January 2010 | How-To | Ten Tips

Using Social Networking for Logistics

Tags: Supply Chain Management

Many companies are tapping into the power of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sites to promote their products and services, talk directly to customers, and educate the industry. If you are ready to delve into the world of Web 2.0, consider these tips, compiled with help from social networking guru Tim Richards, operations manager at States Logistics Services Inc.

1. Create your presence on the Web. Before you can engage in social networking, you need to create a profile. LinkedIn is the social networking site of choice for most businesses; Facebook and Plaxo are widely used as well. These sites enable you to search groups and organizations that interest you, and sign up for updates. You can also engage with other users, and post questions or articles.

2. Scour the Internet for potential providers.Many service providers display a social networking link on their home page. If you see a Twitter link, for example, sign up to "follow" the company and receive its news and announcements.

3. Follow suppliers that don't regurgitate press releases. Companies utilizing social media correctly do not talk in marketing voices. They engage the customer. Follow companies that provide real solutions through anecdotes and case histories rather than shameless self-promotion.

4. Check out the profiles of leaders in your industry.The evolution of social networking makes it possible to easily interact with leaders. Take advantage of it. Read their profiles, look at the groups they have joined, see what kind of discussions they participate in. Don't be afraid to jump in.

5. Sign up for RSS feeds to follow the members of your network. Using RSS feeds significantly enhances your ability to stay current on important information, whether it's a blog post, news update, or tweet.

6. Decipher the negative. Social networking can provide information about a potential partner, but you need to know how to discriminate between posts by a disgruntled former employee and a true negative analysis. Examine criticism and positive comments about a provider or service you are considering.

7. Engage, don't just watch and listen. Pick groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Plaxo with a strong membership base, and start your own group to frame the conversation around your concerns—negotiating carrier rates or implementing RFID, for example. Collaborate with providers and other shippers.

8. Get educated.Do frequent searches on topics that interest you. Set up a time each day to monitor your social networking sites and RSS feeds. Use them as a research tool by posting a discussion and considering the responses.

9. Attract new logistics personnel. Looking for logistics help? Social networking sites can connect you to the right individuals. Browse profiles, and post a job listing. Social networking exponentially increases your reach to potential candidates.

10. Get customer input. Learn what your company is doing right and wrong by communicating with customers online. You can create a blog where customers can comment on a new logistics procedure, for example. In addition, start a "Become a Fan of" page for your company on Facebook. Ask customers to offer suggestions on how you can improve your service, and solicit feedback on any new procedures or enhancements you offer. Online surveys can be useful as well.