“No More Free Shots” – Walmart’s Social Media Crisis Management Policy

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The retail behemoth is taking on negative social media sentiment

Even organizations that have embraced social media are still unsure as to how to best cope with negative comments online. While it’s commonly accepted that you can ignore those who are simply out bash you, or troll, what happens when the rumor and innuendo spread by these folks begins to influence your stakeholders?

Walmart, target of its fair share of negative social media chatter, both valid and trollish, is attempting to combat this with its new internal social media mantra, “No free shots.” Here’s an example of the policy in action, from a Digiday article by Josh Sternberg:

You need to have a thick skin if you’re Walmart on Twitter. Last week, the retail giant sent out what seems like a pretty innocuous tweet reading, ”We are honored to employ #veterans & support them and their families in every way we can. ‘RT’ to join us in saluting America’s heroes.” One veteran was having none of it: ”Bullshit I put my app in and didn’t even get a call back, walmart sucks a hairy asshole.” Ouch.

In the past, Walmart would have let this tweet die with the thousands of others directed its way. Instead, its rapid-reaction social reputation SWAT team fought back with information. “Please review our Welcome Home Commitment to learn more about opportunities & support efforts: https://walmartcareerswithamission.com/”

The response is an example of how Walmart is taking a more active approach to social as way to respond to its critics, albeit selectively and not in a way that’s likely to make a difference with its hardened adversaries. The internal mantra at Walmart: No free shots. This is a shift. Up until about a year and a half ago, Walmart took a passive approach to its critics on social media. It used social as a media relations tool to push out messages when it was convenient to them.

Now, it’s looking at data to understand how to engage with certain critics on Twitter and Facebook.

Is this response going to convert the angry vet who posted the colorfully-worded tweet? No, it won’t (and likely nothing will), but that’s not the idea behind Walmart’s new policy. The thought is that, by responding to the negative post with a link to factual information, anyone who may have been influenced by the original post stands a good chance of seeing Walmart’s own, and ideally they follow the link and come out thinking Walmart isn’t just blowing hot air.

Walmart is taking a cautious and highly data-backed approach to its new social media policy, and we’re certain other major brands are watching to see the results. If it succeeds in reducing overall negative sentiment and/or halting the spread of at least the most damaging rumor and innuendo, this type of preventative crisis communication could very well could become a new social media crisis management standard.

Erik Bernstein
Social Media Manager

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