Guest Commentary: Social Media in Transportation (My Holiday Wish)

There has been a lot of press lately about the use of social media tools in the logistics business. It seems many people are wondering how to leverage the power of social networking to help manage transportation. It’s a worthwhile question. After all, while Facebook and other social networking sites have had a tremendous impact connecting people, they were not developed to help shippers connect with trucking companies. Their purpose is much more personal. For example, I learn more about my son’s college experience by monitoring his Facebook page than my parents ever knew about what I did at the same age. My parents probably slept better, but that’s another story.

In a recent blog posting, Adrian Gonzalez commented that supply chain and logistics executives need to think beyond Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and I agree. While there are some documented cases where transportation companies are successfully using Facebook and LinkedIn, I believe the value of these sites will always be limited by their simple purpose of person-to-person information sharing.

Adrian also talked about the importance of focusing on the work that needs to get done and then seeing how social media tools can improve the status quo. In the transportation industry, the work that needs to get done includes, among other things, connecting shippers and carriers that want to work together and facilitating the sharing of information about available loads and trucks

After working many years in the transportation industry, I believe that social media tools can bring value to shippers and carriers to improve service and reduce costs, but what’s required is a system with industry-specific capabilities and attributes, including:

  • The ability for shippers to select which carriers get to see their postings—i.e., those that they know and trust—while also providing all of the technological and centralized benefits of a public load board.
  • The ability for carriers to view loads from all the shippers they work with, thus minimizing or eliminating the need for them to visit multiple private load boards. Likewise, shippers should use the same system to offer loads to their trusted carriers.
  • Automated load matching so that shippers and carriers don’t have to keep a constant watch on what’s being posted. When a match is found, the system should alert the shipper and the carrier.
  • Like Facebook, the system should be free for everyone to use. After all, shippers and carriers want the same thing – to create trusted relationships and share information. Why should that cost money?

Will social media play a bigger role in the transportation industry in 2012? That is one of my wishes for the New Year.

Happy Holidays and may all your holiday wishes come true!

Noam Frankel is President of Optimal Freight, a brokerage firm based in Chicago, Illinois. Noam began his career in the transportation industry in 1984, serving as Chief Operating Officer at American Backhaulers, which he helped build into one of the largest freight brokerage operations in the country. After serving leadership roles outside the industry for almost a decade, he joined Echo Global Logistics as VP of Truckload Sales & Operations before launching Optimal Freight and developing Freight Friend, a social networking tool for the transportation industry. Noam earned his MBA from The University of Chicago, and a BA in Economics from The University of Pennsylvania. He has three children and shares his life with his wonderful wife Laura. Noam is also a three time national champion in the sport of Ultimate (Frisbee), and enjoys mountain bike riding whenever possible.