Posted August 20, 2012 9:47 am by with 0 comments

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OK class. Today’s lesson is one that we have gone over and over about for quite some time now. It has to do with social media and trying to cover your digital tracks. Let’s just say it’s, more often than not, a very bad idea.

Today’s latest social media dunce is Walmart. Now Walmart is no stranger to online troubles. But despite that it did somehow get listed in the Fortune Top 10 brands using social media list from May of this year. This latest action may ding that reputation just a bit.

So what happened? Let’s let Thomas Hawk of Oakland tell his story from his blog post. (Hat tip to @marktraphagen)

I came home from a wonderful day at the waterpark with my two boys earlier today to some terrible news. It turns out my wife was assaulted in front of the Oakland Walmart earlier today and had her iPhone stolen. My two girls ages 6 and 8 were in the car when it took place. My wife had her hair pulled out and tried to fight with her attacker — someone stepped in to try to help (who later said he didn’t want to get involved because you never know who her attacker’s friends were) but the woman took off in a car with a group of her friends with my wife’s phone.

Well, whether it was the right or wrong thing to do, Thomas reached out to Walmart via Facebook to get something done or to simply vent. The image below is a screenshot of his comment on Walmart’s page

Well, lo and behold, a mere 10 minutes or so later the comment was removed from the comment stream. Not very bright ye keepers of this particular Walmart Facebook page.

Hawk continues his tale on his blog and on Google+ and points out that the store has some pretty bad ratings on Yelp as well.

So what’s the business lesson here? For the love of Pete, if you are a business don’t do this kind of thing on your Facebook page. What could Walmart have done? They could have reached out in public rather than try to cover up the incident. Now, something that was a local occurrence has become a national one and rather than the Walmart on Edgewater Dr. in Oakland getting a black eye the entire brand will as this kind of behavior goes viral and spreads around the Internet faster than you could have said “We’re sorry, how can we help?”

If you are still under the impression that you have full control over the social space you may want to remove your head from your nether regions. Face it. The world is different and warts will not only be exposed but they will spread around for all to see. Those who win at this game simply take their well-deserved initial lumps then act in a public manner (at least in social media) to remedy the situation.

Walmart obviously needs to consider some training for local because if they don’t they will be getting more posts on their page like these

How could have the local Walmart handled this? What should Walmart corporate do?