Social Media and Supply Chain

Recently, Prof. Bob Ferlauto, PhD , a friend of mine and a member of the faculty at Rutgers Business School (RBS)  where he teaches supply chain, invited me to come and address his class about the use of social media in supply chain.

Never one to miss an opportunity to address a living audience (Don’t ask.) I quickly agreed.

I was then faced with preparing a presentation about the use of social media in an area where I’d had no prior experience having spent most of my career in financial services, life sciences, and information services.

Don’t think for one moment that I didn’t think that my reach had exceeded my grasp with this one!

Well, I did what I’m always telling my clients to do.  I used social media tools at hand to see what’s going on with social media in supply chain.  Fortunately, for both Bob’s class and me, there’s a lot.

Through Twitter and subsequent interviews, I learned that while the supply chain discipline was slower than others to adopt social media, it was catching up.  The reasons given for the slow start are similar to those given in other industries.  Doubts about ROI and a business case, no existing procedures for dealing with the tools (some companies still block them at their network firewalls), and an institutional resistance to change appear to the major reasons not to do anything with social media.

However, these excuses notwithstanding, there is a realization underway that it’s a business tool and not just for socializing. Tools other than the obvious candidates like LinkedIn and Twitter are being used.

Social media is being used in a number of ways:

    • Assisting in branding
    • Raising the visibility of the organization
    • Risk management
    • Innovation
    • Quality improvements
    • Engagement and communications with both existing and potential customers, employees, and the public at large.

My research led me to several studies on the use of social media in supply chain.  Several highlights brought out to me that this was real and not hype.  Here are a few of them:

    • 86% of manufacturing marketers use content marketing
    • 70% of manufacturing marketers are producing more content than they did one year ago
    • Manufacturing marketers use an average of 13 content marketing tactics
    • Manufacturing marketers cite YouTube as the social media platform they use most often to distribute content
    • Manufacturing marketers say YouTube and LinkedIn are the most effective social media platforms

(Source: B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing by Content Marketing Institute.)

So how does social media seem to be coming together with supply chain?

First, whether driven by customers or employees, social media is arriving in supply chain.  Supply chain specific companies and solutions are arising.  A recent article on highlighted nine specific examples of this.  Justifying ROI is still a struggle but progress is being made.  Social media maybe become an extension of ERP solutions particularly with regard to production planning and shipping.  Real life events (i.e., Superstorm Sandy) have demonstrated the flexibility and usefulness of social media in critical situations.

What I’ve come away with from this exercise is the following:

    • Social media’s use in supply chain is real
    • While coming from behind, social media apps are being used more frequently by more players
    • Content is becoming more important
    • Video is seeing increasing use
    • Many of the same tools used by individuals are being used by organizations and some convergence may occur here.

What does the future hold for social media in supply chain?

I see a continual drive for competitive advantage by businesses using these tools.  Communities of followers will be leveraged for new possibilities and to retain their loyalty.  New  tools and uses will be developed.  There’re no big secrets here.  This is what’s happened in other industries and disciplines where social media had a head start.

Two areas where I see future developments are with Big Data and crowdsourcing.  But, I’ll blog about these in the future.  (Hey!  I have to do something to get you back.  My jokes sure aren’t going to do it!)

In closing, supply chain will continue to evolve with social media and we expect to see continual change and possible game changers arising in this area.

I’d like to thank all who helped with this story.  In particular, Kate Lee of Fronetics, and Cerasis for all their help!(Place Link here.)  

I also want to thank Prof. Bob Ferlauto and his students at RBS for their kind invitation in allowing me to present to them!

In the meantime, thank you for following and reading my blog!

I look forward to any and all comments that you may have.  I will reply to any comments made to this blog post as promptly as I can.


I do this for a living and if I can be of any assistance to either you or your organization, please feel free to call on me.  Our initial discussion will be of no charge to you.

I can also be reached at

My Twitter handle is @conpsweeney.

Stay well!

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