Social Media – My Fickle Friend

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Oh social media! You are my friend yet my foe. (Unfortunately, I am not as poetic as Dalip after he ended his last post with Shakespeare). My previous blog post covered social media and the use of it in the supply chain. Ironically enough, this post revealed some holes in my own social media plan.  Once the post was published, I easy found myself falling behind on the conversation, particularly on LinkedIn. I was quickly called out on my errors and soon realized that I had lost control of the tone of the conversation. Social media is like an avalanche, once it starts, it is almost impossible to stop.  I heard so much feedback (both positive and negative) that I decided to do a follow-up post.

One of the respondents sent me this report called “Monitoring Risks before They Go Viral: Is it Time for the Board to Embrace Social Media?” from Stanford Graduate School of Business. The report talks about how social media adds complexity to information gathering and that management needs to have a process in place for collecting, analyzing, and responding to the information.   Doing so will hopefully mitigate risk and help companies monitor and management organizational reputation.

I tracked down one of the report’s sources, Nielsen’s Social Media Report: Q3 2011, and found these interesting statistics:

  • Social media and blogs dominate America’s time online, accounting for a quarter of total time spent on the Internet
  • 4 out of 5 Internet users visit social networks and blogs
  • Americans spend more time on Facebook than any other website
  • 53% social networkers follow a brand

What does this mean? It means that there is more visibility over companies than ever before. Now, more than ever, companies need to be aware of the risks associated with social media. This does not mean banning or ignoring social media, but embracing it as a competitive weapon. This is particularly important to those managing the supply chain as consumers are paying more attention to how socially responsible companies are. And if people don’t like what you are doing, you will know. Look at how fast the “pink slime” issue took off? People were so outraged that pink slime was being used in their beef that a petition was started to force the USDA to stop using the substance in school food (the petition received 200,000 signatures in nine days). You can also look at Apple and Foxconn as another example.

This sounds all doom and gloom for supply chains. But while social media can be your worst enemy, it can also be your best friend (a fickle friend at that).  Monitoring sites can provide early warning signs of trouble to come. This would allow supply chain managers to address issues early enough and hopefully avoid a media firestorm.  As Adrian Gonzalez from Logistics Viewpoints says in his post “Lesson from Pink Slime Incident: Social Media is a Supply Chain Risk,” “The bottom line is that supply chain executives need to have social media on their risk radar, and they need to assess the potential consequences of a social media incident, just like they do for a natural disaster and other types of risks, and develop response plans to minimize the impact.”

My snafu a few weeks ago was not much compared to Foxconn and pink slime. I realized what had happened and worked to correct it as fast as possible. But it made me realize more than ever how fragile a brand can be and how important it is to have a sound social media program to control your brand message. It looks like marketing and supply chain will now forever be linked together through social media.

Are you managing risk through social media? Is your company monitoring social media?  Is supply chain even considered in your social media program?

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Crystal Jones is the Director of Marketing at The Mpower Group (TMG). She has over 12 years of marketing experience specializing in B2B marketing for consulting companies. Crystal is actively involved in many organizations, including the Business Marketing Association (BMA). She also has her Master's Degree in Marketing from Johns Hopkins University.
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