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."
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Walmart