Why Walmart’s Local Facebook Experiment Hasn’t Worked So Far

By Justin Lafferty 

Last year, retail giant Walmart announced that it would try to deepen its market share on Facebook by setting up individual local pages for 3,500 of its stores across the U.S. Walmart knew that it needed to go local to really resonate with customers, but after nearly one year, an overwhelming majority of the local pages have been duds. According to a study by social media company Recommend.ly, 96 percent of these pages have fewer than 1,000 fans. Most of the pages also lack pure engagement, not giving fans any kind of reason to return to the page.

While the idea of local pages is great, Recommend.ly feels that Walmart botched the execution by being too general. Here’s the header for a Walmart Facebook page in Oakland, Calif.:

Now compare that to Facebook pages in Bentonville, Ark. (Walmart’s hometown), Pueblo, Colo., El Paso, Texas, and Branford, Conn. Notice a similarity?

Recommend.ly CEO Venkat Ramna noted that by giving all of the Walmart local pages a generic feel, it doesn’t make users feel like they’re interacting with the store that’s in their hometown. Additionally, the content shared by these Walmart local pages is rarely truly local, controlled by a more centralized social media team. Most of the posts coming from these Walmart local pages announces sales and new products, and it is generally the same throughout a region.

Ramna talked with AllFacebook about the pitfalls of this strategy:

I think the problem is that they don’t have any local content strategy in place. In Walmart San Francisco, maybe a guy sitting in San Francisco could be expecting some kind of content relating to San Francisco, not a generic discount that you have anyway on the Walmart page. There’s nothing unique about local pages that Walmart is doing currently, and if you look at the responsiveness of the page owners when it comes to the main pages and the local pages, the local pages really don’t give any feedback or response. So when we looked at the kind of content that’s flowing there, it looks like all of it is being broadcast from a central team. If I have one specific image, it’s just pasted across all the pages.

For those reasons, an overwhelming number of Walmart pages showed very low scores of engagement. Recommend.ly measured engagement via CScore, which runs on a scale of 0-100. Walmart’s main page scored a 74, while 54 percent of the local pages earned a CScore of less than 20. Recommend.ly notes that while Walmart’s local pages are great at sharing content, they don’t really respond to users’ comments.

Recommend.ly did give Walmart credit for trying to start conversations via local pages, and it has mostly shared photos (90 percent of posts), which many Facebook marketers say is a great way to engage users. However, it usually takes more than just starting the conversation to really get through to users. Walmart’s local pages don’t really ask questions or include some kind of call to action.

According to Recommend.ly stats, 84.7 percent of the local pages studied responded to zero percent of posts. 12 percent of pages replied to 0 to 5 percent of posts. None responded to 20 percent or higher. Only 2 percent of stores earned two CScore stars for responsiveness; 98 percent rated at one star or less.

As far as total likes, Walmart local pages have also generally been unsuccessful — with one exception. Walmart tried to build the audience of its local pages earlier this year by partnering with Energy Sheets and rapper Pitbull for a simple promotion: Whichever Walmart store could get the most likes in a certain amount of time would receive a visit and performance from Mr. Worldwide. Voters around the Internet gathered together to like the page of remote Kodiak, Alaska.

This store is the clear outlier in the study, as Kodiak’s Walmart page has 52,580 likes. The town itself has just over 6,000 people. Many people still return to the Kodiak page to crack jokes. However, it’s worth noting that Kodiak’s Walmart page is generally good about responding to users’ comments.

Readers: Have you ever interacted with your local Walmart Facebook page?