Monday, March 3, 2008

Wal-Mart Blogging Wrought with Risk

Guess who first disclosed in February that Wal-Mart planned to stock only high-definition DVDs and players using the Blu-ray format, rather than the rival HD DVD system (a decision that effectively killed HD DVD). Was it a journalist? Analyst? Industry blogger?

Nope…it was Wal-Mart’s own blog, written by mid-level staffers without management or legal oversight.

Wal-Mart Tastemakers Write an Unfiltered Blog
New York Times

While social media advocates will cheer the company for its candor and customers may benefit from the honest assessment of product quality, I find this decision by Wal-Mart to be reckless and wrought with risk.

Wal-Mart is damaging its distributors and suppliers by allowing often uninformed staffers to pass judgment on products. How did these offerings get selected for shelf space to begin with?

If a product doesn't sell than by all means remove it from the store. However, you have to give it a chance. It just makes no sense for Wal-Mart to select a product for its stores and then stand by passively while an employee rips it on a blog.

I applaud Wal-Mart for embracing social media as a channel to engage the market. Just set some baseline rules for employees to follow. And make one of those rules not to stick it to the manufacturers, distributors and suppliers you maintain a business relationship with.

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