consumers. However, wholesale businesses can also benefit from social media marketing.”
In wholesale marketing, the organization is the customer and marketing should target the needs, interests, and challenges faced by the individuals responsible for buying on the organization’s behalf. For example, a study of U.S. consumers found that “safe”, “healthy”, and “fresh” were the top ranked seafood attributes1.
Wholesale businesses that share content on social media channels highlighting production and harvest practices and distribution methods provide information to their buyers that those businesses can then use to demonstrate to their customers how they are meeting these desired attributes.
The individuals responsible for purchasing are likely to be social media users themselves. One study found that approximately 75% of wholesale buyers use social media in their purchasing activities and decision- making and that social media contributed to increased decision-making confidence2.
And while it might be assumed that social media platforms used by wholesale buyers differ from those used by consumers, according to Statista, as of January 2021, the top five social media platforms used by B2B marketers worldwide were Facebook (89%), LinkedIn (81%), Instagram (72%), YouTube (57%), and Twitter (54%)3.
“However, the use of LinkedIn, You- Tube, and Twitter were higher with B2B marketers than with their B2C counterparts pointing to the greater likelihood of success in engaging with buyers on these platforms.”
However, as with business-to-consumer social media marketing, wholesale social media marketing requires that you be developed and implement a strategy, starting with developing goal. B2B social media marketing goals are diverse, including brand awareness, thought leadership, lead generation and conversion, customer education, and talent re-cruitment.
“Like direct-to-consumer marketing, wholesale marketing is about creating trust and building relationships. Producing and sharing quality content on chosen social media platforms allows wholesale businesses to position themselves to achieve these goals.”
Wholesale buyers cannot purchase from aquaculture businesses if they do not know that they exist. Social media plays a valuable role in generating brand awareness by providing businesses the opportunity to display their unique personalities and humanizing attributes–aspects that are effective in connecting with customers.
Further, social media is highly effective for sharing content, highlighting and enhancing the expertise of a business. Social media content can address topics and issues routinely addressed through other marketing communications, such as email, website, or in-person.
“For instance, wholesale businesses can demonstrate an understanding of the needs and pain points of wholesale buyers, such as product volume, quality, and consistency, and address these issues through social media content.”
Brand awareness can also drive demand for a wholesale business’s products from end consumers, leading to buyers seeking them out. Social media content should illustrate the wholesale business’s ability to fulfill the needs, desires, and motivations and end consumers while also highlighting how this solves a buyer’s problem or enhances the buyer in the consumer’s eye.
By taking control of brand awareness, wholesale businesses can improve the positioning of their business and products with buyers.
While the objective of brand awareness is visibility, thought leadership is focused on a business positioning themselves as an authority on certain issues. Price will always be an important factor in a buyer’s decision but knowing that they are purchasing from a wholesale business that is knowledgeable on vital issues important to both them and their customers is also crucial. One survey found that 92% of buyers use social media to engage with thought leaders4.
“Consider a restaurant positioned as sustainably oriented. The restaurant buyer is more likely to engage with and purchase from wholesale aquaculture businesses that participate in social media-based sustainability conversations, sharing their expertise on seafood sustainability.”
Social media platforms offer features such as Groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, ‘Topics to follow’ and Spaces on Twitter, and hashtags across multiple platforms, that allow users to develop and interact in communities in which they can engage with other users on common interests or issue areas.
Additionally, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn allow for both individual accounts and pages and business pages, allowing for both personal and organizational presences and interactions.
To position them as thought leaders, wholesale businesses and key business individuals (owners, salespeople, etc.) should take advantage of the opportunity social media provides to answer questions and engage in discussions, sharing knowledge and experiences that emphasize expertise.
Social media is not just a presales marketing tool, however. Social media marketing can also be leveraged by wholesale businesses to generate sales between their buyer and the end consumer. Just as social media marketing generates brand awareness with wholesale buyers, brand awareness is also generated with end consumers.
“Wholesale aquaculture businesses can take advantage of this to share with consumers where their products can be found – whether their local restaurant, grocery store, caterer, or other outlet.”
Wholesalers’ social media marketing while seemingly similar in nature to that of direct-to-consumer businesses differs in a key area. Wholesalers must show appreciation for the complete value chain and demonstrate this knowledge to buyers.
“Social media can be a valuable tool to wholesale businesses in achieving this.”
Valle de Souza, S., K. Quagrainie, W. Knudson, and A. Athnos. 2021. “Go FISH: U.S. Seafood Consumers Seek Freshness, Information, Safety, and Health Benefits” Choices. Quarter 4. Available online: https://www.choices-magazine.org/choices-magazine/theme-articles/ the-economics-of-us-aquaculture/go-fish-us-seafoodconsumers-seek-freshness-information-safety-andhealth-benefits
BusinessWire. September 15, 2014. New IDC Study Reveals That the Most Senior and Influential B2B Buyers Use Online Social Networks in Their Purchase Process.
Statista. August 3, 2021. Leading social media platforms used by B2B and B2C marketers worldwide as of January 2021.
Jarski, V. January 24, 2015. Social Data’s Influence on B2B Sellers and Buyers. MarketingProfs.com
References cited by the author available under previous request to our editorial team.
*Sarah Cornelisse is a Senior Extension Associate of agricultural entrepreneurship and business management at Penn State University in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education.
Sarah has expertise in direct marketing, value added dairy entrepreneurship and marketing, the use of digital and social media for agricultural farm and food business marketing, and business and marketing planning and decision making.
Originally from New York State, she has a B.A in mathematics from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and M.S. degrees in Agricultural Economics and Animal Science, both from Penn State University.
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Editor’s note: references cited by the author within the text are available under previous request to our editorial team.