Social Networking Conference Case Study: Ben Newton on Wal-Mart's Social Network

Case Study: Ben Newton on Wal-Mart’s Social Networks summarizes remarks from┬áBen Newton’s presentation at the Social Networking Conference.

Case Study: Ben Newton on Wal-Mart's Social NetworkBen revealed how the world’s biggest retailer is approaching social networking with its two million employees worldwide.

  • Ben has a senior management role with corporate communications, and he helps to lead the development of, an internal social network that is seeking to engage Wal-Mart’s two million “associates,” who work in 7,000 stores around the world.
  • Wal-Mart conducted two years of research before embarking on social networking; one of’s key themes is helping employees live smarter and happier lives. This is in line with Wal-Mart’s famous $4 prescription drug program, its sustainability initiatives and other community enrichment programs. For example, the site can search for volunteer opportunities by postcode, which enables associates to get involved in their communities.
  • 22% of Americans know someone who works at a Wal-Mart, and associates are brand ambassadors.
  • is global, but the content and features are strongly tied to the stores because that’s how associates are organized. Associates can get involved in programs around community, family, quality of life and job opportunity. They can communicate with each other via blogs and message boards.
  • Research showed that 81% of associates wanted information about Wal-Mart outside of work (i.e. when they were off the clock). 83% expected a social network. It launched in March 2009, and there are already 375,000 registered users. The company doesn’t know what portion of associates have Internet access.
  • Benefits information is now delivered through They reuse the benefits site’s authentication engine (slick).
  • It’s really important to engage key stakeholders in the beginning: legal, privacy, ethics, marketing, communications and IS. Our agency built the back end of
  • Since launch, we have a cycle of refreshing content every two weeks, and many of the blogs are written in the home office (corporate). Associates can friend pages. We feature video chat during company events. We are planning to implement live chat soon.
  • We have plans in 2009 to enable associates to interact with customers on (he didn’t give specifics; obviously this would be hived off and controlled since it’s an internal site).
  • The biggest risks for an internal social network. You need to think through control mechanisms that are appropriate for your culture: carefully consider legal, ethics and privacy. There are two extremes: all content pre-moderated (read “huge costs, slow”) or all content post-moderated. Sections of the site use both methods. Since launch, only 3 photos have had to be taken down as they were inappropriate. The site has 17,000 photos.
  • Ideation tools are separate (asking associates for innovation ideas).
  • We plan to engage alumni, too, but we’re not there yet.
  • is not connected to the corporate intranet, The Wire.
  • We are using Omniture for metrics, and we are building dashboards now. We have 3 full-time employees dedicated to
  • We are working with recruiting to integrate career information.

SNC-logo-smThe Social Networking Conference took place June 24-26 in Beverly Hills. Between leading the pre-conference workshop on Enterprise Social Networking and leading the final panel, I scribbled these notes.

Enjoy and watch for the final report within a few days!

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