With Kosmix, Did Walmart Get What It Thought?

Written by Evan Schuman
April 27th, 2011

When Wal-Mart spent more than $300 million to buy social media firm Kosmix last week, much of the discussion and analysis focused on whether Wal-Mart would properly use its social media gem. But how sparkly is that gem? The premise has been that Kosmix has mastered this amorphous creature called social media. Searches on Kosmix itself, however, suggest that Kosmix is not quite an ideal guide.

ConsumerReports began the concerns when it reported that the site’s home appliances page showed “news from the Philadelphia Inquirer on building-material thefts, broken links to stories on and brief stories from sites like wikiHow were less empowering. And along with a plethora of Twitter posts, Kosmix’s Washing Machines page includes a Wikipedia entry on washing machines, a totally unrelated article from on the importance of dreams and some unrelated YouTube videos.” RetailWire did a search and found “Our own visit to Kosmix to run a few searches on topics of interest left us underwhelmed. Results coming back were not current and a few were not really related to our search objectives.”

We did the same thing and also didn’t conclude we were in the presence of social media gods. We searched for “refrigerators,” which is a fairly well-understood term. Indeed, Kosmix quickly offered that “A refrigerator is a large box-like appliance, usually ranging from 200 to 400 pounds in weight, used to cool and store fresh foods and beverages.” So far, so good.

But then it listed a wide range of tweets that used the word “refrigerator” but clearly were not referencing the cooling device, as in “was still here he’d be get’n real close to Put’n this game in the Refrigerator!” It then showed a story headlined “Gaming console thefts grow exponentially” and another titled “Australia to possibly restrict Plasma and LCD TVs.”

YouTube videos referenced included “L. Ron Hubbard. The Xenu Story” and videos that were even farther removed from the searched topic.


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