How Mega Corporation Walmart Maintains Its Twitter Clout

This post is part of the Twitter for Brands Series, which features winning strategies from the top brand pages on Twitter and provides tips on how to emulate their successes.

Walmart is influential in the world of business, and, since it started tweeting, has amassed a large following.

The store is the 11th most popular corporate brand on social media, with more than 400,000 Twitter followers.

Although Walmart is the largest company in the world, that doesn’t mean it’s infallible on social media. It’s had its ups and downs on the microblogging site.

Contests for new products

In March, Walmart introduced an innovative contest: They were “the first chain to use social media to create an American Idol-style competition for new products, and its ‘Get on the Shelf’ contest had attracted 274,000 votes in four days after kicking off on March 7,” according to Minyanville’s Christopher Witrak.

The Get on the Shelf campaign were promoted through the @WalmartLabs handle.

It gave users the chance to be heard, which is huge, especially on social media sites. It also gave them a stake in the company’s future, which makes them feel empowered.

Causing a stir with the terms of service

In establishing its Twitter, Walmart created a Terms of Use document that was more than 3,000 words long, which sparked a backlash and ridicule on the internet.

“The revelation that Wal-Mart has created a terms-of-service for its involvement with Twitter illustrates just how much large, entrenched companies will struggle with the openness and free-flow of information that social networking technologies allow,” wrote C.G. Lynch of the blog CIO.

Instead of promoting transparency and engagement, like social media intended, Walmart was essentially shutting itself off.

Forbes’ Todd Wilms said that social media is designed to show the transparency in companies, and that engagement is necessary.

“For businesses, it is no longer as simple as having the best product or best price,” he says. “Those are important elements, but how they act, how they engage with their communities plays an even greater role.”

Walmart’s approach disregarding transparency was foolish and essentially pointless, said Lynch.

“Social technologies like Twitter will force Wal-Mart, and bellwether companies like it, to lighten up,” he writes. “With information control, they can have some influence over employee tweets, but customers are another story.”

Segregating accounts to better target consumers

While some companies only have one Twitter account, Walmart segments its company into seven different handles.

Users can follow @Walmart, which has over 231,000 fans and focuses on specials and store events, @WalmartHub, which has nearly 157,000 followers and announces the company’s charitable and green efforts, and @WalmartCorp, an account that updates with corporate news.

@WalmartGiving is about giving back to communities, @WalmartGreen is all about the company’s sustainable achievements, @WalmartHealthy centers on healthy food, and @WalmartAction is updated with localized news about the towns where the company is located.

For Walmart, which has thousands of followers on most of its accounts, if not hundreds of thousands, the segmenting works.

“Having multiple Twitter accounts can work as long as each account serves a specific purpose,” says Sysomos’ Mark Evans. “For example, it may make sense to have a corporate account, an account for specific products, and an account for customer service. And, of course, you need people to power these accounts.”

Walmart does this.

Stephen Quinn, chief marketing officer at Walmart, stressed in an interview with Forbes that the company promotes causes in campaigns that are crucial to its customers.

“We pay a lot of attention to what’s important to our customers, then making sure we deliver against that so we can better connect with their lives,” he said. “Eliminating hunger in America, for example, is important to our customers, so it’s important to us. And we feel we can do something about it.”

Targeting specific demographics and running a high profile contest has worked in Walmart’s favor on Twitter, while a lack of transparency has not. Walmart may have had its missteps, but the megastore is staying strong on the site, as proven by its high ranking and large amount of followers.

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