April 2014 | How-To | Ten Tips

Tapping Social Media to Power Your Supply Chain

Tags: Supply Chain Management, Partnership, Customer Service

Social media provides a platform for companies to share knowledge and opinions, and broadcast information to an audience of followers. It also generates valuable data about how your customers think, shop, vote, and spend their leisure time. Many companies have jumped into social media to improve supply chain operations. Cindi Hane, vice president of technical product management, and product manager for logistics at supply chain technology provider Elemica, offers these tips for putting social media to work for your supply chain.

1. Subscribe. Get to know the most popular channels: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. These platforms provide access to a user community relevant to your business and customers.

2. Employ filters. Set preferences to fine-tune your feeds and minimize social media fatigue. Reviewing tweets and status updates should not cause stress.

3. Explore and observe. Determine which platforms provide the best, most applicable information for your company. Look for quantifiable supply chain information from expert sources. Figure out the contributors' motives—are they cleverly advertising something, or are they truly seeking a community with which to collaborate? Advertising has its place, but you should recognize it for what it is.

4. Identify opportunities. Determine which supply chain processes would benefit from better collaboration through an unstructured data channel. You can proactively check the reputation of vendors and potential vendors with social network users.

5. Share relevant news. Broadcast information that might help logistics partners be more proactive or make better decisions. For example, share news about port disruptions. This allows shippers and carriers to better communicate transit delays to the end user.

6. Be prepared to evolve. Some of your efforts will be fruitless. Don't be afraid to delay or abandon some outlets or initiatives—there are plenty of others to try.

7. Contribute often. Share your lessons and best practices, especially with your trading partner community. Using social media can make your business proactive instead of reactive; better able to respond to market volatility; and flexible to meet the specific needs of each customer.

8. Empower your staff. Don't dictate a social media strategy to your supply chain operations staff. Let one evolve naturally as they use the outlets to get to better know your customers and partners. They will be able to increase effectiveness and customer retention, and promote cross-selling opportunities.

9. Enlist help from others. Find the people in your organization who are comfortable with social networking, then ask them to help identify some creative uses. It is a perfect way to increase employee engagement and promote cross-training.

10. Build better relationships. Use social media in your supply chain network to discover, create, and build new or more robust relationships faster. In addition to being an efficient method for broad collaboration, social media provides the ability to quickly analyze the marketplace and assess partner performance. You'll gain insights you can't get anywhere else.