Wal-Mart's Facebook presence targets students well
Wal-Mart today launched a Facebook group targeting college students getting ready to going back to school. There are links to a supply checklist, as well as links that go back to walmart.com's music, green shopping area, and information about their new "site to store" service.
But the killer "app" on the site is their Roommate Style Match Quiz, which asks questions such as "your favorite way to study" and "if your life were a movie, what genre would it be." I took the quiz and it turns out I'm a Brain-Stormer - Wal-Mart really did a good job pegging me! What was wild was the picture of my "room" really does look like my room! Books strewn all over the desk and floor.
I think that Wal-Mart is doing several things really well here -- which is a nice change of pace given their previous forays into social computing (e.g. social networking site "The Hub" and blogging with Wal-Marting Across America).
Most importantly, they've understood the interactive, social nature of Facebook. The Style Match Quiz not only allows me to take the quiz, but to also post it to my profile and send it to friends. Ideally, they would also allow me to plug in the profile of a friend automatically (I have to do this manually given the interface). I also noticed that I can't mix genders in the roommate matching - can't blame Wal-Mart for not wanting to go down that path!
I'm going to be watching the Wall comments very closely -- there will certainly be Wal-Mart fans who come and profess their fandom, as well as detractors. It's also an opportunity to see if students begin posting questions about dorm life -- will other students respond, or would Wal-Mart step forward and help address some of those questions?
Also to watch is how Wal-Mart evolves the group after the initial back-to-school rush, especially since the roommate matching quiz is set to run only through October. This is a relationship that Wal-Mart now needs to think about nurturing, not a campaign that can be turned "off" at a specific date.
Wal-Mart has the opportunity to build a community with these students, but has to resist the temptation of treating this group as yet another marketing channel. For example, the members of the Apple Students Group routinely receive promotion (spam) messages in the Facebook Inbox (the latest one I received has the subject line, "Buy a Mac. Get a FREE iPod nano").
Good luck to Wal-Mart as it navigates these waters!
(Shameless plug: I recently published a report "Marketing On Social Networking Sites" which contains several best practices on how to work with sites like Facebook and MySpace. It's available to Forrester clients and is also available for purchase).