Marketing Momentum

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wal-Mart Launches Social Networking

In an attempt at winning over teens for the apparel dollars they spend at Target, Wal-Mart has created a social networking site for teens - The Hub. Over the last year, Wal-Mart has been receiving increasingly bad feedback from teen girls, in contrast to Target, on its lack of cleanliness, messy layout and lack of stylish attire.

Ad Age compares the quasi-social-networking site as Wal-Mart's MySpace for teens. It's a place where teens can "express their individuality" by creating their own page for all to see and a chance to win prizes including their video appearing in a Wal-Mart TV commercial.

However, the site tells parents their kids have joined, forbids users to e-mail one another, and screens all content. Wal-Mart's policy on eliminating any video with "materials that are profane, disruptive, unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, vulgar, obscene, hateful, or racially or ethnically-motivated, or otherwise objectionable" is why "pending approval" notes dominate pages already created and limits content to a headline, a fashion quiz and a favorite song.

Seems much more restraining than the MySpace dominator, but what do you expect from a retail company that's looking to avoid any possibility of a lawsuit or image tarnishing. I think Tim Stock's, a researcher with New York-based Scenario DNA, assessment is a valid one.

"The second you try to create boundaries and draw a line around content and put a box around content, it becomes something else. Teens aren't searching for what a company deems relevant, but what they deem relevant. You can't own it. When anyone tries to own it too much, then it becomes a problem. That's the impression I get on this site."

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