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Why Walmart prioritizes Twitter for building brand reputation

SAN ANTONIO, TX ? A Walmart executive at eTail West 2014 revealed how the company breaks out its marketing and corporate communication social strategies, with the latter heavily focused on Twitter. 

During the ?Executing a Data-Driven Social Strategy? keynote, the Walmart executive presented a look at how the brand is building up its social media presence for its corporate communication efforts. The decision to hone in on Twitter specifically is to target key social influencers that are heavily engaged on the social network.

?It was completely based on our audience, so when we decided [to say], ?Hey look, we?re trying to sell our reputation, we?re trying to change people?s hearts and minds,? are we doing that to the consumers or do we have better luck doing that with the infleuncers?? said Umang Shah, director of social strategy at Walmart, Bentonville, AR.

?We looked at influencers and identified where they were active,? he said. ?They?re not active on Facebook ? they?re active on Twitter, they?re active in blogs, some even on Pinterest, Google+.

?Conversely, you look at our marketing team, they know that the messages they?re sending out are relevant to people that are active on Facebook, so they?ve really invested heavily in Facebook.?

Mobile, social storytelling
Walmart?s corporate affairs department is primarily leveraging Twitter, content and blogs to tell the brand?s ?Live better? story.

For the first three months of this program, Walmart turned off all paid promotions coming from the corporate communications team and only used organic content.

In 2014, this strategy has generated a 4.7 percent engagement rate.

The strategy is to change a consumer?s opinion about Walmart with a positive spin to build brand loyalty and increase sales. 

Instead of reacting to news stories and articles about Walmart, the big box retailer wants to inject its message to an audience directly.

These initiatives are built around four key parts: Human, strategy, technology and cultural components.

One of the more interesting ways that Walmart is leveraging digital to amplify its brand is around sponsored ad content. The content is picked based on what is popular with consumers, and then Walmart promotes it.

Additionally, Walmart has developed a command center to keep tabs on what consumers are saying about the brand?s corporate initiatives on social. 

The big box retailer has also developed a program of influencer lists with media and social media people. The brand then did eight weeks of secondary research on identifying other influential people in other sectors including education that are important for Walmart to target through social media.

When it comes to deciding on which pieces of content are most important, Walmart is looking at data and engagement through algorithms. 

Real-time push
In addition to consistently pushing out social content, Walmart is also focused on optimizing the content so that it hits the right consumer at the right time.

For example, Twitter posts are limited to reaching only the consumers who are engaging with the social media site at that exact moment before it gets buried in the news feed.

According to Mr. Shah, the average consumer follows 300-400 Twitter users, meaning that it is hard to stick out with all of the clutter.

To help with this, Walmart uses a digital tool to deliver a message to a consumer when they are talking about something relevant.

With more of these quick messages being accessed on a smartphone or tablet, it is important to keep the message compelling with small pieces of content that play up images and multimedia.

One specific example of real-time social activity took place on Black Friday.

Walmart put together a team of people that created and monitored content from the corporate communications department in real time.

?What we?ve evolved over time is, how do we build really good content, and how do we do it faster and then make it better?? Mr. Shah said.

 ?It sounds obvious, but this is where really understanding your audience and having tools to measure what success is helps,? he said.