Friday, May 9, 2008

Blogging with Wal-Mart

What do I like most about blogging? Moving on. Being part of the flow of ideas and inspiration. Sometimes it feels as though I’m on a ship leaving posts behind in my wake as I keep my eyes on the horizon for what’s coming up. I am sure I’m not the only one to respond to blogging in this way. It’s great to play around with ideas and not get overly exercised about upsetting the odd person or making the occasional mistake. There’ll be another post tomorrow and people who agree or disagree can always get in on the conversation. The freedom of the blogosphere is fundamentally changing not just how people express their passions, but how companies talk about themselves and what they’re doing. Blogging pushes us past the old model of “Let’s talk about you. What do you think about me?” into new territory of having a point of view, admitting to a personality and even risking a joke now and then.

The Wal-Mart blog has been online since December last year, so it’s had time to find its feet. How are they doing? I’d say great. The roster of bloggers is varied and you can learn a little about each of them, their experience, see what they look like and sometimes familiarize yourself with their pets. These are the men and women who influence what Wal-Mart stores will sell, and while decision-makers are important in any business, when you’re Wal-Mart-sized, they have more than a passing interest. Some bloggers can get promotional and personally - I’d rather find out about upcoming product launches in other ways - but these guys are keen to connect with us. Ryan seriously wants to know whether we think there is a mass market for Linux OS. Tifanie shares her Wii fitness extravaganza with such enthusiasm that you don’t want to make rational shopping decisions, you just wanna play! Rand has a sustainability agenda that’s so passionate it feels personal.

This blog strikes me as a leap of faith by Wal-Mart. Having looked through some of the comments, it’s a feisty world Wal-Mart is tapping into. Their philosophy seems to be neatly summed up by one of their communications people: "Trying to control who can speak and what they can say does not work." Amen to that.