Walmart may have beaten mom & pop stores in many ways long ago, but when it comes to Facebook fan love, local businesses are beating the giant retailer handily, according to a new study by social-media metrics firm Recommend.ly.
Nearly a year into Walmart's ambitious My Local Walmart program to establish individual Facebook fan pages for its 3,500-plus stores, the pages on average lag those of local businesses in fan counts, update activity and frequency of conversations, according to the study.
In all, Recommend.ly found around 2,800 Walmart stores have their own fan pages. But only 100, or fewer than 4%, have more than 1,000 fans. And 85% of Walmart's local-store pages didn't respond to any fan comments during the study.
By contrast, in a sample of just under 1,900 local-business pages on Facebook, 22 % had more than 1,000 fans. The Walmart local-store pages had an average of 563 fans, 5.2% of them active in some way during the 30 days of the study. Local businesses had an average of 4,207 fans, 12.2% of them active.
Walmart's main Facebook page has fared far better, with nearly 21 million fans now -- having added 10.5 million since My Local Walmart was launched last October. Only around 2 million people have become fans of their local Walmart stores during that time.
Walmart's national page beat its local ones in fan activity, with 7% of its fans active. That compares favorably to a fan-activity rate of only 2% among more than 120 pages with more than 10 million fans that use Recommend.ly's CScore engagement-tracking metric, the company said.
And despite a large and relatively active fan base nationally, Walmart's national page responded to 22 % of fan comments during the study period.
But 99.5% of Walmart's local stores scored under 40 on a 100-point CScore scale used by Recommend.ly, which is based on how often a page starts conversations, how many posts the page participates in, how viral the page's content is based on the level of fan response and sharing, and how popular the page is based on fan count and active fan ratio.
By comparison, only 60% of local business pages scored below 40 on that scale, and Walmart's main page scored what Recommend.ly deemed a "respectable" 66.
Local businesses generate more engagement than Walmart local stores because they have more local content, including local promotions or responses to local events, activities or weather, said Venkata Ramana, CEO of Recommend.ly.
"Walmart local stores tend to be posting what is centrally controlled," he said. "We see very little that 's localized."
Walmart's main page, by contrast, "is doing fantastic," he said.
The main page averages 4.4 updates daily vs. 1.2 for local stores. Walmart's local stores did fare better on that metric than local businesses, which averaged only 0.9 updates daily.
One Walmart store did stand out above the rest -- Kodiak, Alaska -- thanks to a prank by the website SomethingAwful.com that encouraged 71,000 people to like the store as part of a summer promotion in which Walmart promised to send rapper Pitbull to perform at whichever store got the most likes. Kodiak itself has only 6,000 residents, and as of this month the store still had more than 50,000 fans.
While local businesses may be doing better than Walmart, it doesn't look like any other national retailers have solved the problem of how to manage a local presence on Facebook either. Mr. Ramana wasn't aware of any that had tried.
Barnes & Noble, which has local pages for several stores nationally, mainly those serving college campuses, has fan counts in the single or double digits for most that do and only one that could be found with more than 1,000 fans.
A Walmart spokeswoman said in a statement that "our local Walmart pages are still in their very early stages," as they're less than a year old, adding that "we're proud to be the only retailer to have launched this kind of innovative social-media effort."
Walmart is still looking for ways to attract more fans to local pages, she said, and is encouraging store managers to post to their pages. Walmart also recently moved to increase fan counts by giving local store fans early access to the holiday layaway program, she said.
For it's part, Facebook said in a statement: "We've been incredibly impressed with Walmart's local market push and what they've been able to accomplish in such a short period of time."