In the midst of the super critical back to school season, marketers and retailers pull out all stops in hopes of effectively capturing a greater share of dollars from student shoppers and their parents. As a sign of the times, marketers are shifting some of their ad dollars towards emerging media platforms, namely social networking sites like Facebook. One of our proprietary panelists sent us a link to this sponsored page that Wal-Mart currently has on Facebook promoting its suite of products for back to school and already it looks like some mainstream media outlets, including Business Week have already picked up on what is sure to be a future case study on the ins and outs of marketing on social networking sites. The sponsored Wal-Mart page on Facebook has 840 members as of this morning, and many of these members aren't exactly pro Wal-Mart if you know what I mean. In case you haven't seen firsthand what the whole notion of social networking marketing and participatory media can look like, I would strongly encourage you to peruse through the site. There is a chorus of negative comments from Facebook members regarding Wal-Mart, clearly the folks at Bentonville are well aware of is. At the same time, there has been seem overwhelming positive comments left on the page by members as well praising Wal-Mart for their community and outreach efforts. Look folks, (and this is something we have been speaking with our clients now for over two years) marketing on social networking sites is no joke and certainly not for the faint of heart. This audience is not shy about expressing their feelings when it comes to corporate America or price of gasoline for that matter. I look at the this as a huge litmus test for Wal-Mart and other major corporations who for one reason or another tend to generate controversy. The fact that Wal-Mart has kept the page up there even as some members essentially pummel them I believe is actually quite remarkable. They are opening up the door and stimulating valuable conversation among the Facebook member base, and I really hope they don't take it down. It is our belief that the conversation that is being generated will end up benefiting Wal-Mart in the end with respect to this audience segment. A lot of these students are posting what we consider to be thoughtful and sincere commentary. No one ever said social network marketing was going to be easy (certainly we have stressed this to our clients), but the reality is we wholeheartedly applaud the world's largest retailer for keeping the page live and not folding.