Using Social Media to Improve Procurement Performance: Exploring Emerging Research

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When it comes to the intersection of social media and procurement, we’re all interested in how to use it effectively, whether it’s to improve our relationships, our jobs or both.

Yet at times, the magic of its use can seem elusive.

More and more public-facing platforms (the Facebooks, Twitters, Snapchats) and private/collaborative ones (the Procuriouses...Procurii?) seem to crop up every day, but where to start? How to start?

Dr. Frank Rozemeijer and Dr. Lieven Quintens of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and Jonas Heller, a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales’ Business School in Australia, have set out to explore just that.

It was on social media — LinkedIn, to be specific — that I found a new study undertaken by this team that tries to answer, through an online survey, this question: “Does work-related use of social media influence how procurement professionals do their job?”

Naturally, this piqued my interest. So I took the survey just to get a sense of some of the questions, and the questions I most wondered how procurement professionals would answer were types like these:

(I of course went the middle route with my “answers,” wanting to be objective and not taint the pool too much!)

Upon finishing, I elected to receive the results in a final report, which respondents have the option to ask for; I promise a follow-up post after I get it.

Goals of the Social Media and Procurement Performance Survey

In the meantime, I caught up with Jonas Heller of UNSW to get his take on what the team is trying to accomplish.

“The research itself is motivated by the idea that a fair part of a procurement/SCM manager’s job is about managing relationships and handling information,” Heller told me.

“An individual procurement manager could potentially increase her personal network without much effort by being present on social media (LinkedIn, Procurious or Twitter, for example). She always stays up to date on what her contacts are doing, which also helps to engage in conversations in traditional offline networking events.

“Furthermore, social media can be used to stay up to date on industry news and changes in the market, or potential signals which indicate market changes,” he continued. “Those effects of social media will be stronger, if not only one purchasing manager but the whole team is capable of using social media in an efficient way — not watching funny cat videos on YouTube, but actually utilizing it for work purposes.”

This research team’s previous study, published at the IPSERA conference in 2016, showed individual perceived performance increases for procurement managers who use social media for work purposes.

In some ways, Heller had been ‘Test Subject No. 1’ for this at Zalando, a German e-commerce company based in Berlin.

“My personal experience while working for Zalando included the use of social media to stay up to date about latest market trends in the third-party logistic services industry for 15 countries in Europe,” he said.

“As one of my tasks was conducting tender offers and contracting logistics service providers (e.g., DHL, La Poste, Hermes, FedEx) for the parcel delivery (long-haul and last mile), using Twitter, LinkedIn and RSS feeds to stay up to date about the changes in the industry in each country was very value-additive, especially for the little extra effort it took to [initially] connect to all accounts.

“Additionally, connecting with potential suppliers on social media allowed me to know what they were doing lately, if they switched companies or what else was going on, which improved the conversations on the phone and in trade fairs,” said Heller.

Our Thoughts

Internally, we here at Spend Matters are most interested in how the concept of private online collaboration with suppliers or with internal teams (e.g., a platform such as Koble), or community-focused online collaboration with peers, comes together with the “best use” of more public social media venues like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — and the risks and rewards of using those while contending with corporate strategies and policies. (More to come on this in future coverage.)

Free Download: How supplier collaboration fits into the broader supplier management landscape.

But for now, what about you, readers? What do you think of all this? Where do you stand on the use of social media in doing your procurement jobs?

Let us know!

Editor's Note: Koble is a lead sponsor of Spend Matters, and Jason Busch, Peter Smith and Pierre Mitchell are or have been investors in Koble.

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