Walmart is one of the most (arguably the most) recognizable retail stores in the world. Since its conception in October of 1969, the retail chain has grown to over 11,000 stores in 27 countries. And according to the Fortune Global 500 list of 2014, it is the “biggest private employer in the world with over two million employees.”
Because Walmart is such a large company that is ever-present in the public eye, they must effectively utilize one of the most powerful tools a corporation can own these days: social media. In order to ensure they’re using social media in the most efficient way, most companies will create a “social media policy.” Walmart is no different.
(You can access their social media guidelines here: http://corporate.walmart.com/social-media-guidelines)
Walmart’s policy is an entirely independent document that lays out the details of their social media engagement. Customers and stakeholders can now engage with the massive corporation on a variety of sites, including: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Foursquare. While I won’t go into excruciating details regarding every aspect of their social media policy, I will bring up a few highlights within their plan. Within their Facebook guidelines, Walmart provides a list of “rules” for members of the public that wish to contribute on Walmart’s Facebook Fan page. This struck me as a very smart move on Walmart’s part, as they are outlining the kind of content that they will allow. If anyone has a problem with their post being deleted from Walmart’s page, an employee can simply direct them to this list of rules. It’s almost a way of covering their a**, if you know what I mean. By encouraging posters to avoid “excessive name calling, profanity, fighting words, discriminatory epithets, sexual harassment, bullying, gruesome language or the like,” they are ensuring that their image and reputation as a social media presence is not tarnished. In addition, I found it to be proactive and wise that they also include a list of guidelines for Walmart associates. As these are the people representing the brand to the public, they need to ensure that they aren’t contradicting with Walmart’s image or painting the corporation in a bad light.
There were a few things that caused me to raise an eyebrow, however, and ponder whether they could have taken a different route. For instance, in their list of Twitter engagement guidelines, the company states that “we won’t be able to reply to store or service issues through Twitter.” In my opinion, this seems like a very poor choice as nearly every other brand is moving towards a Twitter presence that practically substitutes the “customer service department.” Many individuals choose to reach out to brands through Twitter in order to receive a quick response regarding their concerns. This seems like a way that Walmart could potentially be dating themselves. This would be my recommendation of a change that needs to be made to the policy. I believe that Walmart should use Twitter as a way to address customer concerns and complaints, enabling themselves to become as transparent as possible.