In the blink of an eye, social media has become an integral part of our lives -- and a crucial component of many companies' business strategies. As companies expand their e-commerce initiatives and use social media sites as effective tools, no business wants to be left out.
There's no bigger testament to this trend than Wal-Mart's
More substantial forays into social media definitely create changes in the way retailers interact with their customers, often for the better. But Wal-Mart isn't leading the way here. Best Buy
Social media has become a major part of our lives, influencing our day-to-day decisions. When it comes to retail goods, a company's brands and our peers' opinions matter a great deal. For retailers, consumers' needs are paramount, and ignoring changing social trends could be a big missed opportunity.
Wal-Mart: first mover
Wal-Mart's move into social media could not have come at a better time. The acquisition of Kosmix will help Wal-Mart expand its @WalmartLabs team, a Silicon Valley-based initiative specifically designed to build a business around social and mobile commerce.
To offer some background, Kosmix filters news and updates from all social networking sites to provide real-time updates on news related to companies and shopping links from sites like eBay
With Wal-Mart now pulling the levers at Kosmix, the retailer will likely gain a lot of insight into e-marketing, and perhaps bolster its efforts to establish Walmart.com as a premier e-commerce platform.
The Good, the bad and the unsocial
Social media has negatives to accompany its positives. In this landscape, the truism that all publicity is good publicity may not be true after all. While getting a huge following on sites like Facebook and Twitter may help increase a company's goodwill and public standing, bad publicity and hate-pages started by a few unsatisfied customers may dent a company's reputation. Social media's immediacy also allows negative news to spread like wildfire. But with 500 million users on Facebook alone, social media may have grown too large for businesses to discard, despite its drawbacks.
I think the boom in social media is here to stay, and as long as it's here, companies should make the best use of it. Wal-Mart's foray into this space may possibly stir rival retailers to enter the digital realm as well. In the coming months, we might see retailers such as Target ink deals with sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial to take advantage of the huge market at their disposal. Until then, all we can do is wait and watch.