Developing Trust and Relationships in the Supply Chain using Social Media

By Daniel E. O’Leary

Social media facilitates gathering information and knowledge from disparate sources, which in turn allows sharing of information, knowledge and plans, all of which facilitate development of supply chain relationships and greater trust.


Social media has increasingly become a part of the fabric of both computing and social interaction. Reportedly1, there are currently over 100 million Twitter users and over 750 million Facebook users. Furthermore, there are expected to be over 1 billion Facebook users by the end of 2012. With such a large base of users, those with a supply chain interest can begin to imagine an explosion of the use of social media in the supply chain.

Unfortunately, the supply chain and operations have lagged behind other functional areas, such as marketing, in their use of the social media2,3. As a result, very different sets of questions have been asked about social media and the supply chain. On one hand, a Dilbert Cartoon4 asked if social media in the supply chain was something that “no one wants and no one needs?” which led Gonzalez5 to ask “Is social media in supply chain management a waste of time?” However, in contrast, Howells6 asked “Are you ready for the social supply chain?” suggesting the integration of social media and the supply chain was on the immediate horizon.

An analysis of most investigations on the use of supply chain and social media finds that just about every discussion ends up analyzing how social media can be used to draw a company closer to their customers or how social media can be analyzed to provide insights into their customers. (As an example, BestBuy uses social media to help their customers as seen in exhibit 1.) Although that issue clearly is important, building relationships and trust in emerging and extended supply chains is also critical7. Accordingly, the concern of this article is the use of social media in the supply chain to accomplish those goals.

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