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Social Media and the CPO – Strange bedfellows or powerful partnership?

Published: 2 years, 11 months ago

Author: Lisa Malone


Forget cost savings or even talent management, within five years social media literacy will be the X Factor which distinguishes top performing CPOs from the rest. 


Don’t get me wrong - in no way does that diminish the importance or need for solid financial skills; change or even people management, but simply to say that social media, like nothing we’ve seen before, will add a new dimension to these existing critical competencies.


According to Roland Deiser and Sylvain Newton, authors of McKinsey Quarterly ‘The Six social media skills every leader needs’, social media has created a dilemma for senior managers: “while the potential of social media is immense, the inherent risks create uncertainty and unease.” 


Certainly social media’s unscripted approach to conversations, horizontal collaboration and fragmented power structures, is unsettling for many of those schooled in 20th century management theories. 


But the transformative power of social media is too big, too loud and simply too compelling to miss


In an age where we as leaders need to ‘do everything’

Stimulate creativity; manage change; build a values-based culture; be a customer and an employer of choice; manage risk; contain costs; embed talent, social media just may prove the key to corralling, leveraging and optimizing your To-Do list.  


Leaders today must not only capitalise on this transformational power of social media

And this includes the ability to create and disseminate engaging content – but mitigate and manage the risk of unruly online behaviour.

If you’re hoping social media literacy is really just an issue for the CEO or the Chief Marketing Officer, sorry to disappoint you. 


While every leader regardless of industry or profession, needs a measure of social media literacy, the opportunities and expectations for CPOs to be masterful (not just literate) are ever greater.  Here’s why:


Procurement is inherently suited to horizontal collaboration 

Procurement and supply chain professionals are already well accustomed to working globally, often in a virtual team environment with cross-cultural suppliers and stakeholders.  Social media actually makes this process easier by facilitating networking, strengthening the sense of personal brand, and providing the collaborative tools to facilitate more effective work. 


A word of warning

While the opportunities are great, so too is the importance of providing adequate guidance on smart social media practices. Dealing in issues of commercial sensitivity, CPOS must understand social media in order to develop and manage an operational social media policy that stimulates collaboration, but adequately mitigates risk.


Procurement needs to create 360 degree visibility

In terms of visibility to suppliers, your team, your Board, social media will help to reinforce your position as a connected thought-leader.


As a facilitator of connectivity across the business, it’s natural that Procurement should take the lead in the use of online networks.  For example, consider setting up a private group for the supplier network to discuss ideas and engage with the organisation.


Procurement wants to be a Customer of Choice

Marketers have been using social media to connect with customers for nearly a decade and although the use of social media to connect with suppliers is still in its infancy (although eMarket places within the public and NGO sector, in particular, are rapidly growing), be assured that savvy sales executives are already scanning Procurious to understand your industry (and you as a customer) better.


Procurement needs to upskill 

The labor market is tightening, which means the need to engage, retain, and upskill your existing resources is growing.  The participatory and collaborative nature of social media is inherently suited to peer-to-peer learning which is both highly effective (learn real life lessons from subject matter experts), accessible (can be accessed across multiple devices at a time convenient to the learner) and extremely cost effective (Procurious, for example, is currently offering our entire suite of online training modules free to members for a limited time). 


Procurement has access to great, shareable content

In the world of social media, the ability to tell compelling, authentic stories is key to creating influence.  As we’ve discovered here at Procurious, procurement has access to some of the best stories in the organization (did you see the one about Saddam Hussein, high calcium cheese-in-a-can and Procurious member Peter Force?  Weird yet true – check it out here: .  From stakeholder/procurement success stories; to weird categories sourced; to supplier awards, the possibilities for Procurement to create and share interesting, multimedia content are endless.  


If the thought of social media literacy has you wishing for the ‘good old days’ when cost savings was where it was at, don’t despair - like any competency, social media literacy can be taught and improved so the key is to start by mastering the basics.


I covered off on some of these in last month’s blog but other skills to master would be to understand:

The different social media platforms - start with: Procurious; LinkedIn; Facebook; YouTube; Twitter; and Instagram. Think about their intended purpose, how they differ; their reach and their impact

Basic Twitter functionality #masterthehashtag

Simple social media terminology - start with: hashtag; retweet; like; follow; mention; blog; podcast; RSS feed.  I recommend checking out Buzz Billboard’s Social Media Glossary here:


You might also look to improve your technical ability to create content – storytelling; video production (even if that’s just using your iPhone); investigate blog platforms (I recommend Tumblr or Wordpress but we also welcome guest blogs on Procurious) or podcasts. 


Change management, financial literacy, SRM, innovation and people management will always be core to the role of the CPO.  Social media, however, allows you to approach these tasks with almost unimaginable scalability, influence and access to knowledge. 


So if you’ve been leaving it to your Chief Marketing Officer to worry about social media, I’m afraid it’s time to get your head out of the sand, find yourself a digital mentor and get literate. 



Lisa Malone is the General Manager for Procurious – the world’s first online business network for procurement and supply chain professionals.  


If you’d like to learn more about how to grow your social media literacy, connect with her on Procurious here: or follow on Twitter @lisajoymalone and keep an eye out for her next blog on Procurious.