Just the name of the page raised a red flag in my mind. Walmart (not “Wal-Mart”) was planning to invest ten million dollars in a Facebook promotion?
So we start with an improbable typo and an unlikely premise. Out of curiosity, I clicked through to the fan page. Here is what I saw (click for larger image):
Well, there’s the “Wal-Mart” typo again. Maybe it’s just an incompetent web programmer that doesn’t know the correct spelling of his employer’s name. Like I said: improbable.
I looked through the various tabs of the fan page, looking for evidence that the page was actually sponsored by Walmart. All I found was a link to their online store website. The corporate website, by the way, makes no mention of this promotion, but that might be because Walmart was testing a viral marketing strategy (a ten million dollar test?), so I didn’t give this fact a lot of weight.
I also went to Walmart’s official Facebook page. Again, no hint of the promotion.
On the official page’s Discussions tab, there’s a thread about this “Free Gift Card” page. There, someone posted a link to an article on Walmart’s corporate website. The article warns about bait-and-switch scams that use free Walmart gift cards as the bait. After luring you in, they get down to their real business: trying to sell you magazines, or whatever.
Well, how about that?
I didn’t really have to do all of this additional research. The name of the fan page should have been the dead giveaway.
But wait! The fan page has testimonials of happy Facebook users! And it has a place where I can submit my own testimonial. Doesn’t that lend credibility to the page?
Sure, this comment panel can easily be faked, and sure, the links don’t go anywhere, but let’s set that aside for a moment and just try to submit a comment. If you enlarge the above screenshot, you can see the comment I tried to submit. After clicking the button, I got this:
Did you hear that the latest edition of the Random House dictionary accidentally left out the word “gullible”?
Sometimes being a cynic can save you a lot of headaches.
12 March UPDATE: Here are some more instances of the “First 10,000” scam on Facebook. (If a link no longer works, it probably means that Facebook has removed the page in response to complaints)
- First 10,000 Fans Get a $500 Best Buy Gift Card!
- First 10,000 Fans get to Test and KEEP an Apple iPad!!!
- First 10,000 Fans Get A Free Ikea Gift Card
- First 10,000 Fans Get a $1000 IKEA Gift Card!
- Wal-Mart First 10,000 Fans Get a $1000 Gift Card! (A new one, complete with the exact same testimonials!)
- First 10,000 Fans Get A Free Ikea Gift Card (a different one from the ones listed above)
- First 10,000 Fans Get A Free Home Depot Gift Card
- First 10,000 Fans Get A Free Best Buy Gift Card (hey, wait – the testimonials here are nearly all the same as the ones for Home Depot!)
- first 10,000 to join get a free chocolate bar! (this one’s a pretty lame me-too page that appears to be a deliberate attempt to measure the gullibility of FB users)
- Twilight New Moon! First 10,000 Fans Get a Free New Moon DVD!!!
- Official Olive Garden Week, Dine In On Us This Week Only (Same general format as the others, but this one actually attempts to justify the obvious fact that it's selling stuff)
- IKEA.com Register Now to a Get Shopping Spree on Us! (This one works a little -- just a little -- harder to look legit. It might help if they would come up with some new pretend Facebook user comments)