Costco, How I Love Thee

In prepping show notes for this week's episode of The BeanCast, I came across a headline near and dear to this marketing podcaster's heart:

"Bloggers Love Costco, Hate Walmart"

Now my first reaction was the usual, "Woot! You go, Costco!" But as I prepared the notes, an interesting question came to mind? 

Is this a social media win or a customer service win?

What Really Inspires Brand Conversation?

Why do bloggers (and I'll included myself in this category) like to write about Costco in the first place? Is it because of their Web 2.0 initiative? Probably not. Their site's okay, but nothing special. Certainly not better than Amazon. So is it their blogging efforts? I Certainly know of no blog. Maybe they have one. I couldn't say. Maybe it's their Twitter presence? Hmmm. Maybe I should check to see if they are even on Twitter.

So if it's not any of this, then why do bloggers talk positively about Costco so much? I would suppose it comes down to the fact that we like going there.

That's right. We like going to a bricks and mortar operation. We like getting our free food samples. (I'm not the only one who calls it the "Costco Buffet.") We like to fill our carts with bulk amounts of the brands we love, while we get tires rotated for free, grab a prescription and plan our vacation.

We love the user experience.

Brand Conversation Starts Offline

Now contrast this reality with the other brand mentioned, Walmart. I would rather have my fingernails pulled out and walk across broken glass barefoot than darken their doorway. This is just barely hyperbole. I feel like I'm going to get mugged in the parking lots whenever I go there. It's dirty. It's crowded. The only smile I get from an employee is from the greeter. It's an experience I endure because 

I have to go there for some reason.

I could go on, but all this is only to set up my next question: What would you suggest Walmart do get more blogger love?Should they be setting up a robust social media presence? How about Facebook page? Think that might work? Maybe they should be blogging more themselves?

You know the answer as well as I do. They need to fix the problems with their user experience. Before Tweet one, they need to go into every location and clean house.

My blogger love isn't given to Costco because they are engaged with me online. Heck, I don't even read the dang magazine they send me. I love them and give them so much attention because my user experience is always phenomenal. It's a perfect storm of exclusivity, friendliness and value that makes me not just shop there, but rave about shopping there.

Sometimes Social Media Just Happens

My point in all this is simple. Your social media quotient is not always directly correlated to your personal environment there. Apple may have almost zero social media involvement, yet they are constantly talked about in social media circles. Why is that? Because the brand is designed to be talked about. It delivers on a level that inspires conversation. Costco is kind of the discount version of that approach. They get people talking. And really, isn't that what social media's all about anyway.

So before you launch your big social media initiative, maybe you should take a look at the rest of your operation first. Because no matter what online engagement you have with your customers, if your brand doesn't inspire conversation you'll largely be wasting your time. Sometimes the best social media strategy is just to give people something to talk about.

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