Analyzing the Social Media Policy of Walmart

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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.

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Coca-Cola: Social Media & Charitable Giving All-Star?

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When it comes to large companies, it doesn’t get much bigger than Coca-Cola. With all of the recognition, power and (especially) money that come with being a huge corporation, there also comes a responsibility to give back to the community. As social media becomes more and more prevalent, we’re seeing a significant increase in the number of brands that push a generous and giving image.

Coca-Cola has done an excellent job of projecting this image to the public. But they didn’t get this reputation for no reason, they’ve done an impressive amount of fundraising to earn it. The company does quite a bit of work through their global philanthropic organization, The Coca-Cola Foundation. The foundation focuses on community improvement in four main areas: water stewardship, healthy and active lifestyles, community recycling and education. In addition, they’ve also funded disaster relief, HIV/AIDS programs in Africa, and diversity and inclusion initiatives in North America (www.coca-colacompany.com). The corporation states that their annual goal is to give back at least 1 percent of their operating income. Perhaps most impressive, “between 2002 and 2011, [their] charitable giving has totaled more than $812 million.”

So how do we find out about all the good that Coca-Cola is doing on a daily basis around the world? Social media, of course. The corporation has an absolutely enormous following on its various social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Each of these handles is highly active, consistently posting content about a variety of subjects. While examining the Facebook page of Coca Cola, you can see multiple whimsical posts or links to their newest commercials. Not far down the page, they’ve posted a link to video with the caption “The Coca-Cola Company aims to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020.”

When moving on to Coca Cola’s Twitter page, we surprisingly see that there are fewer posts regarding some of the charities that Coca Cola supports every year. Their most recent post seems to be on June 26, when they tweeted about #ProjectLastMile, “transforming African governments’ medical supply chains to make lifesaving meds more accessible.”

Their YouTube page does a great job of showcasing the work that Coca Cola currently does, while spreading awareness for the causes they work for. Just a few weeks ago, the company posted multiple videos that focus on community improvement in one of Coke’s main areas: water stewardship.

Overall, Coca-Cola has done an excellent job of portraying a charitable image to the public. It’s one of the reasons that they are likely one of the first brands that comes to mind when thinking of generous corporations. Over time, they continue to become more transparent on social media with their global partnerships and foundations.

Is sponsored content more than just a passing fad in public relations?

Within recent years, Facebook and many other highly trafficking sites on the Internet have become home to what’s known as “sponsored content.” One of the most relevant trends in the world of public relations lately, sponsored content was estimated to “be a 1.54B industry in 2013 alone” (according to this insightful article from Ragan’s PR Daily). More and more websites are embracing this as the newest method of relating to the public, and it has already become one of the more prominent ways that these sites bring in revenue.

Where are the ethical boundaries?

It’s certainly a touchy subject, the idea of paying to be featured on certain websites or within mobile applications. However, is it any different than simply advertising? How about when it comes to sponsored news articles on websites like The Washington Post or The New Yorker? It can become a question of making money and maintaining credibility as a source for trustworthy news. As pointed out in the article on PR Daily, however, “if you look at the FTC history around guidelines for promotional material […], there have always been huge holes in the rules.” The chances of this changing anytime soon are slim to none, considering that the resulting impressions, “likes,” and reposts from sponsored content prove how successful it can be.

So how can it be executed successfully?

A blog post by Matthew Davis on Step Leader Digital’s website makes a great point about the future of sponsored content. Davis states that with those tiny little banner ads, they don’t “deliver a great user experience for the end user nor the advertiser. Click-through rates are abysmal.” He even points out that you are more likely to have twins than you are to click a banner ad! To successfully execute sponsored content, Davis insists that the content must add value to the end user. Thus, the content must be worthwhile regardless of the fact that its paying money to be placed there. The article features quite a few other helpful tips, and it’s worth checking out here.

2014 vs. 2001

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The world today is quite a bit different than it was thirteen years ago in 2001. At this time of year back then, I was just beginning my third grade year at Maplebrook Elementary School. Life was good. Early in the morning one day, the teachers stood talking in the hallway, crying. None of us had any idea what was going on, and they wouldn’t tell us. They sent everyone home early that day. My mom spent that day in front of the television, watching the recurring coverage of the falling towers and the terrified people.

One of the most horrifying parts of that day was the fact that nobody knew who was safe, or what was coming next. It was more difficult to contact our loved ones, as cell phones were much less common. People within the buildings could not “live tweet” the incidents to keep the outside public updated on the status of their well-being. Imagine if the poor people on the airplanes being hijacked had been able to tweet or text on their smart phones back then! They might not have been able to be saved, but they could have had a chance to say final goodbyes to their loved ones.

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If YouTube had been around, we would most likely have first hand video from the horrors inside the building. Or even instagrammed pictures of destruction. Obviously these are some of the ways that social media would have been somewhat of a negative aspect back then. We can be thankful that we were not there to witness these first hand horrors. However, if Facebook had been around during the terrorist attacks, imagine the relief when a loved one posts a quick status update that they’re safe.

The day of the World Trade Center attacks, a schoolmate of mine had a father on a business trip that brought him to New York City. He specifically had a meeting in the Twin Towers. While the teachers wouldn’t tell anyone what was going on, due to our age, she was immediately called out of the classroom. My mother spoke to hers outside on the playground and she was absolutely beside herself with worry because she hadn’t been able to get a hold of him. Well as it turned out, he called her from his hotel room later that night, but this was a perfect example of just how much the world has changed with social media and technology since 2001.

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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The internet has brought us so many silly things: cats with cheeseburgers, unicorns named Charlie and double rainbows. However, amongst all of this frivolous silliness, the internet has brought a lot of good as well. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has quickly become one of the internet’s most prominent viral campaigns, and for good reason. According to www.alsa.org (the official website of the ALS Association),

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord.  When these cells die, voluntary muscle control and movement dies with them.  Patients in the later stages of the disease are totally paralyzed, yet in most cases, their minds remain sharp and alert.

ALS is a completely devastating disease that affects as many as 30,000 Americans every year. Life expectancy with ALS is not optimistic either, as the average is two to five years after diagnosis. ALS can strike anyone. Keeping all of the disturbing facts I’ve presented in mind, it’s even more apparent that a widespread campaign spreading awareness for ALS is overdue.

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The importance of the Ice Bucket Challenge is not even the act of pouring ice water over your head, but it’s the awareness that it’s spread for the disease. Beforehand, many people may have never heard of this disease or at least not known what it was. Now that these videos are popping up all over their newsfeeds, they’re googling ALS, they’re donating to the ALS Association and they’re spreading the word as well.

I think the Ice Bucket Challenge is an absolutely wonderful thing, and I believe it will only continue to do more good. Even once the steam runs out of this particular campaign, its tactics will be mimicked for similar campaigns in the future and hopefully they will experience comparable success. The one unfortunate thing about the huge publicity this campaign has received is the inevitable naysayers that have latched on to the story. For example, some ridiculous negative people have come up with numerous rumors about where the money from donations is directed. The ALS Association has come out and vehemently denied these rumors, and requests that those interested in learning more visit their Frequently Asked Questions page.

Writing is…

Writing is… The way that we express our ideas, thoughts, feelings and opinions.

Writing can… be an outlet or sometimes, the most frustrating thing in the world. 

Writing has… Become even more important as technology advances and we’re able to spread information that much faster. 

Writing will… Only continue to grow in importance.