Forget like, Walmart loves Facebook

Facebook investors are still a disgruntled lot, but Walmart couldn’t be happier with its experience with the social network.

Executives with the retailer have nothing but positive things to say about how they are leveraging the platform to engage with shoppers and drive business results. That was the case last week when chief merchandising and marketing officer Duncan Mac Naughton described Walmart’s social media strategy during the retailer’ investor conference, and it was the case again this week at the Emerging Trends in Retail Conference organized by the Center for Retailing Excellence at the University of Arkansas. Facebook’s Mike Fox, director of global vertical marketing, and Wanda Young, Walmart’s director of social media strategy, delivered a joint presentation at the event. The presentation was a little light on details for an audience comprised largely of Walmart suppliers looking for a roadmap of how to work with Walmart on social media, but directionally speaking the information was priceless.

Walmart has 23 million Facebook fans, which Fox called an "amazing asset," because it is the largest and highest quality Facebook fan base in the United States.

"They have seen significant lift in individual items when they put them through the system they have built," Fox said.

It doesn’t happen by accident though because it requires the company to engage with shoppers by providing content, which Fox described as an important foundational step to getting it right on Facebook.

"Connecting to the customer is way more important than simply having a high fan count," Fox said.

He recommended that content be engaging, useful and frequent for maximum effect.

"Walmart is one of the best posters we have on Facebook today. There are a whole range of things they do that are best in class," Fox said.

If true, it is an impressive accomplishment considering Walmart is relatively new to the social media game. Young joined the company only four years ago to lead social media efforts and it wasn’t until the fall of 2009 that Walmart established its presence on Facebook. Now the company has individual Facebook pages for each of its stores and is looking to leverage the platform, as well as other social media, to drive sales this holiday season.

"We're going provide value to our Facebook members with more than two billion impressions during the season," Mac Naughton said last week. "That's three times greater than last year. We're going to align all of our social media against our marketing platforms so we have a consistent message no matter where you are, whether you're on your digital phone, whether you're in the store, or your home computer."

One example Mac Naughton shared is a program called Toy Land Tuesday that features roll back prices based on Facebook fan votes. On Saturday and Sunday Facebook fans vote what toys they want a rollback on and then new prices are implemented on Tuesday.

Another program called Get Connected involves specific deals served up to Facebook fans. At the end of this month a program called Walmart Gifts is set to launch that looks at top trending toys and offers gift suggestions based on Facebook friends’ wish lists.

Walmart must be doing something right on Facebook. Just a few months ago when promotional materials were put together for the Emerging Trends conference, Walmart was said to have 17 million fans. Last week at the investor conference the number cited was 22 million. This week the figure had grown to 23 million and is surely headed higher as holiday activity intensifies. As Facebook’s Fox said, "There isn’t a single person in the U.S. who doesn’t have at least one friend who is connected to Walmart."


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