3 Ways to Use Social Media in the Supply Chain

Meagan Douglas
Wed, Sep 28, 2016
Social media can help supply chain management increase efficiency and improve transparency.
Social media can help supply chain management increase efficiency and improve transparency.

Social media has made its way into nearly every facet of business, from marketing to customer service. It only makes sense considering the enormous influence of sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. According to We Are Social's Digital 2016 report, of the 3.419 billion internet users, 2.307 billion are active on social media, and the number of people using these services only continues to grow.

While making social media profiles is great for creating a brand image, doing so can also benefit supply chain management. It can improve the efficiency of processes, aid in understanding customers and promote collaboration among other advantages.

Build Relationships
As Manufacturing Business Technology explained, a main advantage of social media is that it builds and maintains relationships, and supply chain constituents can reap the same benefits when collaborating with partners and vendors.

Being connected on social media gives companies perspective on each other's cultures. The more information both parties have, the better each can adapt their communication strategies for more effective conversations. After all, a company's profile page acts as a great window to its values. For instance, a no-nonsense business might share only posts that relate to its company, such as press releases or news coverage.

Meanwhile, a company that values collaboration and teamwork may share photos of employee outings or highlight star players. In that case, the partner would know that being friendly and open-minded is perhaps the best approach to the partnership.

Social media also provides a way to put a personal touch on demonstrating appreciation. According to Inc., honest displays of gratitude are part of fostering partnerships. While a personal note or hand-written letter are great ways to do this, social media allows companies to make a "thank you" hold more meaning. That is, it gives businesses the opportunity to tell others about how great their partners are - and any partner would be happy with some free PR!

Announce Recalls
Recalls spark major challenges among supply chain management, but utilizing social media for these announcements helps overcome these obstacles. For one, it serves as a fast, hassle-free way to communicate with all members of the supply chain. Of course, this type of message should only be supplementary to an internal memo, but at least it's a way to provide immediate updates as they come to the company.

Communication within the supply chain is hardly the only benefit of using social media during product recalls. The information can also more readily reach the consumer whose health could be impacted by the recall.

In fact, FoodQualityNews.com highlighted research that suggests companies that use social media experience less of a negative impact. That's because consumers can stop using the product or throw away the food that has been recalled more quickly, which in turn reduces the number of incidents. While a recall in itself isn't necessarily good for business, being transparent about the situation by making the announcement on a social media platform can prevent a totally tarnished reputation.

Of course, this strategy isn't without its pitfalls. FoodQualityNews.com warned that when other users repost the information, it can exacerbate the negativity surrounding the situation. Plus, companies have no control over what other people on social media say about the incident. The best way to counter this type of reaction is to be forthcoming with information as soon as it's available.

Interact with Consumers
Consumer communication via social media should not be limited to company announcements about recalls. Rather, these platforms can be used to gain insight about consumer preferences.

This is especially advantageous for the manufacturing and design side of the business. According to the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative, customers can use social media to tell companies what they do and don't like about products and even offer suggestions for making the item better.

Be warned, though, that social media isn't the be-all-end-all of data collection. While it can yield great information from consumers and partners, supply chain managers must supplement this strategy with other data collection tools. For example, making an announcement is only one step in the recall process. Using RFgen's mobile data collection solutions allow supply chain managers to track and trace products, pulling the necessary items from shelves.

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