Francois Naude SPW.JPGCan social media be relevant in a professional environment – let alone in Purchasing & Supply? Francois Naude, founder of Marketsqr Supply Network, told SmartProcurement that in a time when customers report good experiences in web forums more than twice as often as they do via call centers or mail organisations must care about social media.

“Markets are conversations and organisations must pay attention and participate,” Naude told delegates at SmartProcurement World in November 2010.

Social media (coined Web 2.0 for the professional context) has put customers in control of the conversation. Every customer is a publisher (through the likes of blogs), a broadcaster (You Tube), and editor (Digg) and a critic (Amazon.com), said Naude.

The changing perceptions of social media.png‘Social’ is not just for consumers: many consumers are professionals too, and their behaviour is changing.

Customers are increasingly avoiding advertising and are basing their purchasing decisions on recommendations.

“It speaks to who purchasers trust,” said Naude. “People like me – other consumers or peers – discussing the service they received on HelloPeter.com versus a CEO / Ad agencies / marketers telling what they can offer. Who would you trust?”

Web 2.0 offers purchasers and procurement departments many opportunities:

  • Look to supplier ratings / recommendations for the best supplier of the product/service you are sourcing.
  • Visit support forums for a solution to a problem with a supplier’s product for which you cannot find the right answer.
  • Share procurement best practice knowledge to achieve the savings you have been tasked to achieve.

Organisations must tune into the discussion:

  • Listen. What are suppliers saying about you as a customer? What are others saying about your strategic suppliers?
  • Engage. Tell suppliers what is happening in your organisation; your future projects, your policies and procedures.
  • Share. Best practices, plans, outlooks and new developments.
  • Analyse. The moods of discussions about your suppliers, peaks in discussions on your suppliers/commodities and the most influential suppliers in discussions about your organisation.