Wal-Mart’s brief fling with online networking appears to have come to an end, with several


saying the retailer has closed its teen-oriented social networking site - called ‘

The Hub

’, among other things.

The site, temporarily launched this summer as a promotion for the start of the school year, aimed to copy Myspace et al by encouraging ‘hubsters’ to set up their own personalised web pages.

Apparently, features such as parental approval and photos like the one below (courtesy of The Blog Herald) weren’t as appealing as hoped.

This is how kids look and behave, according to Wal-Mart

The site now carries a message stating: “Sorry, but the School Your Way promotion has ended. You will be redirected to Walmart.com where you can always find the hottest fashion, music, and more all year long.”

Presumably the hope was that it would be a roaring success, which would have allowed Wal-Mart to transform this temporary experiment into something more permanent.

The problem was one of credibility. The blogosphere rounded on Wal-Mart earlier this summer when The Hub / School Your Way (what exactly are we meant to call this?) was launched. The buzz was almost entirely negative among bloggers and mainstream media.

Josh Suskewicz commented that the social networking experiment “seems so incredibly clumsy, forced, and blunt that its success is nearly unimaginable”.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Republic pointed out that the site didn’t have the right functionality for what it was trying to be. It was “essentially an advertising vehicle that encourages teens to create commercials for the retail chain and post them to the site. The Hub allows users to create pages and videos, somewhat like MySpace. It tells them to express ‘individuality’, but screens their posts and doesn’t allow them to e-mail each other.”

In Ad Age, an 18-year old called Pete Hughes was asked to comment on Wal-Mart’s attempt to become cool. “It just seemed rather corny to me,” he said.

Let’s leave the final word to Mitch Caplan, who described The Hub as “another feeble attempt by a big corporate marketer to catch up with the social networking phenom and MySpace”.

Mitch has a word of advice for big brands trying to muscle in on the social networking scene: “What Walmart should have done, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, is understand how teens are interacting with each other through these types of sites, and then embrace them (in an already crowded space) on their own terms.”