When you think of social media, platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter probably come to mind. But social media is much broader than amassing “likes” and friends on Facebook, or broadcasting thoughts in under 140 characters via Twitter.

“A lot of supply chain executives have a limited definition of social media, and because of that it’s hard to see the connection between social media and their job function,” says Adrian Gonzalez, president of Adelante SCM, an online knowledge-sharing community for supply chain executives, and lead writer for the blog Viewpoint Logistics (viewpointlogistics.com).

Today’s tools—which range from free services like Facebook and Twitter to secure, enterprise-level software—boast a number of applications for hospital supply chain managers. Here are three possible benefits and ideas for how to get started:

1. Improving communication and collaboration.

At its most basic level, Gonzalez says, social media should be viewed as just another communications and collaboration tool. Instead of sending an email to 30 recipients and asking them to reply with their ideas or feedback, you could set up a secure discussion board through a social media platform like Yammer or Zoho Discussions. Social media used for collaboration offers at least three benefits over email: It helps cut down on inbox clutter; it allows the team members to participate on their own schedules; and it helps keep track of everyone’s ideas in one central location.

“If you know there has to be a better way, that’s probably an opportunity for social media to play a role.”

“Take a look at the current ways you’re communicating and collaborating, both internally and externally,” Gonzalez says. “If you know there has to be a better way, that’s probably an opportunity for social media to play a role.”

When implementing collaborative social media tools, Gonzalez recommends testing out the new process on a small scale—choose a low-risk, internal project involving just a few team members. After the project is complete, follow up with team members to find out what worked and what didn’t. Then, expand usage of the tools from there.

When you’re ready to get physicians or suppliers involved, again, start small. Identify departments or vendors you have a good relationship with and take time to communicate why they’re being asked to engage in this new process.

“That’s a much more effective approach than sending out a form letter with instructions on how to log into a new tool.”

“Explain to them that you think the way you’re working together doesn’t seem to be efficient and that you have an idea that you think will be a win-win for everyone,” Gonzalez says. “That’s a much more effective approach than sending out a form letter with instructions on how to log into a new tool.”

Also, when implementing social media as a collaboration tool, Gonzalez says, it’s important to realize that social media could “potentially give a voice to people in your organization who previously didn’t have a voice.”

If you’re encouraging employees, physicians or vendors to provide feedback or suggest ideas, you have to be ready to listen to those ideas and respond or react appropriately.

2. Gaining knowledge of your customers.

As social media usage becomes more ubiquitous, companies are using the tools as a platform to communicate with their customers—and vice versa. Listening to these conversations could lead to discovering relevant information for your supply chain operations.

Following the Facebook page of a supplier, for example, could clue you in to a potential delay in shipment caused by a snowstorm or product shortage. News could break on Twitter about a layoff at one of your suppliers that could have an impact on your relationship with them. Or, maybe patients are talking online about quality issues they experienced at your facility or with a particular product.

“Companies are looking at social media streams as another information flow that they can analyze for business intelligence,” Gonzalez says.

But how can you tell the difference between just a one-time comment and a real trend? Gonzalez suggests using one of the many social media analytics tools (both free and paid) to help provide trend analysis around social media conversations.

3. Sharing good ideas.

Here’s another reason to be active on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: By following the right users (or in the case of LinkedIn, joining the right professional groups), social media can serve as a powerful peer-learning tool and a platform for you to share good ideas, success stories and, where appropriate, even cautionary tales with others in your supply chain network.

Worried about information overload? Power your Facebook and Twitter feeds through a third-party app like Seesmic or Tweetdeck that allows you to manage multiple Twitter accounts and your Facebook account from the same place. These apps let you create groups of users or filters to help keep your supply chain news separate from updates about old college friends or family members.

Developers of enterprise software are beginning to add social media capabilities to their products, and the number of social media platforms and applications designed to enhance collaboration and communication in business is expected to grow. In five years, Gonzalez believes, social media will be as omnipresent in supply chain management as email is today. While he says we’re still in the “early observer” stage, change will happen quickly. Are you ready for the new norm?

Share This Article:

Share Email
, , , ,