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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.

Here’s why...

Methodology

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.

Fan Count

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

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.

Fan conversations

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.

Conclusion

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.

David Moth

Published 20 September, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1684 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Jon Welsh

Interesting article but comparing Majestic Wines UK to Walmart US isn't a valid comparison because of the difference in size. If Walmart US had 177 stores then maybe interaction locally would be higher.

I think that it's valid to say there needs to be a higher quality local interaction but they have a foundation to build on here and it's refreshing to see a localised approach. Let's hope in the next 12 months they find a model that balances this because if it works I think others will follow.

Your report also highlights the need for more local businesses to converse better on Facebook and other channels. I believe if they are resource poor than local businesses can work together to share the load and highlight their offers - requires an offline coherence but could pay dividends.

Thanks

about 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Jon I appreciate that Majestic and Walmart are very different brands, but what's to stop Walmart producing content locally as Majestic does? If it can be done in 177 stores, why can't it be done in 3,500?

It may be that people are more likely to engage on social media on the subject of wine, but I do think that if you're going for a local strategy, it's going to be hard to create authentic local content from a centralised team.

about 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Phil Reed

Decentralising social media engagement would be a huge step for Walmart. Not only would it involve having dedicated resource in each location (not exactly in keeping with its 'lowest cost to operate' model) but Walmart keeps tight rein on its brand, so effectively handing that control over to the stores would be a big risk.
This smacks of the marketing team believing local content is the way to go, but having neither the resources nor, in fact, sufficient local content to actually manage it effectively.
I agree Majestic isn't a good comparison. It's a brand that heavily promotes staff knowledge, so a localised approach is definitely the way to go.

about 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Jon Welsh

Hi Graham, I think Phil has hit the nail on the head in that it comes down to resource. There's also a myraid of approvals throughout such organisations about how much freedom you can give to the locality to upload content - there has to be a strong element of approval to protect the brand. I think this has to be an evolution rather than a quick fix and it will be interesting to see another comparison 12 months on.

about 4 years ago

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