First look: Wal-Mart's Checkout Blog

Wal-Mart's Checkout Blog, the retailing behemoth's latest foray into social media, went 'live' last night. I think this blog is a great example of a company that's trying, kicking and screaming, to successfully utilize social media. At the same time, it's obvious that the company is still having growing pains in this realm that they should have shirked at least a year ago.

The blog still has that new media smell, so it's not fair to do a full-blown Company Blog Checkup on it yet. That will come later, but for now, here's my first impressions:

1 - Love love LOVE the fact that the sidebar has a very clear picture of all the bloggers, and their names. It also tells what area they cover, and has a link to their bio. This is excellent, and also a telltale sign that Wal-Mart has either done their homework with this latest effort, or they hired someone to do it for them.

2 - There are several posts already up (Looks like they 'loaded' several posts before going live, a good thing), but only a few comments. This strikes me as odd, since everything Wal-Mart does immediately attracts attention. My guess is that either the blog has received several comments that haven't been approved yet, or the company is being very picky about what they let through. If it's the latter, Wal-Mart had best be careful as the company has always struggled with actually letting customers have a voice in their previous social media initiatives.

3 - The blogroll is pretty good, leaning heavy on movie/entertainment/video game sites/blogs, but there's nothing wrong with that. Plenty of time to flesh it out more later.

4 - But while the blogroll is low on self-promotion, the posts are sometimes little more than a reprinting of the weekly circular. Check out this post, which does nothing more than list all the new December movie releases that the store will carry. I'm sure this could have simply been added to an existing post, like this one that helps explain the difference between Blue-Ray and HD-DVD.


It's still very early, and while this blog has some issues, this seems to be a much stronger effort than Wal-Mart's previous blogging attempts. But the real litmus test will come when we see how much time and energy the bloggers spend on engaging, building, and growing the blog's community. If used wisely and correctly, this blog could be an amazingly powerful tool to help change not only the public's perception of the retailer, but the company itself.

Thanks to Matt for reminding me about this, after I found Shel's post.

UPDATE: Edelman's Marshall Manson adds in the comments "On your question about comments, to date, we have published every single comment that's been submitted. The number has obviously been small, but that's no surprise as there really hasn't been much of anything done to attract any readers. Yesterday's "go live" moment was really just a soft launch.

Going forward, there's a strong commitment to not being stingy with comment moderation. The comment policy only asks that folks avoid profanity and stay, at least generally, on topic."


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posted by Mack Collier @ 5:14 PM,

5 Comments:

At 7:36 AM, Anonymous Marshall Manson said...

Good morning, Mack. Marshall Manson, here. I work for Edelman, and we work for Wal-Mart. Thanks for noticing Wal-Mart''s new Check Out blog, and for your initial thoughts about the site.

On your question about comments, to date, we have published every single comment that's been submitted. The number has obviously been small, but that's no surprise as there really hasn't been much of anything done to attract any readers. Yesterday's "go live" moment was really just a soft launch.

Going forward, there's a strong commitment to not being stingy with comment moderation. The comment policy only asks that folks avoid profanity and stay, at least generally, on topic.

 
At 8:08 AM, Blogger Ryan Karpeles said...

Do you think Wal-Mart needs a blog? If so, what can they accomplish with it?

Also, can a massive company like this avoid sounding all corporate-y and fluffy? I know blogging is the new 'fad' and all, but unless it comes from the heart, it will often wither and die in the short-run.

I applaud them for taking this step and investing the time and energy into having this platform. I guess only time will tell whether this thing will pan out...

And compliments to Marshall for dropping by and engaging in the convo ;)

 
At 8:41 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Marshall thanks for stopping by. Good to hear about the comments, I am sure there will be continued focus on how the blog handles comments moving forward, as it becomes more popular.

Ryan it's interesting because I am starting to see some similarities between where Wal-Mart is now with blogging, and where Dell was a year or so ago.

Both companies started out ignoring blogs. Then both finally started blogging. Wal-Mart's efforts so far have been horrible, and Dell's first efforts left something to be desired, as the thinking was that they were focused too much on Dell, and not on the community.

Then Dell finally figured out that they needed to be more open and start focusing on the readers, and then from that, you began to see guys like John Pope and Richard Binhammer actively engaging bloggers in their space. I think in the process, for them this has gone from begin something that they thought they 'had' to do, to now something they ENJOY doing.

If this latest effort from Wal-Mart is any indication, the retailer now at least realizes that they have to do better. Dell was willing to make the commitment and push themselves to do better, and now they are reaping the rewards, with more to come. Time will tell if Wal-Mart is strong enough to follow the same path.

 
At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Ivana - www.strategystew.com said...

Hi Everyone. I have great respect for Wal-Mart. Love them or hate them, they are exploring a new communication and promotion channel. We all know that it's much more profitable to keep customers than to get new ones. I think that building relationships with customers and being of service, educating them and helping them make sense of the millions of producty choices out there is what brings them back for more. So I think Wal-Mart is doing that.

This also reminds me of our previous discussion about delivering on the branding promise. It looks like Wal-Mart might be exploring blogging as an element of their branding. Notice the new Tag line - which to me sounds almost like it came from Target "Save money. Live better" It's sound more hip than I would expect from them - and the blogging - maybe another hip activity to go with it. Nothing wrong with that as far as I'm concerned. It shows growth, change and adapting to a new market.

 
At 3:13 PM, Anonymous TraiaN said...

Hi Mack,

Talking about the progress bars, I also did some research on major etailers and how do they display the bar. I wrote an article about the findings, called CHECKOUT - Progress Bar Survey. Take a look and please let me know what you think.


Cheers,
TraiaN

 

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