Walmart likes Facebook — and vice versa

New York — Some Facebook investors may be feeling a bit disgruntled, but Walmart couldn’t be happier with its experience with the social network.

Walmart executives have had 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 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 conference.

Currently, 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.

Getting all those fans doesn’t happen by accident. 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,” the Facebook director said. “There are a whole range of things they do that are best in class.”

Walmart detailed some of its Facebook initaitives at its recently-held annual investor conference. The company, which has individual Facebook pages for each of its stores, is now 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," Walmart chief merchandising and marketing officer Duncan Mac Naughton said at the meeting. "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.

A program called Get Connected involves specific deals served up to Facebook fans. And at the end of October, 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. 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.

“There isn’t a single person in the U.S. who doesn’t have at least one friend who is connected to Walmart,” said Facebook’s Fox.


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