Leveraging Social Media in the Supply Chain

Meagan Douglas
Thu, Oct 1, 2015
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Social media provides mobile users with tons of information.

Social media channels can be entertainment platforms, communication resources or business tools. Many companies adapt their marketing efforts to distribute content across YouTube and Instagram. Consumers use Twitter and Facebook to contact customer service departments. Numerous industries experiment with how social media can play a part in the supply chain.

New media - which is over a decade old, so it hardly qualifies as new anymore - is a catch-all term that refers to immediately available online content promoting direct interaction between users, according to Newmedia.org. Social media is an audience-driven branch of this content. The rapid engagements social media facilitates can provide supply chains with data insight directly from consumers. It also allows a business to casually speak to their customers and provides a new channel for internal conversations.

Provide Insight into Customer Supply Demands
If a company follows consumers as they browse online resources, it gets measurable numbers on preferences and concerns. Social media pages demonstrate what images, news and products customers like and what information doesn't create a connection. Marketing and sales teams often use these analytics to plan advertising campaigns. Social media monitoring can also tell warehouses and distributors which inventory items need to be ready for customer demand.

Mark Osborn, a marketing expert with SAP enterprise software, wrote a piece for Supply & Demand Chain Executive explaining how social media postings can provide inventory management professionals with very detailed information about customer demands. Osborn used the example of clothing manufacturers tracking the types of materials users on social pages discussed most. The businesses planned for future sales seasons by monitoring online interest.

Warehouse management data collection devices need information from a variety of different sources to create a complete inventory picture. Workers should use mobile data collection devices to capture daily product movements, as the software has to integrate with overall company infrastructure and the data should include important trends coming from market indicators. An automated data collection system that includes social media demand provides supply chains with the total information it needs to create projections. 

Transparency of Supply Chain
Social media is a two-way street. A company can use online public communication channels to learn about its customers and the business can share educational materials with audiences.

Procurement Professionals said a social media page provides a company with transparency. A business Facebook or Twitter profile seems less formal than other online materials, it gives consumers the impression they talk directly to an organization. By supplying these pages with information, companies give audience details that come straight from the heart of operations. Supply chains can show customers exactly how products go from manufacturing to stores.

Information like inventory counts, shipping schedules and warehouse operations shared with customers gives them insight into what products are available and when. Street Fight, a online business news resource, highlighted some social media pages and features specifically designed for supply chain information sharing. If a company has devices like barcode scanners that automatically capture data, it can share the real-time facts and figures with a social media audience.

An Effective Communication Channel
Consumers use social media channels to talk with other people. Facebook and Twitter messaging are popular ways of getting information to family and friends. Warehouses can also use new media platforms to facilitate rapid communication with customers and company members.

A business can send shipping updates directly to a customer's social media page. Users can respond with new needs or other relevant information. It's important that every department has mobile data collection computing devices so they can receive messages as soon as they come in. All devices should integrate in a central system so communication details are available to all stakeholders.

Social media can also facilitate communications between employees, managers and suppliers. Manufacturing Business Technology said online media messaging can help in a variety of situations. Companies can receive alerts about traffic conditions or weather, monitor supplier reputation and talk to employees in different territories. Social media is informal enough to be convenient but formal enough for mobile warehouse management system tracking. All businesses should investigate the possibility of syncing mobile social features with daily operations to stay competitive in the modern market.

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