Why Walmart Should Bail on Hyperlocal Social

Recommend.ly has completed an analysis of a failed strategy by Walmart to develop local Facebook pages for each of its 3500 locations. Here’s the conclusion that Recommend.ly made:

Walmart appears to have a content strategy including posting policy in place. However, it is not evident that they have store-level targets for acquiring or engaging fans. At least, none that seems to be working yet. One particular observation is the use ofcentralized content strategy. This is probably contrary to the philosophy of localizing Facebook for fans. To localize the experience completely, even Page management has to be largely localized.

Recommend.ly goes on to provide four steps to turn around the effort but I’m afraid they’re wrong. Walmart isn’t going to turn this strategy around – even if they do apply a ton of effort. My advice would have never been to start the effort in the first place.

Why should Walmart bail on a hyperlocal, social strategy?

  • There’s no regional differentiation between Walmarts. Same blue buldings, same layouts and the same offerings. Walmart’s branding and site goals are to make each Walmart indistinguishable from one another… why would you have a social strategy that does the opposite?
  • In any given populous region, there are two to three Walmarts within driving distance. People dont’ think to themselves, “That Walmart is my favorite”. They, instead, drive to the most convenient location. This ties into the the regional differentiation as well. A populous region may have enough visitors on Facebook to support pages, but they don’t have allegiance to a specific location. Rural regions don’t have enough visitors on Facebook to support independent locations.
  • Walmart’s sole brand differentiation and value to the consumer is price… nothing else. When you make your key differentiation price, no one is choosing your brand because they love you. They may love low prices… but those prices can be found anywhere. Fans of Walmart aren’t actually fans at all, they’re fans of low prices.

In other words, the strategy within Facebook does not and can not match their retail outlet strategy. The two actually conflict with one another.

My recommendation would be to go regional. There are fans out there. I know a family who makes the trip to Wallyworld every week and it’s nothing short of a celebration. But those folks are (obviously) few and far between. Rather than go hyperlocal, I would have opted for a DMA (designated market area) approach and had managers from each of the Walmarts competing on the same page for attention.

A DMA approach would have allowed easy and central distribution of ads, offers and coupons, as well as offered Walmart’s fans the option of becoming a regional fan and visiting any store they wanted to rather having to pick one or more within Facebook. I still think it would be an uphill battle for Walmart to gain fans on a regional Facebook page, but it wouldn’t be as impossible as working with a local store page.

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