If your business isn't using social media in some format, they're already in the minority. Author Ed Rusch, in a recent article for Manufacturing Business Technology, cites studies that show upwards of 70 percent of businesses are currently using some form of social outreach. The needs of the supply chain—the up-to-date real time info, the flexibility to respond to challenges, the communication demands— are a natural fit for this ubiquitous medium.
Incorporating social media into your vendor management best practices, whether as part of the workflow or as a convenient communication node, is a recipe for success that many companies are now embracing. Here are a few reasons why you should get on board.
A Broad Communication Band
Sure, you could set up 2-way radios in the warehouse, give each driver a cellphone on a push-to-talk network, or link all of your office computers on an intranet, but each of those comes with ongoing system costs. A social media tool like Twitter, however, is free and can be configured through privacy settings and followers to appear on computers, cell phones and web-connected devices fairly easily. Imagine if your company adopts, or continues a current BYOD approach and works with Twitter.
This strategy simply requires employees to download the free Twitter app and set up a username, giving you an open line of communication to all employees at all times and locations, regardless of device or operating system. This idea can also be extrapolated to other channels, such as Facebook, which also offers privacy settings and free app downloads and access for any OS.
Maintaining Partnerships and Courting Alternatives
Social media isn't just useful for keeping your supply chain intact, it's also an important part of the person-to-person component of setting up your vendor management best practices. Discussing issues in a more informal setting, such as Facebook, can facilitate better connections with existing suppliers and also provide a straight line to talks with "plan B" alternative providers.
Phone calls, emails and meetings will always be an integral part of meetings, but as younger, social-media-raised management staff enters the workforce, social media will undoubtedly join these as an inherent form of business communication. There's no need for concern it will take over, either. John Berry of Social Supply Chains emphasizes that even the most eager social media users in business understand it is an augmentation to face to face communication, not a replacement.
A Technical Boost to Record-Keeping
Even documentation can benefit from social media implementation in the supply chain. As John Berry further notes, services such as Evernote, which can be easily shared from user to user, offer Google-like search ability for terms across impressive amounts of in-company data volume. Jotted-down footnotes on an "Evernoted" order or invoice can be looked up by supply chain members that need them, even if the original writer is unavailable. If an order needs to be amended, this can be achieved quickly through the same process, in reverse.
With most larger phones and tablets incorporating stylus-written capability, even the non-tech-savvy can contribute to a mass of usable data, in turn leveraging that data to drive a company forward. This information can also be accessed for compliance, efficiency initiatives and even performance reviews.
Whether your company steps outside of their comfort zone to bring existing social media into a work sphere or incorporates that social media into existing processes, ultimately all will benefit. Much like other vendor management best practices, a modern company must adapt to and embrace technology their supply chain communications in order to survive in a digitally-focused marketplace. If computers, phones and people are already populating that network, adding social media isn't so much renovating the basic approach as adding more useful and vibrant connections.