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In terms of the sheer number of Facebook fans, Walmart is one of the top performing brands with more than 21m ‘likes’ to its name.
Last October, when its fan count was a mere 9m, it sought to take advantage of its popularity by partnering with Facebook to launch 3,500 pages for its local stores across the US.
The idea was to build brand loyalty with “enhanced local interaction at an unprecedented scale", an issue we looked at more closely in a post looking at hyperlocal Facebook strategies.
The theory goes that if you give users local content and offers then it will help to increase their affinity with the brand and create loyal customers.
But nearly a year later analysis by Recommend.ly shows that the focus on local content hasn’t exactly paid off for Walmart. In fact it looks like it’s failed.
Recommend.ly looked at a sample of 2,799 Walmart local store URLs, which is roughly 80% of its pages on Facebook.
It then evaluated them using its page-scoring tool, ‘Conversation Score’ (CScore). This collected publicly available data for 30 days prior to the date of the study and compared it to 1,884 local business pages from CScore’s database.
While simply totting up the number of fans a brand has is a fairly arbitrary measure of success, it is a useful base on which to gauge the success of the local pages due to the fact that the main brand page has added 12m fans since they launched last October.
However in that period the local pages added just 2m fans in total.
‘My Local Walmart’ was designed to move fan engagement from the corporate brand level to individual stores, but it’s clear that the main brand page is still spearheading the marketing efforts on Facebook.
A majority of the local stores have between 101 and 1,000 fans, while just 4% have more than 1,000.
In comparison, other local businesses tend to struggle to get more than 100 fans but a larger proportion of them have exceeded 1,000 fans.
CScore is Recommend.ly’s way of measuring the overall effectiveness of a Facebook page as a social marketing property on a scale of 0 to 99.
Walmart’s main brand page achieved a CScore of 66, with 7% active fans (which is considered to be extremely high for a page with more than 10m fans).
In comparison, only three of the local pages scored more than 50, which equates to about 0.01% of the 2,799 included in the survey.
More than half (53.8%) of the local pages had CScores of below 20%, while 45.7% had scores of between 20 and 40.
Other local businesses tend to perform better than Walmart’s pages with 27% of local businesses having a CScore of 50 or above.
One of the golden rules of Facebook marketing is to give your fans regular content, and the local pages adhere to this by posting on average once a day.
This isn’t as many posts as the main page, but is above average for local businesses.
The report also states that 90% of the updates posted to local pages contain photos or videos, which are proven to achieve higher interaction with users. However they didn’t ask any questions or run any polls which is another great way to get fans talking.
In fact when it came to responding to fans the local pages performed very poorly, with 84% failing to respond to a single fan post.
For retail brands it is important to be responsive as fans tend to post queries on Facebook expecting a swift reply. If you are slow to respond or totally ignore the user then disappointed fans can demonise your brand very quickly.
If you look at Walmart’s main Facebook page it’s clear the brand has a successful social media strategy, yet it hasn’t been able to translate this into success on a local level.
It has failed to attract fans in large numbers, which is a relatively easy thing to do even if you just exchange discounts for ‘likes’. And though the local pages are posting regular content they are failing to follow it up by responding to fans.
It could be that the local stores simply don’t have the resources to engage with fans, but in that case you have to query why they set the pages up in the first place.
Recommend.ly also points out that Walmart appears to have a centralised content strategy, which is contrary to the philosophy for creating localised pages, and this may be the main problem.
Majestic Wines, which has more than 170 stores in the UK, allows its staff to post local content on its website and social media, talking about wine, its latest in-store events, and so on.
This is the way to provide local content which has the personal touch, so perhaps Walmart needs to give more control to local staff, who are best-placed to provide the hyperlocal content they are looking for.
Overall, the experiment indicates that success on a national level doesn’t automatically convert to success for local brand pages, particularly if you try to offer fans a sub-standard experience.