Social Media and Why Procurement People Should Be Adopting It (part 1)

At the recent ProcureCon Europe event, there was as always a Twitter hashtag, so we could see what other delegates were saying and make some linkages. Out of over 150 people there, only a handful tweeted with that hashtag anyway, and most of those seemed to be from the solution provider cohort present. Now maybe that is because everyone was concentrating so intently on the presentations, but I suspect there simply weren't many Twitter users in the group.

That bears out the theory that procurement is not as a profession an early adopter of social media. I'm pretty sure that if it was a marketing, sales or even HR event there would be more people participating with that tool. Yet procurement is one of the most outward facing functions - or should be anyway - and tools like Twitter are all about being outward facing. We are the other side of the same table to sales, but their practitioners tend to be much heavier users of social media.

Why is that? I suspect the traditional attitude of procurement is very much to control the inputs and the communication routes that give access to us and our attention. We are scared of being bombarded by prospective suppliers, who always want to talk to us. So we don't accept “on spec” calls from suppliers, we only meet the people we want to see, we don't give too much away.

So, I hear you say, why should I Tweet? Won't I just get bothered by suppliers? That may be the thought process for many in procurement. And yet, the world is changing. Information and knowledge are key. Speed of thought and rapid action drive competitive advantage. Collaboration and innovation are vital for business success. The CPO can't just sit in an ivory tower any longer, occasionally deigning to see a favoured supplier. You need to get out, to meet people, to communicate, to collaborate - and not just with your regular stable of suppliers or a few key internal stakeholders.

Social media is simply a tool - or a set of tools really - to help you do that better. Everybody in procurement, but that starts with CPOs and senior leaders, needs to work out how best to use those tools. Some of us are old enough to remember colleagues who didn't want a computer on their desk at work. "It's just a fad" they would say. Anyone talking about social media in the same way stands a good chance of looking just as silly in a few years time. Do bear that in mind.

In part 2 we will look briefly at the different ways in which social media can be used, but you can also download slides from a recent event at which I spoke. As well as my contribution, you can also get slides from Padraic Phelan of Enrich and Tim Hughes of Oracle, who is a genuine social media guru with 75000 Twitter followers!

You will know Oracle, but if you don’t know Enrich, they provide both tools and advice that help Oracle users get more out of their procurement software – a nice parallel there with social media, which can help you get more out of your supply base and perhaps even your own staff.

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Voices (4)

  1. Simon Marks:

    If a salesman hits his targets or lands a big order he is a hero, and if he loses a big order he will probably get an arm around his shoulder commiserating.

    Many Buyers have been constrained by the fact that if they meet their savings target all they get is an acknowledgement that they have done their job and little more if they exceed it. But if they stop the business or production line as a result of a savings action they all hell breaks loose. Is it any wonder they are conservative with a small “c”

  2. Andy Davies:

    More of our followers are suppliers, I guess, but it’s a great way to keep them in touch with what you are doing, such as launching a new sustainability initiative or holding a bidders’ conference. We think our Members – many of them procurement professionals – will catch up. We’re in it for the long haul anyway @lupconsortium

  3. Tim Hughes:

    Peter, great to meet you and great article. If people want to get hold of me then my Twitter handle is @timothy_hughes Or @OracleTim

  4. Helen Lumb:

    Best way to reach my school customers, we need to be succinct anyway @LummyLady #empoweringSBMs

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