Social media is one of the most used digital tools of this day and age. Companies have come up with creative ways to use these platforms to ensure their bottom line is maintained, if not surpassed. Some of the strategies currently used include better consumer engagement, identifying trends, and customizing products and services to fit within those inclinations, and competitor management. Examples can be given to explain these elements further. Social media platforms have heightened consumer management issues as customers are given 24/7 access to their favorite brands. On the same note, the companies can reach out to their clients more efficiently and at a minimal cost. Additionally, tracking trends proves useful for many firms as they can deliver both goods and services that the public wants. Traditionally, organizations would do costly market research to get such valuable data. Today, the internet has not only made this task more manageable but also affordable.
Further, companies have used social media to monitor their competitors. This is effectively done by tracking the public’s opinion on the specific companies that are working in the same industry. Having said so, social media and digital platforms are of significant interest to any business today. The purpose of this review is to highlight the use of social media in supply chain management. Specifically, the literature review will focus on six sources that have analyzed the use of social media in the sector and highlight their findings, similarities, and differences. Suggestions on gaps in the literature that could be filled with possible researches will also be given.
Application of Social Media in Supply Chain Management
Unintentionally, social media has changed the movement of goods for the better. More people can order items from one part of the world and receive them at specified times at their doorstep. Indeed, the influence of social media on logistics and freight management cannot be overemphasized. The platforms have also indirectly led to the industry’s extensive growth due to the ease of movement from one point to another. The main question, therefore, is in what exact ways social media can be incorporated into the supply chain. A study edited by Cheng et al. (2018) tries to answer this question. The scholars argue that social media application in supply chain management has encouraged companies to mirror the same platforms and create similar versions for internal use. For example, an IT company launched its own social media platform, “My Site,” which is used by staff to communicate with one another and keep updated on the different country updates (Cheng et al., 2018). This study can be compared to that of Cox and Atkinson (2018) that state that the application can also be through the already created social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Analyzing the two studies, one can argue that they provide valuable insights into the different ways these digital platforms can be used to enhance supply chain management. However, one weakness of Cox and Atkinson’s (2018) study is that it limits itself to only three elements in supply chain management, namely risk detection, risk management, and disruption recovery. This leaves a reader wondering whether other logistics control areas are not affected by the use of the stated digital media channels. Additionally, it highlights some of the gaps in the literature that can be exploited for future studies.
Big Data and Supply Chain Management
One of the most significant pain points in logistic support is timely delivery. Nasrollahi (2018) argues that using social media, either a customized one used only by company staff or the larger platforms, can be exploited to resolve this pain point. According to the scholar, communication is vital in ensuring timeliness in the industry. The link between the provider and the end-user must be well detailed with constant feedback to allow for the timely delivery of goods and services (Nasrollahi, 2020). In doing so, supply chain management would be managed more seamlessly. Similar arguments are echoed by Chae et al. (2018), who analyze the use of these applications in B2B logistics support. Chae et al. (2020) explain that the use of big data in the industry (primarily collected from digital sources) has led to the growth of the sector.
One strength of the study by Chae et al. (2020) is that it links the size of the company, the type of services encouraged through social media, and staff perception of the use of social media to success in supply chain management. This connects with the sub-topic in that it provides insights on what type of big data industry players are interested in collecting via social media. On the other hand, Nasrollahi (2018) provides critical information on the use of the collected big data in pushing for green logistic support. One weakness of Nasrollahi’s (2018) study is that it has also limited the scope to green supply chain management. This leaves a gap in regards to what companies have been using the big data for, in regards to logistics support, before the conception of green logistics. Arguably, the issue of big data and its use in the business world has been emphasized due to its focus on consumer needs.
Advantages of Social Media Use in Supply Chain Management
The literature already cited provides hints on the advantages of social media use in supply chain management. Wang et al. (2019) state that the most critical advantage of the use of digital platforms on logistics and freight support is the ease of information sharing. The scholars explain that most of the problems faced in supply chain management, for both the end-user and the company, can be resolved through better and timely information sharing. Orji et al. (2019) add that the advantages of successfully linking social media to supply chain management are directly tied to some organizational aspects. The scholars use both Technology–Organization–Environment (TOE) and Human–Organization–Technology (HOT) theories to explain how the organizational culture and environment affect the proper implementation of digital platforms.
