Courtesy of the fine gentlemen at The New Marketing blog, I’ve gotten wind of another giant company’s effort at blogging and social media cool. This time, to my astonishment, I’ve been brought eye-to-eye with a blog published by that well-known bastion of spontaneity and social communion, Wal-Mart (WMT).
Gosh, I’m not even sure what to say about this one, other than to shake my head and utter Yiddish expressions. (“Oy, gevalt!” comes to mind.) While Dell’s blog may still have that crisp Fortune 100 feel just beneath the hippy-dippy surface, at least it’s focused on one issue, the green movement, and it’s execution does do something to support that approach. It gets the job done without giving you the feeling that you’re being hustled (directly at least).
As for Wal-Mart’s effort, Check Out, in all honesty there’s certainly a lot that’s right about it. The voice of the blog entries is right–I’ll accept that someone under 50 wrote them–the graphics are nice without being overproduced, and the blogroll is ever so hip–it includes Gizmodo, Engadget, GigaOM, Slashdot and Joystiq, to name a few touchstones. (Boy, do they WISH they were Engadget, I’ll tell you what.) They’ve even done a good job of pasting the Wal-Mart logo in there prominently, so full disclosure requirements definitely met. But it does come down to being a slightly tarted-up e-commerce site.
The bottom line, as I see it, is that you can’t promo computers and TVs and movies and games like independent sites, then turn around and hope people will buy them from you…without looking like a social media idiot, that is, or at least an invader in the space.
I think with this whole social media problem, we’re running into a barrier the giant retailers can’t easily crack — in much the same way Microsoft and its ilk are still struggling with the Open Source movement. When information wants to be free, and people want to share just to be together, it’s hard for old-line capitalists to harness that for cash. My guess is that Wal-Mart will be no more agile than Microsoft at figuring out how to turn this to their advantage. They certainly haven’t broken any molds this time.