Social Media and Procurement: Where We’ve Been and Where We Are Now

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When was the last time you went to your trade association’s website to log into the Members Only section?

What were you looking to achieve? How much time did you spend in there? Did it ultimately prove to be helpful?

If you’re a member of an organization like the U.K.’s Society of Procurement Officers in Local Government (SOPO), chances are that your answer to that last question is, “not helpful enough.”

That’s why SOPO recently partnered with Procurious as the first procurement industry organization to launch the latter’s corporate version of its online Community Platform, according to this press release.

The Community Platform “offers SOPO’s membership base of more than 2,500 local government procurement professionals in the U.K. a free, convenient and private place to communicate, share knowledge, develop skills and network online with fellow members,” according to the release. SOPO advises local authorities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on issues relevant to the strategic purchasing, contracting and supply functions.

“Procurious’ platform is a big step forward for us and a necessity in helping unite a disparate membership group with common aims,” Paul Smith, SOPO’s director, said. “By bringing everyone onto the same platform and talking together, we can deliver more value than ever before.”

That led us to wonder what members’ appetite was for this type of internal, corporate social network — is the move based on existing member demand, or is it more forward-looking/aspirational from the organizational leadership?

It would be hard to imagine that the previous system in place inspired the group’s members to not only visit it regularly, but to facilitate engagement meaningfully as well. (When I asked Peter Smith, managing editor of Spend Matters UK/Europe and Public Spend Forum Europe, for his thoughts, his view was roughly the same; Public Spend Forum, in fact, has its own social-platform aspirations.) Ultimately, we needed to know a bit more.

So we briefly caught up with SOPO’s Smith on what led to the partnership.

Q&A with Paul Smith, Director, Society of Procurement Officers (SOPO)

How quickly or broadly do you anticipate your network to adopt and actively use this platform?

We are really pleased to have already signed up over 350 members in our first weeks, and in the coming months we are planning a number of activities to drive sign-ups and engagement.

And how will you measure ‘success'?

We will measure success initially by meeting targets for sign-ups and engagement. Subsequently, we will use member surveys to assess satisfaction.

What were the failings of the members-only area of SOPO’s site that pushed you to partner with Procurious to institute this corporate platform?

Procurious offered a far more modern environment with improved usability, including standard features such as the ability to embed media and comment and to ‘like’ posts. It is also far easier to administer and there are additional features such as separate groups.

How important do you think internal, collaborative social networks such as this will be to you, and for the future of procurement as a whole?

Procurement will have to adopt technology to help collaborate across disparate groups either internally or externally, and I have no doubt that collaborative social networks are going to be hugely important in both my own job and in the procurement profession.

Social Media and Procurement: Where We’ve Been…

In 2014, Peter Smith, managing editor of Spend Matters UK/Europe, outlined why procurement organizations should get on the “social media adoption” bandwagon.

Although a few early adopters in the U.K. public sector such as the procurement team at Norfolk County Council and the London Universities Procurement Consortium had been tweeting contract opportunities and more for a couple of years, the holy grail of social media in procurement, according to Smith, appeared to be heading toward two distinct areas: internal and external communication and supplier collaboration.

...and Where We Are Now

As we’ve seen and reported on Spend Matters over the past year, interest in easier-to-use, more efficient and organic B2B social collaboration platforms seems to be steadily growing.

Procurious, for its part, has grown from 10,000 members, which it hit just over a year ago, to around 20,000 today, and founder Tania Seary has told Spend Matters that the goal of the corporate version of the platform is to provide “quite a powerful change management tool.”

Yet Procurious has had its sights primarily set on the social communication of procurement and supply chain professionals, while other firms such as Koble (formerly SpendLead) are mainly concerned with creating a social media platform-like experience for buyers to discover suppliers (and vice versa) and ultimately collaborate in various capacities.

That’s because, according to Koble Founder and CEO Fabrice Saporito, the sourcing process is a team effort. “As a buyer, you are not alone to make a decision,” he told Spend Matters. “Ever.”

While Procurious and Koble have different value propositions, “one thing is becoming clearer among both,” according to Spend Matters Founder Jason Busch. “Individuals within procurement (as well as teams) are willing to dip their toes in the social collaboration waters because they feel comfortable with the paradigms that are already established in their home and business lives (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter).

“In short, social interaction in procurement, either with peers — internal or external — or suppliers, is not perceived as risky anymore.”

It’s no longer risky, mainly because it has been proven that using social media platforms, both external- and internal-facing ones, help procurement folks do their jobs better.

As we wait for a report release based on a survey we covered recently, we hope to get some more specific case study examples of how social has improved other procurement professionals’ on-the-job experience. Have a story to share? Let us know!

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