Facebook Sponsored Group Analysis: Target vs Wal-Mart


Web Strategist Connie Benson pointed out the Target Wal-Mart Sponsored group in Facebook isn’t getting a warm reception. As I cruised through the group, I noticed a much higher degree of interaction, amount of members, and community engagement.

[Target and Wal-Mart have both deployed a Sponsored Group within Facebook, each deploying contrasting strategies with different results]

Here’s a comparison of the two groups as of Sept 10th, 2007:
Please note, it’s impossible to tell who’s really behind some of these comments and threads, some could be hired on various services.

Marketing Strategy
The timing is right to launch these site, as it’s back to school season

Wal-Mart: College students, dorm rooms
Target: College students, dorm rooms

URL to view live group:

Wal-Mart: Direct lnk (Facebook account required)
Target: Direct link (Facebook account required)

PR Firm:

Wal-Mart: Edelman
Target: ? (update: AKQA)

Launch Date, estimated:

Wal-Mart: Early August
Target: Early July


“Your Personal Checklist” eCommerce links to Walmart.com
“The Roommate Style Match Quiz” Personal persona wizard, eCommerce hooks, very clever
“Mix it Up” Mix and match roommate styles
“SoundCheck” Media samples of popular bands
“College Store” Green products, Freshman tips
“Tip Me” Product Marketing images
“Is it edible” interactive animation, I found to be clever
“Not your mom’s checklist” eCommerce selector
“Find your soul furniture” customized product wizard
“Snoop for inspiration” Design ideas gallery
“Good roomate” Media animations with tips

Number of current members:

Wal-Mart: 1196
Target: 7106

Number of Discussion Threads:

Wal-Mart: Sadly, None, as feature is disabled
Target: 33 Discussion threads
Most are under 5 responses, however “Tips from someone with experience” (started by Target employee) has over 55

Number of Pictures:

Wal-Mart: 27
Target: 396 Photos, many appear to be CGM (can’t confirm)

Wall Posts Quantity:

Wal-Mart: 426
Target: 462

Blog Trackbacks (Technorati:

Wal-Mart: 6 Tracbacks
Target: 51 Trackbacks (most are from Marketing and PR professionals)

Anecdotal Opinions:

Wal-Mart: Very negative, details on this post
Target: Majority positive on wallposts

Other Metrics
I need data to check interaction levels, only Facebook and the respective companies will have this. I would want to see, time on site (attention), interaction levels, spikes and trends, and other information.


Screenshot: Target’s Sponsored Group, “Dorm Survival Guide”

Screenshot: Wal-Mart’s Sponsored Group “Roommate Match”

Web Strategy Analysis: Embracing customer interaction yields Target as leader
Last month, I published a White paper on Social Media Measurement (co-authored with Matt Toll) and I could easily quantify these numbers are return a score card, if I had more time (or if it was my job) I would measure and score. Regardless, it’s clear that based upon engagement and interaction that Target is performing much better. Students even linked to their “Dorm room tours” on YouTube, whereas Wal-Mart lacks a discussion feature.

[Brands that “release control” to customer involvement have an improved chance from brand stewardship, customer ownership, and consumer advocacy. Let go to gain more]

What’s the difference between the two strategies? Target is clearly involving students to shape and be part of the group, whereas Wal-Mart’s strategy appears to be more of interactive web design, which is evident as the discussion forum is not enabled. I also suggested to Wal-Mart to consider an authentic evangelism program, the comments suggest a female evangelist would be best.

Update: If you want to know more about Facebook, read my Web Strategy: What the Web Strategist should know about Facebook. Also, I’ll be Keynoting The Seattle Facebook Conference on Dec 5th.

  • I think this is a great post Jeremiah, and without slamming them too hard, I think the biggest thing I took out of this post was not that use of Facebook and the campaigns of Target and Wal-Mart, but the biggest flag raised for me was the fact that you put:

    Wal-mart: Edelman
    Target: ?

    That to me means much more. The fact that we know Edelman has continually been involved with their client as it relates to social media seems at odds with their job. We have no idea who is behind the Target campaign and it is prospering. That to me is the real story here.

  • I think it’s easy to target Edelman. Particularly with this client. Wal-mart may be suffering because it is Wal mart of flogdom fame.

    I would tell Wal-mart to fire Edelman, not because of this, but to put a little distance between themselves and that prior incident. Hiring a crayon would do great wonders (yes, Jeremiah, I saw the Wal-mart hiring Scoble or Menchaca post).

    What it is better to note is that whoever was behind Target’s effort- internal or external had a better understanding of their community. And that shows with a more engaged, compelled user experience. Marketing in social media realms requires in depth knowledge of your community, and what drives their interests. Target obviously has that.

  • Thanks Geoff and Jim

    By no means, am I ‘slamming’ either brand, nor criticizing the PR firm(s).

    I’m looking at community results from the two different deployments, trying to be objective here, provide some analysis, and give some recommendations.

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  • It also interesting how disconnected WalMart seems to be in this Facebook community. Every once in a while, “Linda” pops up and gives some statistics about how many people have used the apps, etc., and how they like the conversation both positive and negative. It reminds me of a college debate forum, topic – unions.

    No one seems to be engaging the actual WalMart demographic – the people who shop at their stores. Are they on Facebook? Is Target’s demographic different? There was that essay on the class division between MySpace users and Facebook (http://www.danah.org/papers/essays/ClassDivisions.html) that received some press a couple of months ago. Are we seeing brand representation of this discrepancy?

