This blog post series covers insights shared by Chris Brogan, Charlene Li, David Meerman Scott, and Martin Giles (moderator) on The Business Value Behind Social Media (part of The Premier Business Leadership Series presented by SAS). Part 2 provided the panel's insights on successfully implementing social media guidelines, processes, and goals focused on customer engagement.
Part 3 covers the panel's discussion on Walmart's initial social media strategy mistakes.
I've supplemented the panel's discussion with examples described in pages 229 to 230 of Open Leadership, Charlene Li's latest book. In these examples, Charlene writes how Walmart learned and recovered from these initial mistakes by continuing to experiment with different social media initiatives and refocus on its core audience.
The panel's discussion on Walmart's takes place from 19:00 to 20:50 of the embedded video.
Wal-Mart's Initial Struggles in Social Media
Many Retailers Made the Same Mistakes in Social Media (19:00 - 20:02). Chris makes the point how many retailers (not just Walmart) and manufacturers made the mistake of initially viewing social media as just another "push channel" or "another way to push stuff down a different pipe."
Walmart's Initially Looked Like It May Never Understand Social Media (20:03 - 20:50). Charlene noted several missteps by the retailer that seemed to proceed one disaster after another. I've added additional details from Open Leadership to provide additional context:
* 2006 - The Hub Social Network Lasts Only Ten (10) Weeks. The Hub was Walmart's attempt to compete with then-leader MySpace. Actors and models populated content and pushed visitors to buy Walmart's products.
* September 2006 - Media Coverage Reveals a Fake Blog. A blog portraying a couple's cross-country travels in an RV and staying in Walmart parking lots was revealed as a Walmart supported venture. Broken customer trust followed due to the significant negative news coverage this story received.
* Fall 2007 - A Facebook Group Misaligned with the Intended Target Audience. A Facebook group focused on back-to-school shopping for college audiences was well-executed, but the group focused on fashion. The problem is the intended target audience associated Walmart with low price -- a complete disconnect. Further compounding problems were Facebook members who started protesting Walmart's labor practices via comments and turned this site against the company.
Walmart Learned From Each Social Media Failure
A Return to the Corporate Mission: Helping Families Save Money. In pages 229 to to 230 of Open Leadership, Charlene explains how Walmart's determination and persistence sustained the company through some early struggles. Eventually, the company achieved online victories by focusing on social media initiatives focused on helping families save money.
* CheckOutBlog.com. A site which shares the perspective of Walmart's employee buyers' and how they go about selecting merchandise for their stores.
* Bazaarvoice. A service that provides user ratings and reviews on Walmart's sites.
* Elevenmoms.com Blog. A collection of mommy bloggers who share tips on how to save money.
The Resolve to Succeed and Courage to Experiment. Despite all the previous setbacks and struggles, Walmart was determined "to figure social media out," and it tested different ideas along the way.
The Results - A Legion of Facebook Fans and Customer Engagement on Twitter. These additional anecdotes from Open Leadership are inspiring. Walmart achieved these online results because it didn't give up:
* Facebook Membership of 500,000+
* Dozens of Employees Engaging on Twitter with Customers
The Walmart example shows how maintaining your resolve to succeed in social media marketing is a big part of the game. Even though it failed on a very public stage, Walmart kept at it and learned from these initial mistakes. Now, they're succeeding in directly communicating with their core audience through selected social media channels.
This case study highlights the importance of "failing well." If you're going to particpate in online conversations (like writing a blog), you're going to fail and commit mistakes. I know I have. Hopefully, I will continue learning from those mistakes (just like Walmart).
Most importantly, participation in social media channels means there's always a chance, you'll fail publicly (in a small or large scale depending on your online visibility).
But, if you're persistent and resilient, you will:
(1) Prevail in the long run and
(2) Learn a ton about what works or doesn't work for you as an online publisher
That opportunity to continuously learn and experiment is what I love about participating in social media.
Just ask these self-made entrepreneurs profiled in this recent Business Week - Bloomberg article: Ivy League and Privilege Not Required to Make Billions. In each case, these individuals cited the value of learning from their mistakes and how those lessons helped them become wealthy in the process.
Since next Saturday is Christmas Day, the plan is to publish the next installment of this series on Sunday, December 26th. I hope you'll tune in to The Business Value Behind Social Media Part 4 - How to Get Started in Social Media.
Tony Faustino is a marketing and corporate strategist. He writes about how The Internet reinvents marketing strategy for organizations and individuals in his marketing strategy blog, Social Media ReInvention. Follow his tweets @tonyfaustino or circle him on Google+.