Last week, Coupa ran a three part blog series based on a conversation I had with their marketing team about the role social media plays in supply market intelligence creation. You can read them here, here, and here. This is a subject that Jeanette Jones and I touched upon in our book, Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals, but it was certainly not our focus.
While social media is a great tool for news gathering and intelligence creation, it isn’t something that was ever part of my formal training – either in procurement or otherwise. I learned how to leverage the power of social media purely ‘in the wild,’ driven by the need to grow the footprint and brand recognition for Buyers Meeting Point. I am so glad that I did, both because we have seen clear benefits in our traffic, and because now I am in a position to apply what I have learned to the work that must be carried out by practitioners.
I highly encourage you to read all of the posts in their entirety, but here is a highlight from each one:
There is no question that we live in a multi-dimensional, multi-channel world. If you're doing research on a topic, should you consult YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn? Absolutely. One of the ways I do this is to think in hashtags, or keywords.
Let’s say you are a procurement person, and you've had a meeting with your stakeholders. The next step is for you to go off and start either expanding or building your knowledge of a market. Where on earth do you start?
That is an opportunity to think in hashtags. You have to be able to look at your notes and see the few words that are relevant. It's a way of condensing a full page of notes down to the three or four critical elements to use in a search, and to then go off and find the associations, or the suppliers, or the regulations, or the raw materials associated with them.
Being able to allow hashtags such as #conflictminerals to pop out at you the way they would in a tweet is a really good structural way to start building a research strategy.
From a true information standpoint, I'm torn about LinkedIn. I think to some extent it's starting to run its course. I think what they're doing with posts is fantastic, but you have to be someone that takes the time to read and stays on top of these things. I think if we're really focused on news and information, at this point Twitter is the better source. It's a better place to spend your time.
But I do think that it depends on what industry you're looking at, because they might be more or less advanced with social networks. In any new channel, the content has to have an opportunity to build and mature. They could be using the coolest, most up to the moment micro blogging or image posting thing that ‘the kids’ are all using, but most industries will not have figured out how to use that yet.
We're hearing more and more in our general procurement work that we need to be more multi-dimensional. It's no longer enough to do reporting, you have to do analytics. Everything has this three or 4D model as opposed to a single or 2D kind of approach including supply market research.
So, use LinkedIn. Listen to some podcasts. Watch some videos on YouTube. You have access to written, spoken, viewable information. It's tough because it's not always easy to qualify it and draw direct lines. But I think it's following a path, from an information standpoint, that's very similar to the levels of visibility and complexity that procurement is being asked to address in other parts of our jobs.
I am a big ‘push’ user of social media, by which I mean that I do just as much sharing as I do listening or reading. But what I have learned applies to people with the opposite mix of social media activity, too. LinkedIn is important because it is the establishment place to connect with other practitioners and possibly even join a discussion now and then. As long as you are in a few decent procurement groups, you are going to catch the daily or weekly news cycle from all of the recognized blogs and news sources.
The somewhat intimidating thing is that daily and weekly news cycles don’t cut it any more. You can’t possibly be expected to read every worthwhile post or report that comes out, but you do need to know what is available – even if it is just so you can go back and access it later, once you’ve realized it is relevant. The only realistic way to do that is to follow all of the recognized procurement thought leaders and sites on Twitter and install a mobile app on your phone.
You don’t have to share to be active. You can just read, but you always have the option of either retweeting a tweet or marketing it as a favorite. If your goal is to mark something so you can find it again later, use the favorite function. It will notify the original tweeter, but won’t spread the message to your network.
I appreciate Coupa’s energy and interest in putting together this series on social media for procurement, especially as it relates to supply market intelligence. Their questions were not easy, but they gave me a great opportunity to think about what I have learned and how it might be useful to others. I also appreciate them calling me a ‘social media maven’. I’m not sure I fully deserve it, but I certainly work hard every day to deserve the title!