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Rethink ‘Social’ for Your Supply Chain

It is not uncommon for companies that are part of the supply chain to perceive social media as too ‘social’ of a phenomenon for the kind of business they conduct. But it is exactly this perception that needs to change.

Social media is far from just socializing with your friends or family. The supply chain may not see or know the business benefits it can get from social media. Companies that are part of the supply chain need to lift their barriers and embrace it as more than just a content sharing experience but for the four main cost-effective business opportunities it presents for supply chain.

Stop, listen and collaborate

At the very core of the ‘supply chain’ is the concept of collaboration. The supply chain is, by definition, a set of companies or individuals that work together to create and deliver a product along its many processes from the supplier to the customer. Social media increases the potential for collaboration vastly through a plethora of network tools. And for businesses with offices scattered all across the globe, social media platforms can serve as a potential environment to enhance communication not only internally— such as within a factory or a warehouse—but with other key industry players. Companies in the supply chain can create their own community or communities in order to develop a more cohesive work process, or participate in external ones as well in order to find out more about certain aspects of supply chain operations.

Project and team tools like Zoho facilitate collaboration through a range of useful online applications such as invoicing, information management or Web conferencing. Sharing information within a community—such as with Twitter—instead of between a few people only can help a business get up to speed instantly with the latest news to promote more productively as a group.

More effective partnerships created via collaborative platforms can lead towards increased supply chain productivity of its diverse operations. Taking part in external communities dealing with similar work issues is also very useful to access business information that needs to be understood on a personal level.

Collective intelligence

Problems are bound to happen and social media allows companies in the supply chain to detect them quickly, efficiently and find solutions. Useful, user-generated feedback can be turned into business intelligence for companies’ own benefit.

Discussion boards, surveys, rating systems, recommendation systems and idea platforms can all be used by a company to provide and share feedback between each other and thus highlight potential problems. These sites can also be used to track the progress of one activity for instance, or channel targeted feedback about specific topics or operations. This process not only allows participants to voice their thoughts easily, instantly and from any geographical point, but enables companies to gather extremely valuable information to improve operations and find new ideas. Accessing external discussion sites can also be very useful to discuss or identify similar issues with others in related industries, find out what problems they are encountering and get external help in finding solutions.

Through social media, more people can be reached regardless of geography or time zones, and businesses can interact online via a common discussion board. Highlighting problems, finding solutions and bringing in new ideas altogether leads towards better productivity in the long-run and creates a more profitable business for everyone involved in the supply chain.

With social platforms, the supply chain can enhance communication, create communities, improve collaboration and collect useful information. The key for businesses, however, is to choose the optimal blend of social media applications that will answer specific business goals. Adopting social media to particular business needs will be the core of a successful social media strategy.

Steve Nicholls, the author of “Social Media in Business,” is an international speaker and social media strategist hired by business executives to teach them how to implement a winning social media strategy into their organization. Visit www.socialmediainbusiness.com.

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