What Will Wal-Mart Do With A Social Media Company?

Attention Wal-Mart shoppers: coming soon to an e-store near you, more social media-friendly shopping. Is that what Wal-Mart had in mind when it just spent an undisclosed sum to buy social media company Kosmix?

Attention Wal-Mart shoppers:  coming soon to an e-store near you, more social media-friendly shopping.  Is that what Wal-Mart had in mind when it just spent an undisclosed sum to buy social media company Kosmix?

Wal-Mart broke news today that it will buy Kosmix, a Mountain View, Calif.-based social media technology provider best known for building a platform that allows users to filter and organize content in social networks and connects them with the information they want, in real time.

Wal-Mart executives said in a statement that Kosmix will join a newly formed group called @WalmartLabs to build out the retailer’s social and mobile initiatives, specifically technologies for shopping online or with smart phones.

“We are expanding our capabilities in today’s rapidly growing social commerce environment,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, Walmart’s vice chairman. “Social networking and mobile applications are increasingly becoming a part of our customers’ day-to-day lives globally, influencing how they think about shopping.”

In other words, this is what a “blue light special” looks like when you’re the world’s largest retailer doing all you can to win over more tech-savvy shoppers.

Kosmix is best known for powering platforms like TweetBeat, a social media filter for live events, RightHealth, a popular health and medical information site and its own Kosmix.com, which lets you ‘explore the Web by topic’.

The company explains on its website: “On any given day, people share 830 million items on Facebook, upload 6.1 million photos to Flickr, add 2.1 million minutes of video to YouTube and send 65 million tweets. Kosmix cuts through this noise to find content that matters to you.”

And, with the merger, Wal-Mart has put its faith in Kosmix to help Wal-Mart shoppers “cut through the noise” of a physical store and take their shopping, and pocketbooks, to the Web.

Wal-Mart’s chief executive Mike Duke said in a statement Monday that his top priority for this year is to turn around same-store sales at its U.S. discount chain.

The retail giant currently operates physical stores in 15 countries and e-commerce businesses in nine countries.  The success of @WalMartLabs, and the value of Kosmix, will apparently be judged on how well, and how lucratively, it can link together those bricks-and-mortar stores with e-commerce.

Kosmix was founded six years ago by Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman,  The company, now along with @WalmartLabs, will continue to be based in Silicon Valley.