There are two types of people. Those who get twitter and those who don’t. It’s genetic. You may or may not get why it’s important to purchasing professionals but whether you are a social networker or not there are some extremely valuable lessons to be learned from the twittersphere and one lesson in particular that some of you are not going to like.

Purchasing Insight logoOn one level twitter is just a communication medium. It’s a place to broadcast and because there’s lots of people going to twitter to listen, it’s a critical broadcast medium for anyone who has anything to say. Whether you’re selling a product or just want to evangelize your beliefs, if your not on twitter, you’re nobody.

There is the alternative, cynical view that none of this is new – it’s just the medium that has changed. What used to go in the newspaper, radio and TV now happens on the internet. But this is just plain wrong. It’s twitter denial. Why is it wrong? Because the people are not just reading tweets, status updates, blogs and comments – they’re creating the content as well as consuming it. They’re providing real time feedback and it is being promulgating around the globe at light speed. It’s not the same as the newspaper. There isn’t a “like” button on the New York Times!

And social networking is becoming a game changer. Google, the indomitable force in the field of search has been caught out by Bing. Why? Because Bing knows what people like and Google doesn’t. Facebook “like” that is. Facebook has become such a big force in the world that knowing what people “like” on facebook gives you real insight into what real people really like. For B2C businesses, this is gold dust. Google was slow to see the import of social media.

Social media in business

So what of the application of social media to business and in particular purchasing and finance? From a marketing point of view social media has become essential. A topic that trends can get to millions of people in an instant. It’s a marketer’s dream come true if they can make this happen and their worst nightmare if their competitors get there first. But for purchasing and supply chain community – there’s something more.

Supplier networks – the B2B social media

Linkedin has already established itself as one of the more powerful B2B social networks and it’s not just about getting your CV out there. Capitalizing on the the familiarity of sites like facebook, businesses are developing their corporate social media profile and reputation using linkedin groups and business pages. But this is only the beginning and a much more significant change in the B2B world is beginning to happen.

Just as the emergence of Web 2.0 and interoperability between the social networks has catapulted social media in the B2C space, we’re now seeing interoperable business networks growing in importance. In Europe and in the Nordic countries in particular, it is almost unheard of for supplier networks – e-procurement and e-invoicing – to not interoperate fully.

Size isn’t everything

What does this mean? It means that it doesn’t matter which e-procurement or e-invoicing network a business subscribes to because it knows it will have access to all of the suppliers of the other networks through interoperability agreements. Instead of concentrating on the size of the network and potentially compromising on functionality, the buying organization can prioritize what is important to their business.

If the supplier networks are to learn a lesson from facebook and twitter it is that interoperability and openness is the key to growth. From the buyers perspective too, now is the time to start looking towards alternative, complimentary networks. There’s a whole supply chain ecosystem out there and you should not allow your supplier network to constrain you from taking advantage of it.

One more thing – the most important lesson of all

Some of you are not going to like this – most will love it. There is a facebook feature that is even more important than its interoperability. It’s more important than the minimalist user interface that makes it so accessible. It’s a feature that the supplier networks need to learn a lesson from. It’s the price.