Walmart is turning to its 1.4 million employees for social media help. This is exactly the wrong thing to do.
In this week’s Advertising Age, I read a fascinating article about Walmart’s efforts to turn its 1.4 million employees into social media brand evangelists.
The idea is doomed to fail on principle alone.
The problem starts with the need to incentivize employees to be company supporters and evangelists. This is a huge red flag that should give any business owner pause. If you need to incentivize your employees to care then you have a bigger problem. It’s hard to fake enthusiasm and social media is a sensitive bullshit detector and it will ignore half-hearted attempts by Walmart employees to satisfy their corporate masters.
The Advertising Age article goes on to highlight a few ways Walmart plans to motivate employees, one being a product adoption plan called the Volume Producing Item program (sexy huh?). This program pioneered by Sam Walton encouraged employees to champion a specific product.
This is a brilliant idea but it only works in an organization that is driven by a clear-cut core purpose that everyone can rally around. Sam Walton was building a fabulous company. His employees could see his vision. Promoting a product was a welcome and small way they could show their support.
But in 2011, this is a bit too much for many Walmart employees who are struggling to make ends meet with mediocre wages.
“It’s really hard when you’re a person making poverty-level wages and can only get part-time hours to be a good ambassador for a brand” – Jennifer Stapleton | Making Change at Walmart”
What concerns me is that other businesses may take Walmart’s lead. They’ll look at their employees and see them as twitter drones that can magically reverse their social media fortunes.
The danger here is that these shortsighted companies will demonstrate that they don’t understand the pre-requisite requirement for any effective social media program – Passion.
To this day it amazes me that Apple doesn’t have a blog, twitter and Facebook accounts. I would kill to hear what it’s like to work at Apple. I would love to get to know the people who make the extraordinary machines I use every day. Frankly, I would Like these pages and follow these people in a superstitious mission to have some of their passion “rub off” on me.
Apple has passion and it’s social media success would be guaranteed from the first micro-second.
Where’s the passion at Walmart? If they have to incentivize it then it just ain’t there.
A while back I challenged you to ask “Why” you blog. But, there is a larger question here, Why are you in business?
Now tell me something, why do your employees get up every morning, sacrifice time with family and friends, and put up with you everyday to come to work?
If the realistic angel on your shoulder is whispering “for a paycheck” then you have a deeper problem to solve. Poking your people to tweet on your behalf will only make the problem worse.
Remember passion makes social work – not gimmicks.
I want to hear you on this one. What say you?