WalMart’s Facebook Strategy Sinking: Analysis and Reccomendations

Previously Walmart built a MySpace clone on the corporate website which was pathetically closed after a mere 10 weeks. Having learned their lesson to consider joining existing communities before building their own they’ve saddled up for more social networking. Today, Wal-Mart’s sponsored group in Facebook is aimed at dorm-bound students who need to pimp out their pads –sadly, after 2 weeks in, there’s little to brag about.

Low membership
I’m checking up on the group, and have noticed that the group size is very low, in fact only 934 members. The Web Strategy Group that I promote is at 1500 members in just a few weeks longer, and it’s certainly a much smaller ‘brand’ than Wal-Mart.

Business Week’s blog notice this damage and apologize, Sorry, Wal-Mart. The kids would rather talk labor politics than home decor, followed by GenDigital’s observations of the “Enlightening Conversations

I encourage you to take at look at the Wall in the Wal-Mart’s Back to School sponsored group to get a sense for what’s happening. I’ve posted the last 20 wall posts, only 10% are positive.

20 most recent wall posts (last names removed, and company names although it’s viewable by any member)

Mark (New Orleans, LA) wrote
at 5:22pm on August 23rd, 2007
why do you lonely retards insist on joining, and writing on this wall, about how “WalMart sucks”? Wouldn’t it be better if you started your own group(s)? Oh….because noone would join and read your crap?
Message – Report

Spencer (UGA) wrote
at 2:06pm on August 23rd, 2007
Message – Report

Kendall (San Diego, CA) wrote
at 1:45pm on August 23rd, 2007
All you people saying “Walmart is a great company” are so full of sh|t. You are obviously getting paid by Walmart to come here and spout off propaganda. Everything at Walmart is made in China and every time you shop there the Chinese will gladly collect your money and give it to the Red Army. So, by shopping at Walmart you are indirectly helping to build the Chinese army. What a great American company!
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Barbara (no network) wrote
at 8:21am on August 23rd, 2007
Walmart is a great American company that shows what you can do in America if you only work hard. A woman I know who worked for Walmart recently lost her husband and Walmart did so many things for the family during her trying time. I can’t say enough good things about Walmart. I think the unions are just mad because they haven’t gotten into Walmart and are trying to ruin their business. I love the low prices and I guess lots of other people do too because the parking lot is always crowded.
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Brandon wrote
at 12:33am on August 23rd, 2007
Wal-Mart is a great American company that has been extremely successful at what they do. Sam Walton rose from a cashier to one of the richest men in the world, if that isn’t the American Dream, I don’t know what is.

My grandpa worked for Wal-Mart and recently passed away, he loved the people and the company treated him well. Over 200 people from the store he worked at came to his funeral and the manager of the store he worked at brought in workers from surrounding Wal-Marts to work at the store while the local workers went to his funeral.

They may make mistakes like any other company but, Wal-Mart is a good company that knows it’s business and does it well.
Message – Report

Christopher (Kansas) wrote
at 9:14pm on August 22nd, 2007
If you haven’t seen “The High Cost of Low Prices” you need to…its a great documentary of how WalMart is the armpit of society and treats its employees that way.
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Dave wrote
at 5:24pm on August 22nd, 2007
Give Wal Mart a Union !

typically hippies and the labor movement, which is what i think wal mart needs don’t get along. Help save our great country and don’t shop at wal mart !
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Myles wrote
at 4:57pm on August 22nd, 2007
you hippies need to look at the jobs creation, savings, and fun-ness of wal mart before you attack it. smelly friggen hippies

Janine (UCSC) wrote
at 4:41pm on August 22nd, 2007

Wal Mart is toxic to communities and livelihoods.

Facebook should take the number of negative comments on this page as a note that we don’t support this company of it’s use of a space for social networking to further horrendous business practices.

And this goes for all companies that profit from human devastation: GET OFF OF FACEBOOK.

