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Walmart’s Local Facebook Fiasco

September 20th, 2012

Michaud also said that when it does work—a little—the timing screws things up. “Even if they dedicate the time, it is not likely 100 percent of the time, meaning they might do it after they close for the night. This doesn’t work when it comes to using these vehicles as a customer service tool. If I post/tweet about my problem at 8:00 A.M, I’m not going to wait for an answer until 10:00 P.M. It’s of note that some agencies are recommending that these local pages are set up simply to improve SEO results with Google and Bing (links back to corporate) and not for their engagement opportunity.”

Tonia Ries, the CEO at marketing consulting firm Modern Media, agreed that this is not the sort of effort that can be optional.

“There are only so many hours in the day. Unless there’s a clear upside for the store managers, is this really where they should be spending their time? How, specifically, will their involvement increase bottom-line revenues? What specifically do they need to do to achieve that goal? And how, specifically, will this success be measured so they will know what the return on the investment is, and continue to optimize?” Ries said. “It’s the corporate team’s responsibility to answer these questions. Until they do, they’re not going to get anyone to take time or resources away from other activities to focus on this.”

The report from examined 2,799 local Walmart Facebook sites (out of a 3,500-site universe). It found that the local sites had an average of 0.92 updates a day (less than one a day), compared with the Walmart corporate page, which had an average of 4.42 updates per day. But that’s not even the key content problem. It’s not the frequency of updates nearly as much as it is the absence of anything local.

“We compared the ‘unique’ posts with a larger sample of Walmart Pages, and found that except for two posts, every post on these five Walmart stores is a common post probably designed and posted by corporate,” said Krishna Neelamraju, the COO. “Some of the common wall posts appeared across all Walmart Pages on the exact same date. I think this proves beyond a doubt that Walmart’s content is largely controlled by corporate, with very little participation from local stores, if any.”

As for being responsive to local shoppers, these local Walmart sites did not fare well. The report found that 84.7 percent of the sites responded to zero customer inquiries. Another 12 percent responded to fewer than 5 percent of all such inquiries and 2.9 percent of the sites responded to fewer than 10 percent of such inquiries. None of the stores responded to more than 20 percent of the inquiries. (To complete the tally, 0.3 percent responded to 10 percent to 14.9 percent of shopper questions and 0.1 percent responded to 15 percent to 20 percent of questions.

Walmart speaks of these local sites as works in progress. But if some radical changes aren’t made to boost the number of local posts and site responsiveness—and there’s no way around the fact that this will require additional resources, and a lot of them, whether it comes from corporate directly or store managers are given more budget to hire locally—it’s difficult to see how this will improve.

Then again, Walmart does have one advantage: It has clearly figured out to make a social strategy—and specifically a Facebook strategy—work brilliantly. So it doesn’t need a social media consultant. But it does need a reminder that what it does on corporate needs to be re-created—on a much smaller scale—some 3,500 times across the country. Getting existing local personnel to do a lot more work for no more money is, honestly, not going to work well, as these numbers reflect.


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