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Social Media for Disaster Management

Many of the attributes of social media — openness, speed, and portability — make it a natural fit for the supply chain. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, give groups an opportunity to share opinions and weigh in on subjects in an open forum.

These conversations don't require a lot of back-and-forth email and “copying” the appropriate people. Information can be shared freely and instantly, so groups that are trying to reach a consensus can get there quicker. A majority of likes versus dislikes is pretty easy to read.

Collaboration, like visibility, is a supply chain ideal.

Collaboration within the electronics supply chain already takes place in many venues. Engineers from different parts of the world can access and work on a design stored somewhere in their company's IT system. Bills of materials, datasheets, and schematics can be uploaded, downloaded, and circulated among peers. Internet links are widely shared and forwarded. But collaboration is no longer enough, some experts say.

To keep up with a fast-paced, global industry, information has to be widely shared in a quicker manner. Community, writes Shawn Casemore in CFO magazine, should augment — if not replace — collaboration:

    Given the risks inherent in global sourcing and the need for continual innovation in order to maintain a competitive advantage, supplier relationships must move beyond collaboration. The still-evolving demand for transparency in business requires ever-closer relationships with key suppliers. Building a community of suppliers where business-critical information, opportunities, and thoughts can be shared and built upon in real time will become the leading edge for many organizations. Social-media platforms are ripe to be the foundations for such communities.

In one sense, the back-to-back disasters in Japan in 2011 pulled such electronics supply chain communities together. Following the March earthquake and tsunami, social media was widely used to communicate with the outside world. Within the electronics industry, companies that interfaced with many suppliers, such as distributors, began collecting and posting updates on their suppliers' status. All this information was pulled together in one spot to keep customers, concerned partners, and onlookers up to date.

Electronics OEMs can use social media to post status updates in the case of such disasters, reaching many suppliers at one time.

It's a little more difficult to imagine how communities of electronics suppliers would work in non-disaster times. The kind of information shared between customers and suppliers, such as bids, order status, or pricing, isn't typically made public, or shared with other suppliers. Suppliers don't commonly tip their hands to one another, so it's unlikely business opportunities would be posted in such a community. Engineers that solve a tricky design problem don't share eureka moments with the rest of the world.

Yet, seamless collaboration across engineering, design, and procurement would clearly enhance the supply chain and increase visibility.

Several collaboration platforms are emerging in which OEMs can decide which partners within their supply chains can access and share specific information. GT Nexus and {complink 12942|E2open Inc.} are among a few vendors that provide cloud-based solutions that can be customized. Supply chain partners can use a common platform and communicate, minus EDI links or translation software.

OEMs can select which partners see specific information. An event such as a volcanic eruption that shuts down airports may affect all suppliers, so everyone is alerted to a problem. A delayed shipment by a single supplier may go only to the OEM or the EMS that's affected. All of this information is available and delivered in real-time.

It doesn't have to be an either/or decision, industry-watchers say. Forward-thinking companies are beginning to integrate social media with their enterprise software. According to supply chain community Adelante SCM, “Manhattan Associates has integrated social media tools within its user interfaces and workflows.” The company started with its Labor Management solution “to enable collaboration between supervisors and associates including two-way feedback, recognition, praise and sharing of information to provide continuous operational improvement.”

In addition to providing market intelligence and customer feedback, social media clearly has a role to play in the supply chain. Industry competitors could pull together on social issues, such as environmental efforts or best practices in conflict-minerals reporting. Trade associations, such as the IPC and the ECIA, already bring competitors together to improve operations in the industry. Social media could supplement those efforts.

If companies can reach a balance between what needs to remain confidential and what can be shared, social media is another platform for supply chain innovation.

31 comments on “Social Media for Disaster Management

  1. Daniel
    September 27, 2012

    Barbara, social medias have a wide coverage among professionals, especially with youngsters. So presence in the social media networks is the best and easiest way to catch the audience or reaching the customer/public. Since it's very faster than word of mouth/Email communication, there are possibilities to make use of it at difference instances like company announcements or in time require some help or even for disaster management etc. At the same time, if it's not use in right sense, chances for negative impact too.

