Wal-Mart Social Media Fail

Many organizations are beginning to make social media platforms a key in their marketing campaigns.  The nature of social media creates conversation and reach, factors that make it a gold mine for marketers.  While the benefits to social media marketing can be immense, failing to plan accordingly can lead to failure.


This is exactly what happened to Wal-Mart back in 2007.  Feeling the pressure from rival Target, who had recently launched a successful Facebook page, Wal-Mart felt the need to establish a Facebook page themselves.  However a lack of planning, and abandoning their brand image lead the campaign to be unsuccessful.


The nature of Facebook, and specifically organizational pages, is for the company to post content and for followers to discuss and communicate about it.  Knowing that they do not have the greatest public image, and that an open forum such as Facebook could bring upon countless negative comments, Wal-Mart limited user content.  This essentially demeaned the whole point of creating a Facebook page, and frustrated follows, as it completely lacked interactivity and became just another place for Wal-Mart to advertise.


Additionally attempting to be a stylish and hip company is completely out of Wal-Mart’s foundation.  This being the case the match with Facebook just felt forced an unnatural.


Wal-Mart is going to be just fine as an organization, social media or not.  However, that does not mean that they should simply abandon the idea of it all together.  Despite this initial attempt not being a success, it is important for Wal-Mart to establish a social media presence, as it is primary way our generation interacts.


What are some ideas as to how Wal-Mart could create a social media presence without it being a failure such as their first attempt?  Or would it be better for the organization to disregard social media marketing all together and maintain their current structure?


19 thoughts on “Wal-Mart Social Media Fail

  1. This comes as no surprise that Wal-Mart failed on Facebook considering their reputation in the community of social media savvy teens and young adults who would likely be the ones posting content on their site. Like you said, Facebook is a tool for communication. It was a huge mistake for them to limit communication on a platform that is there for that sole purpose.
    Before implementing a social media plan, Wal-Mart needs to look at it’s customer base and figure out what will be best means of communication with that audience. Facebook wasn’t the right platform, but maybe there is another way they can communicate with their audience in a healthy and productive way. It starts with understanding their audience.

  2. Katherine Taylor

    I don’t think that Wal-Mart needs a social media campaign. They are a huge corporation and are doing just fine without it. This large corp. isn’t trying to gain new customers, nor are hurting for more business. Wal-Mart shoppers are there because its cheap and often a 24-hr. availability. I think it wasn’t a smart move to try and follow Target’s move to adopt a Facebook page. Target has been, well…. targeting, a younger demographic for years. So it was only natural that they adopted social media so easily. Wal-Mart is like the Myspace of retail stores, its ghetto, but you still check it out from time to time.

    -Katherine Taylor

  3. Charles Richards

    People are going to shop at Walmart regardless of what their social media campaign is like. To me these big companies like Walmart represent an older generation company so it comes at no surprise to me that this happened. It seems to me that this was a knee-jerk reaction launch by Walmart in order to combat Target. I think its pretty fair to say that Target has better social media than Target but Walmart could have more patient to launch their own social media. While some social media campaigns may seem plain the point is to send a message and Walmart did not send out the right message.

  4. I agree with you. Just because it was a fail at one point does not mean that they should give up with the idea of social media all together. However, they need to stay on top of their social media sites whatever that site my be. They also need to allow costumers to write about the ways the feel. Of course a person from Wal-Mart should be delegated to not only remove negative posts, but respond to them as well in an effort to help their image out more. They could potentially learn a lot from what their costumers are saying and help their image out at the same time. Wal-Mart should give social media another try, but just like you said it won’t hurt them if they don’t!

  5. Matthew Lerman

    I agree that Wal-Mart is a company whose target demographic may be the older generation who have been shopping there for years. However, they would still benefit from expanding their audience by catering to the youth as well. They do sell items of interest to people of all ages, so I think that they should be focusing on appealing to people of all ages.

    Like it was mentioned, the older generation will shop there regardless, so it would be no harm to not target them in their social media campaigns. If instead, they shifted their focus to demographics that they are not reaching as well, then they could only expand their clientele. This means that the time and effort needed to creating a successful social media page, will ultimately help them out with sales and popularity.

  6. It would be short sighted of Walmart to completely abandon social media. It is a vary successful company but it too can fall “big” think (thinking it is too big to fail). To avoid continued negative sediment and potentially market share, Walmart should get ahead of the message. One tactic might be to build trust and reputation by using social media to highlight their corporate social responsibility activities. Furthermore, Facebook is not the only social media tool to utilize. It will be important for them to engage in listening and monitoring with the goal to engage in the conversation as it is happening. Once other SM tools have been implemented and Walmart is able to establish a more positive voice Facebook may again be an option.

  7. I feel that since Walmart is such a big company it needs social media outlets. During a public image crisis Walmart’s social media accounts could be used to immediately connect with consumers. However, Walmart does need to develop a solid plan of how it is going to use social media before launching these social media accounts. They should develop procedures as to how to respond to certain comments, and what to do when individuals post negative content on their accounts. Once they have come up with a plan and found the right people to execute it, Walmart may begin to use social media to its advantage.