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  • wow, I was starting to write a similar article about this just last night. well good work on the comparison, some very good points. I don’t think the fact that its edelman working w/walmart makes much difference, i think its the fact walmart has these critics, but isn’t doing anything to talk to them personally. it looks at these negative users on their facebook group as enemies, instead of enlisting them to improve

  • Brian

    PR Firms are indeed important, why? Because some of their employees are involved in the chat rooms, or they tell others to come and join. They are influencers and contributors.

  • Stephanie

    I don’t think the difference has as much to do with the openness for feedback, but more about the brand image/reputation among the younger demo. When I was in college, which wasn’t that long ago, people would much rather admit to shopping at Target than Wal-mart. I know it sounds wrong, but most youth want to appear as if they have quality stuff bought at a bargain, not bargain goods bought at the regular low-price. Hence the nickname they created for Target of “Targé”. I know this isn’t true for all college students, but it was the majority- at least from what I experienced.

  • Stephanie

    Great points! Please remember that the largest growth demographic is ages 35+. Not just college students.

  • Stephanie

    Jeremiah, good point about the largest demo. But I was thinking about why the Facebook groups for the two have such different results since they’re both focusing on dorm room stuff. It would also be interesting to find out if there are more Wal-Mart’s or Target’s near colleges. I know that with online ordering it shouldn’t make that much of a difference, but I feel like it might.

  • I don’t think it matters if the groups were developed internally or by an external vendor; the issue is whether or not they are doing the job they’re intended for. Certainly Target seems to be hitting the mark better than WalMart here.

    As Jane already pointed out, given the Facebook demographics, it’s probably no surprise that the response to WalMart is so negative.

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  • Fiat, very strategic thinking, you’re right.

  • Mel

    I believe that by just being a part of “Priscilla Palmer’s Personal Development list” obligates each of us to also post this list. You like me (Killeris at “Attitude, the Ultimate Power”) are on this list. If you have already posted it, THANK YOU. If you have not posted it, I am officially putting out a challenge that you add additional sites that fit the theme and post it. This is my opinion only. If you disagree I respectfully understand. If you do agree with me this list can be found at: http://mondaymorningpower.blogspot.com/2007/09/personal-development-list-challenge.html

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  • Jeremiah — great post. I’m sharing this with my company as we speak. My high-level $.02 here is that companies that don’t care about their customers i.e. Walmart won’t do a good job at pulling off community/social networking. Walmart’s first foray into FB is proving this point.

  • Hi Jeremiah,

    Great comparison and a worthy case study of what works and what doesn’t on a SoNet like Facebook.

    FYI – The digital agency who worked with Target on this was AKQA San Francisco.


  • Jeremiah, What I meant was the fact its edelman means nothing to the facebookers, they don’t know that Joe Smith or whomever is moderating the forum is an edelman or a Fleishman Hillard employee. How do we know the group walmart is using isn’t primarily edelman employees? 😉 j/k

    stephanie has a good point, when I was in college there was more caché to target than walmart. walmart was seen as the place you went at midnight to buy the most random things since it was the only place open… also i assume that there are way more walmarts near schools, mainly since there are more walmarts period. Also walmarts tend to be more suburban and rural, which lend themselves to college downs vs target which has been in cities longer.

  • Rick, I updated the post with AKQA thanks

  • Adnohryak

    Years ago, I recall the comedian, “Roseanne” referred to Target as if it were a french designer store. Many picked up on name play because it “upscaled” their discount purchases.
    It is even considered “cool” to be on Target’s Wedding Registry.

    Wal-Mart needs to find their voice in social media. It has to be more than the usual “Hello. Welcome to Wal-Mart”, that usually is ignored. They need a voice that will resonate all the way to the “complainers” so that any prejudice, based on fact or fiction, can be reconsidered through informative positive dialogue,and fun.

    I have to laugh at all the negativity about Wal-Mart. I hear it quite a bit in my own sphere of influence. But I also see those same people (complainers) at Wal-Mart. In my eyes, that null and voids their “commitment” to their negativity.

    If I were to start a productive conversation about Wal-Mart it would be, “Yeah, you hate Wal-Mart, but let’s talk about how Wal-Mart can help you. Tell me about you.

    I truly believe that there is always something for everyone at Wal-Mart, and these things, whether product or prices, can make a positive difference in people’s lives.

    Constructive communication may iron out most of the wrinkled outlooks, but there is no pleasing everyone-company or community.

    Persevere with the positive.

  • Adnohryak

    There’s some brilliance here:

    “If I were to start a productive conversation about Wal-Mart it would be, “Yeah, you hate Wal-Mart, but let’s talk about how Wal-Mart can help you. Tell me about you.”

    Edelman friends, are you watching this one? Re-read my evangelist post and put these together!

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  • Mark Landau

    I know I’m late on this but I’d love an answer if possible. Assume Target paid $300,000 for this sponsored group + the designer, etc. Signing up only 16,000 is considered successful for that? You could offer a drawing in the stores and sign up that many in a week or less. I don’t get it. Getting your brand message to 16,000 people costs $300,000+?

  • Mark

    For every ROI formula there’s a cost and a benefit. You’ve extrapolated the cost factor but not the benefits.

    I believe sponsored groups are 100k a month. Given the platform, access to millions of target demographic, and reporting capabilities, for many large brands, this is a drop in the bucket.

    Imagine the cost of building their own social network, they could burn through that cost in a few days.

    Lastly, doing new stuff is sexy, and people cover it (like myself and the press) the opportunity to be on the leading edge has it’s un-calculated benefits.

    good questions, keep ’em coming.

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  • Facebook sponsored group is 100k a month. Gosh! Small businesses are out!

  • Outworldtalks yes but Facebook Pages (which was made available in Fall 07) are free.

    Any brand can create a page.

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