Socialized purchasing: Is it better to “socialize” your website or create your own social network?

Posted on July 22, 2011


Earlier today I posted my article in the PI Window on Business blog titled “Why I Like Blog Talk Radio: Reason No. 152.”

While I will leave it to you to read the post in its entirety, what stood out was the comment that was received by a procurement knowledge-based provider about the manner in which they are leveraging social media tools (including the PI Window on Business Show on Blog Talk Radio), in conjunction with other mediums such as social networks to better connect with and inform purchasing professionals about industry happenings:

“On Monday and Tuesday we are seeing a spike to 150-170 people. I think that is a combination of our PI Window update and the events posting we do in the groups on LinkedIn.”

This of course got me to thinking, is it better for organizations whether they be software vendors, suppliers or buying organizations to “socialize” their own website in much the same manner that an HCMWorks has done or, create their own social network such as Supplier Relationships Solutions Inc. has done with their new Supplier Relationship Management Portal?

SRS' Portal: A Knowledge-based Community

What is interesting is that many in our profession aren’t familiar enough with social media and social networking (and yes there is a difference) at this point in time, to truly distinguish between two to provide an answer to this question.

This limited understanding isn’t confined to only those in purchasing.

Most professionals and companies are still struggling with the basic foundational differences between a broadcast mindset and a truly conversational engagement with their target audience, whether that be a prospective client or a needed supplier.

It is this key and seemingly subtle point that represents the fork in the road in terms of socializing a website versus creating a social network or community.

Based on the benefits of having considerable experience in both purchasing and social media/networking I would have to say that the latter represents the best way to achieve a true conversational relationship with your targeted audience or market.  My reasoning in reaching this conclusion goes beyond the fact that when you attempt to socialize your website, you are in reality trying to convert a medium which has traditionally been viewed as a self-serving platform that is unilaterally designed to tell people (emphasis on the “one-way” tell) about you.

In this regard I often like refer back to a statement made by L.J. Hanifan in 1916 pertaining to his definition of social capital.  Specifically, Hanifan said:

“..that in life which tends to make these tangible substances count for most in the daily lives of people: namely good will, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit… The individual is helpless socially, if left to himself… If he comes into contact with his neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be accumulation of social capital, which may immediately satisfy his social needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community. The community as a whole will benefit by the cooperation of all its parts, while the individual will find in his associations the advantages of the help, the sympathy, and the fellowship of his neighbors.”

Despite making this observation close to a century ago, Hanifan ironically nailed the true intent and basis under which today’s virtual communities operate, which is the betterment of an individual’s position resulting from the collective gains of the community as a whole.  However, it is virtually impossible to create a community within the framework on an individual website, and thus sites no matter how innovatively updated with the latest social media bells and whistles are limited in their ultimate reach.

Now in my extensive discussions with countless people, almost all universally proclaim that they do not have the time to maintain their own profiles on any one of the social networks to which they belong, let alone create and manage an entire community.  At this point I could state the obvious that if you are not already in the social media game with at least one or two individuals dedicated to this important area of relationship development, then you are at a distinct disadvantage in that you are a few “big” steps behind the market as a whole, there are a number of options to help you build your own knowledge-based community.

To start, there are individuals such as myself who eat, breath, drink and sleep this business . . . we can talk later if you like.

Alternatively, and here is the great part, there are intuitively developed platforms such as SocialGo that can streamline the community creation/management process.

While you will still have to allocate the necessary resources to consistently update the information within your community (with a blog for example you need to do at minimum 2 to 4 new posts per week to build audience momentum), not having the burden of an elongated community build exercise means that you can be operational within a matter of minutes . . . that’s right minutes, in terms of a basic platform.

Next week, and as a follow-up to today’s post, is “Socializing Purchasing” week on the Procurement Insights Blog, where I will delve into the impact that social media and social networking has and will have on our profession.

It should be a fun week.