Social media in supply chains – time to hit the ‘like’ button?

There’s no doubt that social media has changed the world since its mainstream adoption into society, considerably impacting a business’s reputation, sales and even survival.

Dave Willis was quoted saying, “Do not use social media to impress people, use it to impact people.” This bold statement encapsulates the exponential growth of the social media phenomenon.

Historically, businesses implemented regulations prohibiting employees from accessing social media platforms while at work. However, over the last few years, to keep ahead of the competition in today’s market, this belief has shifted to the contrary.

Instead of avoiding social media, businesses are increasingly embracing the platform as a tool to extend their online presence and generate new revenue streams.

Social media is described as online applications and technologies that enable participation, creating relationships, sharing information and collaboration amongst a community of users. Similarly, supply chain management relies on the internet and IT innovations to create virtual communities and networks to collaborate between supply chain partners.

From a supply chain perspective, social media channels give consumers, vendors, suppliers, manufacturers, transportation companies and fulfilment centres a powerful tool for gathering all sorts of feedback. All that data can be put to good use, ranging from positive reviews to something more negative such as a poor customer experience. This is an exigent benefit of social media as supply chain decisions should never be made without considering positive and negative input.

A significant inadequacy of several current SCM solutions is their predilection for an inward-looking approach to data collection. This ideology is based on gathering information about procedures and policies internally without considering the ripple effect that such procedures and policies may have on supply chain partners.

For supply chain professionals wanting to uncover new ideas, monitor commodity and pricing trends, document best practices and communicate with customers, colleagues and suppliers, the following are some examples and opportunities for social media in supply chains:

Improved visibility and coordination: Supply chain partners can use social media to track events and transactions, such as a delivery delay or a carrier’s failure to pick up a package. An application like Twitter may be used to notify truck drivers of accidents and road closures, and express the demand for specific types of shipments.

Communication with customers: Businesses can contact their customers directly via social media sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and LinkedIn to get reviews and feedback about their products and service. Direct contact with the customers saves time, which can be utilised in better processing and optimisation. Also, based on feedback, the quality of service or product can be improved as per requirement.

Communication with suppliers: Collaboration via social media platforms such as Zoom, WhatsApp, MS Teams and Twitter facilitates advanced scheduling on a real-time basis. It helps all supply chain partners to stay in contact with each other to have a decision-making system that is efficient and transparent. It allows knowledge and data sharing, newsfeed distribution among peers, supervision of processes and tracking the transport and logistics of all vendors and suppliers, which subsequently improves trust and the relationship between supply chain partners.

Forecasting: Using social media platforms, businesses can predict trends in the marketplace and consumer sentiment about products and brands by analysing public posts made on social media platforms. For example, Levi Straus & Co. and Zara use the insights gained from social media posts to determine fashion trends when creating new clothing lines.

Sourcing: Using social media platforms, businesses can analyse the reviews, feedback and ratings of current and future suppliers as additional metrics when making supplier selection strategies. Additionally, social media platforms such as LinkedIn can be used to find and engage with the best talent in the industry.

Social media invariably aids in disseminating vital information and continues to be a popular and successful means for businesses to convey information rapidly. Businesses that neglect social media will inevitably miss out on these changes, benefits and future business growth opportunities. If your business has not fully embraced the power of social media platforms yet, perhaps it’s time to consider hitting the like button.