I found a really interesting article about Walmart's recent decision to start delivering social media at a local level and its lack of success. This particular find, begged me to ask the question; is going local a smart move for a retail giant like Walmart, or should they stick to thinking big?
Going local is not right for every organisation, that’s a given, even if they do have an abundance of physical locations. With a company as large as Walmart, in every aspect, there is significant training and investment required to ensure even the most simple things ring true at a local level, so it is important to question whether going local is the right message.
The first question that needs to be asked is, who is your clientele (aka target audience?) How often do they shop and what do they buy? Walmart has traditionally been recognised as a destination shop as opposed to a regular shop (in their opinion); meaning customers go to find a specific item, and quite often, buy it in bulk. So promoting ‘get to know your local manager’ is not really the right message for someone in that frame of mind, mainly because they don’t care.
The next thing to consider is personalisation. If every page looks the same and is pushing out the same national offers and content, then users will feel that they are engaging not with the local team, but with a faceless brand manned by a head office automatons. The content has to change, it must be engaging and relevant to the target local demographic.
This however puts a lot more pressure on each store to maintain content and conversation; a task in itself, one which leads us back into training. The development of good social media content is a skill-set that not everyone possesses, and doing this properly would require company wide investment to make sure each store is on message.
The supporting technology your new social media team uses is also usually forgotten when considering the local approach. Ensuring that the right people receive alerts and promotions at the right time can mean the difference between a customers satisfaction and very public dissatisfaction.
Ok, so it’s not all bad. There was one exception to Walmart’s effort. The store released a nationwide competition, after partnering with Energy Sheets and rapper, Pitbull, where the store that could get the most “likes” in a certain period of time would receive a visit and performance from Mr Worldwide himself. The winning store was Kodiak, Alaska - a town of only 6,000 residents - who managed to get a tally of more than 52,000 ‘Likes’ by competition end. The difference in involvement however only made the disjoint between stores more evident.
Walmart can’t be blamed however as this concept of “think big, act small” ingrains itself in the minds of our corporate giants. Another brand we recently noticed that would benefit from a review of their social media campaigning, is Starbucks. They were recently awarded a top 5 position in the Social Brands 100 report, but let’s say we took a few notes.
Like Walmart, Starbucks attempted to go semi-local, by creating a page for each country Starbucks has outlets in, which in itself sounds like a very sensible plan, but the content didn’t follow suit. A large portion of photos and videos posted on each page were simply copied from the main US page, and the majority of general content were posts of what other people are saying about Starbucks, and not what Starbucks have to say about themselves our to their customers. For a company with such international and ‘community’ branding, the focus needs to move back onto a more personal level, because hospitality really is one business where social media can make or break an opinion.
While the idea of going local and wanting to engage with loyal customers is admirable, it’s all in the execution. Dealing in one of the most powerful word of mouth platforms we’ve seen, if it’s not done right it could do more damage to a brand image as opposed to fostering that magic sentiment; affinity, that we all know and love.