Social Media in Supply Chain Management

Social media is not a platform for sharing photos and status updates with friends. Companies are using social media marketing at increasing pace to reach out to consumers. A 2010 marketing study concluded that the future is interactive. But what about B2B use of social media. In 2008, marketers spent approximately $40 million in the US to advertise to a business audience on online social networks, and that is just the beginning.

Through interactive communities, your existing and future business partners are regularly learning about your company’s products, services and brand from their peers. This third-party, peer-to-peer information resonates far more than you’re your own marketing.

Recently a colleague in a major digital marketing agency told my client that branded sites are not the way to go, but you should focus on mainstream social media sites, because that is where the discussions are. Well… I don’t quite agree. Branded sites are useful for one thing… branding through a rich interactive user experience. This is where we would ideally like to have our community spend their time, but this is not realistic. People only have so many hours in a day and most of those are spent away from your branded sites. Sites like Facebook consolidate people into one place to fulfill personal social needs. Branded sites and mainstream sites need to be bridged by community groups and through mini-applications. It is a multipronged/multimedia approach. 

Well lets focus back on supply chain management… by providing a private social network web site for trading partners to update and access contact information and company profiles we are able to keep partners up to date and peer-to-peer interactions within the site help to amplify the message. When a supply chain manager finds an error or problem in a purchase order or shipment, they can go online and quickly identify the right person at the supplier, third-party logistics provider or contract manufacturer who can help resolve the issue before it causes delays in the supply chain. And just like mainstream social networks, this service is a hosted web site that users can log into to access a secure view of their colleagues, ensuring their latest data is available to their business community.

Last fall I had a personal experience with a major parcel shipping service. I was sending a letter to Europe with some legal documents. I went in in the morning and made the transaction. A few hours later I got a call that a few more pages were needed. Well I rush to the store to see if I can add the sheets, but apparently the truck had come and picked up the mail for that morning. The store manager called the dispatcher to ask what truck it was and who the driver had been. He tried to call the driver to ask if he could pass by the store in the afternoon. However, the driver did not answer. A message was left on the drivers phone and at dispatch. The driver has reached and the sheets were added to the letter… fabulous service!!! But what if the store manager could log in to a social network, find out who the driver was and what his number was? What if he could have sent a message to the driver directly from the portal? What if he could have seen from a map where the driver was on his route? What if he could have checked who would have been at the depot where the letters would be taken next or what other stores/store managers were on the drivers route that day?

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