5 Ways Social Media Can Help Your Procurement Career

Post your way to success!

2014-01-socialmedia-jobstage A while ago I posted about the career-limiting bear traps to avoid when using social media for business. It’s good to be conscious of those, but they shouldn’t scare anyone away from making the most of these great communication tools: the one bear trap I forgot to mention last time would be to ignore social media altogether.

But how are we supposed to use them for business? It’s clear enough how Facebook can keep us in touch with friends’ culinary exploits and their kids’ school projects, how Twitter can crowd-source a thousand puns and how LinkedIn can be invaluable when job-hunting – but none of that helps us in the day to day of doing the job you’re in.

1. The Boundless Network

Anyone doing a job with an ounce of stimulation or challenge to it will face questions they can’t perfectly answer on a daily basis. What’s the best technique to manage that auction, who can supply the parts we’ll need in that new market we’ve entered, what’s the best training course for my new team member?

The web gifts you a boundless network of people who can – and overwhelmingly, want to – help. Place the question on a discussion board, detailed, intelligent answers often flood in from around the world; complete strangers happily take time to help you out. If the issue can’t be aired publicly, send a connection request to another customer of that supplier you’re evaluating, a CPO who does business in that country, and more often than not they’ll be happy to help.

We have access to huge amounts of data – and many videos of cats – via the Internet, which often turns out to be less helpful than one might hope (especially the cats). Being able to tap into real experience, however, is priceless.

2. Inspiration saves perspiration

Wondering how your colleague effortlessly develops brilliant strategies and is always ready with a great new idea? Well, it could be they’re just smarter than you, but maybe they’re keeping on top of the latest trends via blogs, Procurious and LinkedIn Pulse.

Social media are great tools to keep yourself up to date with the latest thinking. A quick scan of the latest articles, posts and discussions keeps you current and will often provide ideas you could use in your own role.

3. Colleagues might actually listen…

Comms professionals have long since known that the best way to get colleagues to read an announcement is often to get it covered in the press – for some reason we pay more attention to external sources than we do to those infernal internal memos. Most of us don’t have newspaper editors on speed-dial, but we can all now be our own publishers.

Post an article about an initiative you’re undertaking, file an update when you’ve completed a major achievement. It can be striking how others’ opinions of you can be moulded by the mood music you create through social media.

4. Check out the competition, keep close to suppliers

 At a previous company, we spotted that our main competitor’s Twitter account had been hacked and that over several weeks, they – a big company – didn’t even notice. We thought we should let them know, but the lawyers told us we couldn’t talk to anyone there directly – so in the end we helpfully mentioned it to a journalist who covered our sector, knowing the news would then soon reach them…

Anything that egregious is unusual, but it’s amazing what you can pick up about both your suppliers and your competitors. A worrying number of staff from Company X seem to be moving on – could it be unstable? People at Company Y keep asking about a new market – do they have plans you don’t know about? 

5. Amaze your colleagues and astound your friends

Social media is fundamentally meritocratic. Anyone can build a network, we’re all free to create content, and it’s then shared in the same style whoever we are. It gives you an opportunity to show yourself as a leader in your profession, to your peers, your colleagues – and, of course, your bosses.

For this reason, it’s especially important for procurement professionals. In a discipline where your company may not have any benchmark of how good you are, it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your abilities. As the saying goes, you don’t necessarily need to blow your own trumpet, but at least let people know you have one.

Stuart Brocklehurst is Chief Executive of Applegate Marketplace. His past roles have included Group Communications Director of Amadeus IT Group SA and Senior Vice President for External Relations at Visa International CEMEA.