  2. Barbara Jorgensen
    September 27, 2012

    @jacob: agreed. Also, from what I've seen, it isn't just younger people who have embraced it, although they might be more comfortable with it. My peers, or people just slightly younger than myself, are some of the biggest proponents of social media that I know. I look forward to watching it develop

  3. Houngbo_Hospice
    September 27, 2012

    @Jacob,

    “At the same time, if it's not use in right sense, chances for negative impact too.”

    You are correct. Question is: Should every employees be responsible for the company's announcements on social media?  

  4. Houngbo_Hospice
    September 27, 2012

    @Barbara,

    The common belief is that new technologies are more embraced by youngsters. But it is good to see that this belief is changing with the rate of  social media adoption within all demographics, especially in the professional environment.

  5. prabhakar_deosthali
    September 28, 2012

    I cannot say for sure whether the Supply Chain disasters can be tackled by the social media but the medical emergencies, natural calamities , accidents information spread and emergency help for people who get lost in the wilderness are some of things where the social media can definitely be of help.

    I compare today's social media to older generations HAM radios

  6. Susan Fourtané
    September 28, 2012

    HH, 

    “Should every employees be responsible for the company's announcements on social media?”  

    No. Why should they? 

    -Susan

  7. SP
    September 28, 2012

    Yes to some extent I agree that social media may be good for supply chain management. But we must not forget that in social media there are no restrictions, people can write or behave in any which way they prefer. Sometimes it may be too rude or unpolished. But yes if some of the supply chain participants set up their own social media and only member with some connections to supply chain are allowed/moderated I guess it would be fun, interesting and lots of knowledge sharing and win-win for everyone. I would love to be a part of it 🙂

  8. FLYINGSCOT
    September 28, 2012

    Social media ia a very powerful tool and can be used to good or poor effect.  It all depends upon how it is implemented and managed.

  9. Himanshugupta
    September 28, 2012

    Barbara, you raised a very valid point for a closed collaboration and cloud based solutions are kind of perfect for such things. I recently watched a presentation by a colleague which underline the importance of using cloud services as much as possible for collaboration projects simply because the service is a 24X7 stop. Apart from collaboration, even for personal projects such solutions might be preferred now with the data privacy and security fears subsiding.

  10. Himanshugupta
    September 28, 2012

    @hospice_, i donot know the definition of new technology but web based solutions are evolving with time. Earlier browsing the net has not the same meaning as it used to be. We still have to find a smarter way to use social media and i doubt that non-professional youngsters will have any contribution in that.

  11. Houngbo_Hospice
    September 28, 2012

     @himanshugupta,

    The point here is that web-based technologies are being enbraced by everybody, and the trend will continue as more and more people get connected around the world.  

     

  12. Houngbo_Hospice
    September 28, 2012

    @SF,

    I didn't say that everybody should. I want to know if employees “be allowed” to post messages about their company on their social media pages or not? Can any employee be allowed to promote the their company on their Facebook pageS for instance? I just want to know what people think about that. I do have my own opinion, but it may not be what everyone thinks.

  13. hash.era
    September 29, 2012

    For me social media is a disaster. I do not see any positive signs which involves social media and disaster management other than you can pass the message to a huge set of people via social media.

  14. Susan Fourtané
    September 29, 2012

    HH, 

    Maybe I misunderstood what you meant 

    Should every employees be responsible for the company's announcements on social media?” 

    I thought you meant to ask if all the employees in the company should be responsible for what the ones in charge of posting announcemnets/messages on social media actually post. 

    So I said that no, not all the employees should be responsible for what some employees post on social media. 

    “Can any employee be allowed to promote the their company on their Facebook pageS for instance? “

    To that I also say no. The reason is because social media should be managed by someone –or by a group– who knows exactly what message the company wants to send. Also, it keeps certain order and knowledge about what has been posted before. 

    -Susan

  15. Susan Fourtané
    September 29, 2012

    HH, 

    What is your opinion about it? 

    -Susan 

  16. Ashu001
    September 29, 2012

    Houngbo,

    I don't think everyone (in a company)should post on Social Media.

    Too often(if you don't have a designated Social Media Champion) in particular Divisions of a company everything gets so messy and companies fail to present a coherent message to Clients and customers.

