With the increase in social network sites and dialogue amongst marketeers about how to use these sites to develop advocates for your brand I was interested to read that Wal-Mart has shut down its teen social networking Web site – called “The Hub” – just 10 weeks after it became available.
The site, a MySpace-inspired experiment that allowed “hubsters” to create their own personalized Web pages, had trouble winning over teen users and was widely criticised in Internet blogs and the mainstream media.
A Wal-Mart spokeswoman described The Hub as “an online destination for students to preview the latest back-to-school fashions and merchandise at Wal-Mart while engaging in a creative contest to express their personality and style.” However, visitors were turned off by what some considered blatant advertising, suspecting the positive user comments posted on the site were in fact created by Wal-Mart spokespeople.
The Arizona Republic said The Hub was “essentially an advertising vehicle that encourages teens to create commercials for the retail chain and post them on the site. … It tells them to express ‘individuality,’ but screens their posts and doesn’t allow them to e-mail each other.”
Advertising Age also criticized the site, calling it “highly sanitised and controlled.”
Visitors to the site last week were greeted with a message reading, “Sorry, but the School Your Way promotion has ended. You will be redirected to Wal-Mart.com where you can always find the hottest fashions, music, and more all year long.”
Source: All headline news
Bottom line – if you are not seen to be trustworthy and if endorsements are not perceived to be without bias, then marketeers beware, members of the social networking sites will soon find you out which will be damaging for the reputation of your brand.