  8. Walmart, being a huge organization with many different outlets might be better served to huge numerous social media outlets for like, “Walmart northeast” that way it is a little more concentrated instead of just one big Walmart twitter. I think that while that may be able to work for a company like dominos, Walmart with so many locations and branches, people need to be able to focus on a more concentrated area.

  9. Chelsi Odegaard

    I agree with some of the previous comments that Walmart shouldn’t abandon social media all together; however, I don’t think Facebook is necessarily the right channel to use. Walmart doesn’t have a very hip and young vibe around its brand and since Facebook doesn’t allow companies to make Facebook pages incredibly customized it would just come off as boring for fans. Walmart could possibly use blogs to entice some of the older generations online by giving interesting stories about products, employees and events Walmart is apart of.

  10. Maybe Walmart should stay out of the social media game right now. I think Walmart has a lot to fix when it comes to their reputation with people and launching a social media campaign before solving this problem will not only make the social media campaign ineffective but could potentially hurt them because they will be compared to their competitors who have had better success with social media.

  11. I think Walmart should tread lightly when it comes to social media. If they want to stay relevant in modern society, they must eventually (but the sooner the better) jump on the social media bandwagon. However, the enormity of the company would make it extremely difficult for the company to maintain both a human voice and a consistent, honest message. Of course, it doesn’t help that the company itself seems to run against everything social media users stand for: individuality, a personal voice, honesty, integrity and all that feel-good stuff. Instead, Walmart is the epitome of the melting pot that is the modern United States: homogenized, impersonal and convenient.
    While I do agree that Walmart seems (at least for the moment) to have a certain degree of security, this will not last, especially if they keep making mistakes like the social media fiasco of 2007. Walmart needs to seriously reconsider their business practices and basic corporate structure if they want to remain relevant in an increasingly environmentally and socially conscious world.

  12. I agree with some of the comments above, and think that WalMart should use social media outlets to promote their corporation, but they should do so with caution. I think that if Walmart ever decides to go through with using social media that they should have a well thought out and structured social media plan. Seeing as Walmart doesn’t have the best reputation, I think it would be best for there to be a social media policy regarding the content they post to their sites. I also think that it is a good idea, as mentioned above, to not only have corporate social media sites but also ones that pertain to particular regions of the country. In this facet, the main corporate sites would not be flooded with meaningless conversations that pertain to a particular store, instead of the corporation as a whole.

  13. Courtney Parks

    I agree with the majority of other comments, Walmart may be able to uphold economically because of there low prices but eventually they are going to have to have a social media presence. Social media is the way of the future and without a Facebook, blog or even a Twitter Walmart public relation and image is going to slowly dwindle with a generation who does not recognize them online. For such a large corporation I would of thought their P.R firm to of recognized this and responded with a stronger social media campaign. I think what Walmart needs is a social media campaign that can interact its consumers with its brand, make the large corporation seem more consumer oriented and community driven. Starbucks managed to do it with their social media suggestion board, there is no reason Walmart could not do the same.

  14. I think that Walmart should not abandon social media, but unless they come up with some radical, cool new innovative way to use social media, it is almost useless. Walmarts brand image has been the same for years, and is unlikely to change anytime soon. And it really does not need to. They should stick to what they are doing because they are doing it well. They kick everyone’s a** in price and until that changes, their success will continue.

  15. Garrett Temple

    The truth of the matter is, is that no matter how bad Walmarts social media failed, people will always shop at Walmart, and it will always have a loyal following. Wal-mart should learn from this experince, and stick to the moto “don’t fix it if it is not broken.” Walmart already established themselves as one of the most dominating and powerful companies in the world, and they did not need to exert them selves in the social media world in order to keep up with the competition. This little social media fail should not even effect Walmart and the billions of dollars that it grosses annually. They should learn from companies like Starbukcs, who uses more wor of mouth to establishe themselves as a brand then spending their money in social media and advertising.

  16. I’m curious if they set up any listening and monitoring tools when they began the campaign. I don’t think Wal-Mart gets very much good publicity, so it would be interesting to see what their customers were saying online. Most social media users are young, and negative documentaries have been rather pervasive. But was the tone mostly negative comments or neutral? Even if they did monitor, what would they do with the information? It’s not like 85% negativity really affects Wal-Mart’s bottom line. No matter what people say online, without Wal-Mart millions of people would be unable to afford basic necessities.

  17. Not all companies should have a presence in social media even if the audience is growing. Wal-Mart would have to have a strong social media policy to have a presence online because of the companies bad reputation to many people. I feel as in Wal-Mart should avoid social media, even if it is rapidly growing, because two audeinces do not match up.

  18. Crystal Greenberg

    When dealing with social media it is important to stay true to your brand. Just because social media is new to your brand does not mean your brand is new or changed. It is important to keep your community in mind and realize who your target audience is. If you’re all about the deals and doing things cheap (like Wal-Mart is) then you have to stay true to that when trying to make a social media presence. You may be targeting your online community, but when you have a very established successful brand where people like you (or dislike you, as is the case for many people and Wal-Mart) for how you are, staying true to yourself is what makes you successful. You wouldn’t make the change in stores on on other advertising so don’t do it with your online presence and social media.

  19. Pingback: Like all tools, social media can backfire « Marcie Brock, Book Marketing Maven

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