Walmart Failed Facebook Social Internet Marketing Campaign

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With the rise of Facebook as the world’s most popular social networking platform, marketers area eagerly jumping the bandwagon, targeting Facebook users.

Wal-Mart versus Target on Social Internet Marketing Campaign on Facebook

Wal-Mart

• Focus excessively on their marketing message
• Restricted comments and feedback to “Wall Posts” and heavily moderated them
• Stray from its core brand value of deep discounts to give fashion/style/taste advice to Facebook Users
• 2,000 members participated in their quiz

Target

• Open a discussion board and allowed for 2-way conversation.
• Spend time to understand how Facebook users were interacting with each other and turned down the volume of their marketing message
• 7,176 members, 409 photos, 483 pots and hosted 37 discussion groups

As Target was launching a successful marketing campaign on Facebook, Wal-Mart also tested internet marketing on Facebook again but failed to achieve much success.

So why did Wal-Mart fail? One killer mistake was to assume social internet marketing as being similar to offline traditional medium. In offline marketing, the winner is usually the one with the loudest volume on their marketing message. In social marketing however, it is often the better listener that enjoys the greater success.

While Target was engaging users through discussion boards, Wal-Mart decided to restrict dialogue to “Wall Posts” and heavily moderated what was allowed. This backfired immediately as users soon notice the lack of 2-way dialogue and started a torrent of anti Wal-Mart comments. In contrast, Target made students a part of their discussion group and to shape the dialogue around them instead of themselves.

Another big mistake that Wal-Mart made was to stray away from its core identity as a supermarket that offer deep discounts. Wal-Mart tried to engage users by offering fashion and style advice which didn’t jive well with Facebook users. Instead of focusing on their core value proposition of deep discount through offering good discount of back-to-school supplies and thinking of ways to disarm critics they choose to do otherwise.

Wal-Mart has always been a lightening rod due to their corporate reputation and labor practices. They ought to know that the moment they go social, negative comments and criticism would be part and parcel of the campaign that they will have to manage. But instead of going open and engage users, they tried to restrict dialogue and focused on a 1-way communication plan.

The different in tactics resulted in very different outcomes. Wal-Mart received at least 2,000 members who participated in their roommate quiz and other activities. Target on the other side had attracted over 7,176 members who post more than 410 photos and 483 posts. Target also hosted a total of 37 discussion groups over their entire campaign period.

Owyang, an analyst at Forrester explained that the issue had to do with strategy. “Wal-Mart’s strategy appears to be more of an interactive Website design, which is evident because it isn’t using the discussion forum. Target is involving students to shape and be part of the group.”

Adopting a Website design in a social environment is like driving a nail through your own leg. Limiting conversation in a social environment and positioning themselves as something they were not meant to be killed Wal-Mart social internet marketing campaign from the moment it was conceived.

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