    Regards

    Ashish.

  17. Ashu001
    September 29, 2012

    Susan,

    I could'nt agree more !!!

    My thoughts precisely!!

    Regards

    Ashish.

  18. Susan Fourtané
    September 29, 2012

    You see, Ashish? This is one of those times when we do agree. 😀 

    -Susan 

  19. Houngbo_Hospice
    September 29, 2012

    @SF,

    My opninion is that employees can promote their companies online if they want to, but they should not use that opportunity to criticize the company or complain about co-workers or the management. This is not to say that everyone can be the company's spokesperson online, but everybody should be given the freedom to share with outsiders why they enjoy working in that company.

  20. Houngbo_Hospice
    September 29, 2012

    @Ashish,

    Of course there should be designated social media champions to represent the company online, but every employee can also get involve in the marketing strategy of the company on social media platforms.

  21. Ariella
    September 29, 2012

    @hospice that's true, but is it fair to demand that of them when it is not an official part of their job description? Just adding on the expectation as a sign of loyalty is tantamount to adding on extra duties for no additional pay.

  22. Taimoor Zubar
    September 30, 2012

    While social media may be a good idea to inform your consumers and end-users about delayed shipments if there's a disaster situation, I don't think it's such an effective tool for B2B communication with your suppliers and manufacturers. You need a much more professional and well-designed information system to handle this.

     

  23. Taimoor Zubar
    September 30, 2012

    @Hospice_Houngbo: I don't think employees can make that much of a difference when it comes to defaming the company on social media. At the end of the day, they may be a few bunch of “fans” on the company's page out of several thousand others. Their opinion might not matter that much.

  24. Susan Fourtané
    September 30, 2012

    HH, 

    I believe anyone can do that, just using their own social media account, and posting on the company's social media. Eveyone has the freedom to post on social media, what they post is their own responsibility, though. 

    -Susan

  25. Himanshugupta
    September 30, 2012

    @TaimoorZ, i will prefer not to use social media to inform my suppliers and manufacturers and the reason is plain old fashioned secrecy about them. Using social media will give undue advantage to competitors. Though a company can and should inform unknown customers through social media as a simple and effective way to keep them in the loop.

  26. Daniel
    October 1, 2012

    Barbara, I know some of the companies is insisting their employees for a social media accounts and they have to share the business and product release notes with their friends and groups. In that case they are using the employs social media accounts for company advertisements and like a chain of interconnections with others. From company point of view, it can have a better coverage through employees, the trusted source for spreading the corporate profile.

  27. Daniel
    October 1, 2012

    HH, whether they have to take responsibility for companies announcements? They are only the medium to get connected with more members and they are sharing the news with their groups. So in that case personally I won't take any responsibility.

  28. Barbara Jorgensen
    October 1, 2012

    @Jacob: I can see the advantage of this to the company, but I think success of such a program would depend on the product. I feel blasted by advertising already and I wouldn't appreciate my 'friends' advertising to me. On the other hand, if the company has an account, I would expect to see ads and promotions for products. It gets complicated becuase social pages already have advertising on them. Competitors could conceivably advertise on your page as long as they are willing to pay to do so. I think it dilutes the value of advertising and scoial media if social just becomes an advertising venue.

  29. mfbertozzi
    October 3, 2012

    @H_H: I agree with you, definitely; if you want to avoid possible mistakes or disasters in promoting your company b using Socials, it shoud be enough to entitle some one within your company in charge of that role. Not to say I am right, but clear rules and clear internal policy could really mitigate potential “disaster”, in my opinion.

  30. Daniel
    October 5, 2012

    Barbara, I agree with you as an independent reviewer. But when we look from business perspective (Company) they always look for better coverage and mileage like maximum exploitation. For a simple example, suppose we are attending tech workshop or seminars, all the items they distributing (pen, bag, tag, writing pad etc) have each companies name or emblem. Certain times I got surprised, how they can engrave the names and logs in micro-font size over key chain and pens.

  31. Barbara Jorgensen
    October 5, 2012

    @Jacob: absolutely right. A company has to do everything it can to reach a potential customer. And if these things didn't work, they'd have gone by the wayside a long time ago.

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