How Not To Start A Social Network

07 Oct 2006

Ask WallMart. They know. They announced the launch of their network ‘The Hub’ two months and a bit ago, claiming they would be the virtuous MySpace, the sane and clean network which they thought was missing in this world wide web. They’ve pulled the plug already, as AdAge reports:

Less than three months after launching its quasi-social-networking site aimed at teens, Wal-Mart has shut down the Hub. [...] “The Hub” was designed by Wal-Mart to allow teens to “express their individuality” but it screened all the content, informed parents when their children joined and forbade users to e-mail one another. [...] In August, the site attracted 91,000 unique visitors, according to ComScore Networks. Social-networking giant garnered 55.8 million unique visitors the same month.

Okay. So let’s put it in perspective: there are quite some cars out there, but I think there’s one missing especially for teens, namely mine. So I create a car, but it has no doors so you have to crawl in the way I tell you to. If you turn on the radio, I’ll make sure your parents know what station you tune in to, for how long and what music you listened to. You can only pick up people who have an RFID chip that unlocks the window, otherwise they won’t get in the car. For evey friend that enters to drive along, I’ll contact your parents and inform them who you picked up, where you picked them up and how long they rode with you. See how stupid that sounds? Yet still, WallMart thought it would work. I guess not.

From the start people have been saying that the WallMart approach isn’t the right approach. Teens don’t want you to talk to their parents about what they do online and who they know. It’s the reason the internet is so popular. You can be whoever you want, talk to whoever you want to talk and block anyone you don’t like. Why would anyone want to give up that freedom, when it’s only a click away?

1 Comment

Posted by Miel Van Opstal in 2.0 +, Social Networks, Thoughts


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  1. Holly Buchanan

    October 7, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    It seems so obvious, especially with your great car example, why this wouldn’t work. I have to ask, what the heck made them think it would? It must have cost a bundle to launch this thing. How can they be that removed from their target audience?

    the really scary thing is, I see this happen all the time – a company spends lots of money to launch a marketing or branding initiative, and it totally bombs with the very audience they are trying to speak to. I see it all the time in marketing to women, but in this case, it’s marketing to teens.

    Wallmart- wake up and smell the red bull.