Ariba’s Expected Decision to Drop Supply Excellence Blog Illustrates How Disconnected the Vendor is from the World of Social Media/Networking

I have always enjoyed reading, on more than one occasion, Charles Dominick’s “Purchasing Certification Blog”  for many different reasons.Charles, whose Next Level Purchasing equips procurement professionals with the leading edge insights and expertise to become “indispensable” resources for their respective organizations, brings a unique perspective to any discussion or subject matter being covered.  Nowhere was this more evident than when as a member of a guest panel of industry experts who tackled the question “Is The Traditional Association Model Dead?” in a PI Window on Business 2-Part Special last spring, Charles offered a balanced but to the point assessment of the shortfalls in existing certification curriculums.

Suffice to say, it did not surprise me that he threw his hat into the ring of blogger opinion surrounding the apparent decision on the part of Ariba to abandon a longstanding brand in terms of its Supply Excellence blog in favor of the new Ariba Exchange Community.  Or as the flashing Announcement tag-line proclaims “The Ariba LIVE community is Live!

With the introduction of the Ariba Exchange, Charles predicts that “Supply Excellence will never be a daily blog again and will be pretty much abandoned save for perhaps teasers for their lead generation content.”

He also expressed his opinion that the Ariba Exchange is so “impressive,”  that he can’t see Ariba “not putting the pedal-to-the-metal to make it everything it has the potential to be.”

A thoughtful, balanced perspective which is everything I have come to expect from Charles and more.

One might even be inclined to agree with him given my February 25th post titled “Pew Survey indicates that blogging has lost its lustre, but do you agree?”  However, and in line with the saying about all that glitters is not necessarily gold, the inherent flaw in the Ariba strategy is that all they have done is incorporate some of the latest “social networking” bells and whistles into what amounts to a single, company branded website.  An ersatz social network if you will.

Not only is this tantamount to putting new interior in an old, rusting car, the strategy behind the Ariba Exchange inevitably fails to effectively leverage the conversational reach and true power of a “collective social media network” that engages the market through multiple venues.  In essence, and referencing social media expert and author David Cushman’s presentation, Ariba has failed to recognize the fact that the world has moved from the traditional all eyes (re the market) looking toward a single stage (re Ariba Exchange), to a “you lookin at me, me lookin at you” interactive reality.

In the following excerpt from my latest book “The Unsociable Business of Social Networks,” I discuss the hive/cross-pollination concept that will shed some needed light on why the Ariba Strategy is problematic:

The hive/cross pollination concept or theory is based on the observation that individuals will likely choose at most one or two primary networks as their preferred platforms. That is, they will spend the majority of their social networking time interacting within these main “hives.”

While they may venture out into the vast social media world visiting countless other networks, similar to the honey bee these forays are ultimately geared towards gathering information and insights to bring back to the hive to share with their established community of contacts. This of course is the cross-pollination aspect of the hive effect.

Now one might argue that the Ariba Exchange represents one of the main hives to which its target audience will somehow gravitate.   Unfortunately, and despite the nifty bells and whistles, it is still by and large a regular website.  Perhaps one that is on steroids, but nonetheless a website.

This means that the “community” is likely to consist of either existing Ariba users, or those who are considering Ariba as a possible solution.  As it relates to the overall audience size, this would be an increasingly small percentage of the general market as a whole.  Therein lies the problem and the fatal flaw with the Ariba Exchange . . .  it is a single, non-syndicated site that forces the mountain to come to Mohamed.

In its most effective form, the collective social media network is agnostic in nature, encompassing multiple venues such as Internet Radio, Internet TV, Social Networks (including groups within said networks), and BLOGS.  It is not a hear I am, come-to-me branded community, but is instead one that seeks to first engage and understand the unique challenges of the individuals it seeks to serve in their venue of choice.

It is through this collective reach that an organization’s ultimate involvement and influence is established and maintained.  Or as bestselling authors such as Roz Usheroff, or PR geniuses like Marsha Friedman have so eloquently stated, social networking in this manner is “no longer optional.”

Rather than make the Ariba Exchange the focal point, the company should instead look to expand its venues with the intent of building a collective social media network.  The results, as outlined in the February 25th PI Window on Business post as they say, will speak for themselves.

(Note: While single site statistics available through services such as Alexa fail to take into account the total reach of the emerging collective social media networks, as a means of creating a point a familiar reference the popularity of such a network does trickle down to its individual venues as demonstrated in the data surrounding both the Procurement Insights and PI Window on Business Blogs.

This positive trending is reflected in the March 12th follow-up article to the February 25th Pew Survey post titled “PI Window on Business Blog Continues Upward Trend Through Cross-Pollination Strategy.”)

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