This is a space for people talking to other people. Facebook, get your priorities straight.
Message – Report

Mark (New Orleans, LA) wrote
at 1:12pm on August 22nd, 2007
Sara: You would live at WalMart, if you could?!

Wait…..what’s stoppin’ you?
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Adam (Dartmouth) wrote
at 10:55am on August 22nd, 2007
one more link for you… my hometown in Maine – and all the small towns that neighbor it – recently banded together to pass legislation that effectively prevented Wal-Mart (or any other big-box retailer) from invading the neighborhood. a documentary was made about the process. it’s a pretty good story/resource for any town that has a similar battle on its hands.
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Sandeep (UC Irvine) wrote
at 10:31am on August 22nd, 2007

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John (Clemson) wrote
at 11:14pm on August 21st, 2007
Wal Mart was once the small local store competing against the big guys. What did they do to overcome?
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John (Capital) wrote
at 8:00pm on August 21st, 2007
are you kidding me. they are getting rid of every person that owns their own store. yes they found a new way to move products to the consumers and what not. big deal. im apart of a business that found a even better way to do that. but the fact is they are putting people out of business and taking their jobs. wal-mart is a bad business for this country

Matthew (Kettering) wrote
at 5:28pm on August 21st, 2007
Why is it that it takes a company like Wal-Mart to stop the overpricing of goods at other stores?
Message – Report

Nicole (Smith) wrote
at 12:43pm on August 21st, 2007
In case folks haven’t seen it yet, here is the BusinessWeek blog post on the wall posts for this group:

Also linked to from the Wal-Mart Watch blog:
Message – Report

Sara (UCLA) wrote
at 12:09pm on August 21st, 2007
I adore Walmart. I would live there if I could. P.S., there should be an apostrophe in “Roommates” in the “Mix it up” box — it should either read “Roommate’s” or “Roommates’.” Please fix it.
Message – Report

Stefan (Hillsdale Baptist) wrote
at 1:23am on August 21st, 2007
Grant, you don’t live in the same community that the HQ of Target is located. Of course you aren’t going to see what they do for schools and surrounding neighbohoods.
Message – Report

Stefan (Hillsdale Baptist) wrote
at 1:22am on August 21st, 2007
Don’t do it. Don’t shop at wal-mart.
I know it sucks, my school is less than 2 two miles away from a wal-mart but it can be done. Good luck.
Message – Report

Jamiah (CBS) wrote
at 6:28pm on August 20th, 2007
Organize against Wal-Mart in your community! Don’t contribute to the abuse of American workers. Contact me and I will send you a free DVD of the documentary, “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” so that you can organize a community screening in your neighborhood! Educate others about the evil of Wal-Mart.

Web Strategy Recommendations
Is this program salvageable? Absolutely.

The battering of the brand continues on for the next 100 wall posts, and it will likely continue, this is expected. I’ve analyzed all the comments and there’s only a few students and a handful of folks that admit to actually shopping there –they’ve not reached the college segment.

This sponsored group doesn’t have discussion forums, I’d recommend they turn those on, and try to segment the conversations about going back to school, and even consider keeping folks on topic. Continue to allow critics (you can’t stop it anyways) but try to use the forums to guide a discussion about school. I’m not sure why Wal-Mart has not chosen to turn on it’s marketing engines and point people here from their corporate site, using a cross-promotion tactic would certainly drive more folks over to the group.

What’s the great thing about all this? Wal-Mart’s still here, was bold enough to try it again, and hasn’t pulled the site down. I highly recommend that Wal-Mart consider trying a community strategy using a transparent and authentic blog or video blog series that addresses the very brand issues that they are getting slammed on. I took at look online for a “Walmart blog” and didn’t see any from the company, why is this? It’s going to be very difficult to try a community marketing strategy with eCommerce hooks without first addressing the brand detractors.

Update: Connie (in the comments below) suggests that Wal-Mart may need an evangelist, certainly an interesting notion.