"At a time when a lot of companies are struggling to determine
ROI, we're in the same boat," Mr. Shaw said. "You haven't seen us
take a big swing from an investment standpoint; we're utilizing the
resources we have."
And the retailer considers its associates to be one of its best
resources. Home Depot has already invested in their training, and
they pick up on trends through hours spent in the store aisles
talking to vendors and customers. Mr. Shaw's team promoted the
program internally, soliciting recommendations from store managers
before traveling to various markets to conduct interviews.
Initially, 25 associates were selected from the Chicago, Atlanta
and Orange County, Calif. markets, where Home Depot has regional
offices. In recent months, four associates from the Boston market
were added. Mr. Shaw says there are no immediate plans to further
beef up the program, though it's quickly gained visibility within
Mr. Shaw spoke about the program and its successes -- 6,000
posts and hundreds of videos viewed in more than 30 countries -- at
a companywide store managers' meeting earlier this year. It's been
important to get store managers on board, considering that they've
been asked to give up some of their best associates two days per
week and must collaborate with the corporate office on logistical
things like performance reviews.
Social media, as a function, falls under Mr. Shaw and corporate
communications, though the social-media store associates are still
on their individual store's payroll. Associates are instructed to
keep the jobs separate. No crafting posts or recording videos when
they're on the store clock. The corporate team reviews posts and
content created by the associates. And they also manage Facebook,
Twitter and YouTube, though the associates often create content
posted in those channels. Social-media agencies have been brought
in on occasion to help with specific events or launches.
Mr. Shaw said the social-media store associates and his team, in
general, work closely with marketing and HomeDepot.com,
acknowledging that social media, as a function, doesn't neatly fall
under one department. The retailer has decided to give corporate
communications primary responsibility for the area, because of the
"relational" nature of the communication.
"It's not transactional. It's not one-way. It's very similar to
the kind of conversations the communications team has to manage
with the media," Mr. Shaw said. "We have a natural predisposition
to handling a relational level of communication."
Having said that , there are levels of marketing sophistication
and funding that our team doesn't have, so we partner with
marketing or with .com," he added. "It's an evolving discipline.
There's a cross-functional approach, because it's required."