Twitter for Procurement – What’s All the Chirping About?

We are very grateful to Juliet Frost for analysing our Twitter connections and coming up with this very interesting post on how Twitter can work for Procurement. Juliet is an engineer by training, now a procurement specialist with expertise in sourcing and major technology implementation, and an expert on the use of data and social media in procurement. 

There has been much promotion of social media networking for procurement professionals and with approximately 30,000 procurement and supply chain tweeters, there is a lot out there for you to engage with. But where do you start? And if you’re one of the 30,000, how do you get greater value?

Twitter is a social network so isn’t just about the number of followers but how connected you are to the network.  With the popularity of social media, research techniques into social networks have made leaps forward in the past few years. This network analysis is used successfully by big brands and political groups. But what can we find out if we apply these same techniques to the procurement twittersphere? That is exactly what I did using procurement-related tweets in October.

Complex twitter network analysis doesn’t just look at the number of followers as collecting follows isn’t a good representation of how influential a tweeter is in a network (although it can help). It also doesn’t look simply at the number of tweets a user makes. A user can make lots of tweets but if nobody engages with them, then they are not influential. A better metric is to look at centrality. Centrality is how well a tweeter is connected (by mentions in tweets or re-tweets) to other well-connected tweeters. So if you tweet and it gets re-tweeted by a well-connected tweeter this scores higher than if it was re-tweeted by a less well-connected tweeter.

Remember that we are just looking a procurement-related tweets, so the Mayor of London twitter account with1.6M follows score less well on centrality in the procurement twittersphere that the CIPS news twitter account with 8,400 followers.  Unsurprisingly, if you want to be more influential with procurement professions on twitter you are better off engaging with CIPS than the Mayor of London.

Would it surprise you to know that @SpendmattersUK came out as the most central procurement tweeter in the world?

The top 5 most influential procurement tweeters are:

@SpendmattersUK

@procurious_

@CIPSnews

@sureshpprabhu (minister for Railways, India)

@CIPSevents

We can then look at social network maps that are made up of three major elements:

  • Communities – groups/clusters that communicate between themselves.
  • Hubs - a user that broadcasts to lots of other users.
  • Bridges - users that engage between multiple communities, these users are key to making tweets go viral.

Twitter

To see an interactive map of the procurement twittersphere showing the communities go to http://www.jfrostviz.co.uk/procviz.html

As the visual shows, each community is a different colour, the most prominent being the purple community.

The top-three countries most influential in tweeting about procurement are the US followed closely by the UK and then India (who are mostly in the dark blue community). If you want to expand into other communities look to engage with users that bridge into your target community. If you have a message you want widely disseminated, then look for an appropriate hub.

However a word of warning, research has shown that although technology such as twitter makes it easier to set up networks, people tend to link only with like-minded people. Recent research from MIT shows that the more diverse a person’s social network, the more likely that person is to be innovative. A diverse network exposes you to people from different fields who may behave and think differently. If you combine the new information you receive from your network with the procurement and industry knowledge you already have, good ideas could be generated. Research found that greater innovation was a function of twitter network diversity - not the number of followers or the number of tweets.

So think about your network and how you can include other communities. For me, I’m interested in procurement and data, hence follow practitioners, academics, journalists and industry bodies in both spheres as well as broader areas of interest. So what’s stopping you getting on twitter?

Worried about trolls? – Don’t be, my analysis showed the sentiment in most procurement-related tweets is neutral. Only 10% is negative. Negative tweets can be very revealing  “Recent dealings with procurement – is it always this hard work?” tweeted by a tech start-up lawyer @PiersClayden gives a great insight into how procurement can be viewed.

Worried about how much time it will take up? Don’t be, 65% of twitter users look at twitter less than once a day. You don’t have to be glued to your twitter account.

Want to be as connected as @SpendmattersUK? Then connect with influential procurement tweeters.

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