The question of whether procurement should use social media as a form of market intelligence remains controversial. My colleague Kayleigh Ryan recently argued on the PIU that while operational-level professional buyers have been quick to adopt social media as a vehicle to gain information about markets and suppliers, CPOs and other top-level procurement professionals are the laggards of this trend.
Earlier this month I attended a workshop in Munich aimed at discussing the need for and use of market intelligence within the procurement function. As I presented various social media applications, I received some unexpected push-back from the audience, made up of mid to senior-level buyers from German-based financial service providers. "All of these social media tools are too Ango-American for me," argued one, quickly followed by another: "What is Twitter?"
A quick poll at the end of the session revealed that, in fact, most workshop attendees didn’t have personal experience of the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn, whereas some reported that they used social media tools tailored to German-speaking geographies, such as Xing, as opposed to LinkedIn.
This feedback made me realise that pushing the big global social media applications as a means for procurement to continuously innovate, let alone do its job correctly, is perhaps pushing the envelope a bit too much. We have to keep geographic remit in mind. Why would a medium-sized German retail bank revert to an internal social media application if most of its suppliers happen to be in Germany anyway?
But, then again, why wouldn’t it? To stay competitive, our supply chains have to increasingly explore opportunities outside of their usual territories, and as such, have to consider that suppliers may no longer be next door. And even if our suppliers were local, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that their sub-suppliers were too.
While the use of social media is obviously at each procurement organisation’s own discretion, those who already use it or are considering doing so should not limit themselves to local applications only, but should go for the big names out there. Because rest assured, that’s where they are bound to find more information. And isn’t that the purpose of market intelligence anyhow?