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.
Walmart highlighted job creation, for veterans and buy buying from American suppliers.
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
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
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
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
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
Strengths to Making Local Facebook
Have local content: Stores with more control over content
connect better with fans.
Have someone in charge, though it's not clear who.
Recommend.ly's own market research for its own service showed a mix
of proprietors, managers, lower-level employees and local digital
agencies managing local-business pages, with no clear indication
who fared best.
Use an automated social customer-relationship-management system
to help ensure quick response to fans.
Quantify and track performance of each page, set minimum
targets on engagement metrics and provide incentives for meeting
Increase fan counts on local pages through sustained campaigns,
visibility in store and efforts to entice fans from the national
page to local-store pages.
Jack Neff, editor at large, covers household and personal-care marketers, Walmart and market research. He's based near Cincinnati and has previously written for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Bloomberg, and trade publications covering the food, woodworking and graphic design industries and worked in corporate communications for the E.W. Scripps Co.