The strength of the study by Orji et al. (2019) lies in using a theoretical framework that further explains the impact of proper implementation of social media use in the supply chain industry. On the other hand, Wang et al. (2019) provide a different perspective on the advantages of social media use in supply chain management by focusing on market drivers. Critically, Wang et al. (2019) fail to provide information on how their study relates to other research projects on the same. The authors have a limited literature review, but this can be blamed purely on the fact that there are limited studies done on their topic of focus. Despite it being a weakness, it provides prudent insights on some of the gaps in the literature that can be filled through future research studies.
Disadvantage of Social Media Use in Supply Chain Management
It is important to note that all the cited sources provide significant disadvantages to the use of social media in logistic management. For instance, Nasrollahi (2018) proves that one disadvantage is that it allows for an influx of information that can become overwhelming. Arguably, this is a communication problem where there is a significant upload of data that no one knows where to get the right information. This disadvantage can be resolved through proper knowledge management, which links back to the use of social media applications to enhance information flow.
Additionally, a surprising disadvantage is that a majority of people within the logistics industry believe that the use of these digital applications is purely for personal development. Therefore, it is perceived as an additional skill rather than a tool to enhance their productivity level (Wang et al., 2019). The danger with such schools of thought is that the impact of the platforms’ use will not be felt and cannot be measured as well. The disadvantage can be resolved through proper staff training on what is expected with the introduction of social media platforms in the workplace.
Further, there is a general concern that such platforms can be hacked and industry secrets exposed to competitors. Like other digital platforms, hacking and cybersecurity threats are indeed a valid concern, and such exposure can be seen as a disadvantage of using social media in logistics support (Orji et al., 2019). This can be curbed by using private social media applications such as the mentioned “My Site” (Cheng et al., 2018). On the same note, Facebook, for example, has a “Facebook Workplace” that limits interaction to an internal audience only as well.
In conclusion, various perspectives have been well-covered by the research studies identified. In particular, the application of social media in supply chain management, the advantages and disadvantages, and the platforms’ use to enhance green logistics and freight support has been thoroughly covered by the selected literature. However, there are still significant gaps in the literature that can be selected for future research studies. In particular, there is little information on how the application of social media impacts the individual performance of staff within the logistics sector. This gap is critical in understanding whether the staff working in the sector see value in using, for instance, Twitter to make their work easier and more efficient. Also, as mentioned earlier, there is a gap in regards to which aspects of a business are primarily boasted by effective social media usage and which ones are not affected.
One of the questions that can be answered if this topic was to be developed into a research paper is which companies are more likely to adopt social media use successfully in their supply chain management, and why? The question will touch on various elements that have been identified as gaps in the research studies selected for this literature review. For example, it would cover why social media usage is successful in some companies and not in others despite similar execution methods. Anticipation for such research is that start-ups and SMEs will more likely successfully use social media applications to make their processes more productive with the end-user in mind.
Chae, B., McHaney. B., & Sheu, C. (2020). Exploring social media use in B2B supply chain operations. Business Horizons, 63(1), 73-84.
Cheng, E. C. T., Lam, S. K. H., Lyons, C. A., & Yeung, L. C. A. (2018). The use of social media in operations and supply chain management. Emerald Publishing.
Cox, R. S., & Atkinson, K. (2018). Social media and the supply chain: Improving risk detection, risk management, and disruption recovery. Association for Information Systems, 3(8), 3-28.
Nasrollahi, M. (2018). The impact of firm’s social media applications on green supply chain management. International Journal of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management, 7(1), 1-17.
Orji, J. I., Kusi-Sarpong, S., & Gupta H. (2019). The critical success factors of using social media for supply chain social sustainability in the freight logistics industry. International Journal of Production Research, 58(5), 1522-1539.
Wang, J., Wang, Y., & Che, T. (2019). Information sharing and the impact of shutdown policy in a supply chain with market disruption risk in the social media era. Information & Management, 56(2), 280-293.