Unlike a lot of brands that simply show up on Facebook -- because every big marketer feels like they have to be there -- Walmart shows up and then engages, deeply. The retail giant has given its fans plenty of reasons to come back, creating a community of customers who share recession-friendly recipes -- as in the $2 (and under) Holiday Recipes section, where you can get step-by-step instructions (and a Walmart-ready shopping list) for making Roast Turkey with Herb Butter for $1.22 per serving -- and money-saving shopping tips.
A rapid-response team responds to customer praise, complaints and requests. And there's a thoughtful balance of customer participation and reward evident in the innovative Facebook apps, like shareable Christmas-gift wish lists and the Groupon-esque CrowdSaver, which activates nationwide discounts if enough customers "like" a proposed sale (e.g., $178 for an Acer Aspire One netbook -- 28% off -- a deal that more than 5,000 customers recently voted for, and which ended up cleaning out Walmart's entire inventory).
In early 2009, Walmart had just 40,000 fans on Facebook. Today, it has nearly 2.5 million thanks to its expertly deployed strategy to use the social-networking site to start an ongoing conversation with its most loyal customers.