Stephanie Parrish, support team lead at Bentonville-based Brown Sales & Distribution, LLC, a multi-vendor support group, is the moderator of the NWA Walmart Supplier Support Group on Facebook, which has just under 2000 members and gets as many as 30 posts each day. We recently sat down with her to learn more about the group, how it got started, and how it benefits the supplier community.
Parrish began the group about a year and a half ago out of self-defense. She was fielding a lot of calls from suppliers at her job, and she and her coworker just didn’t have the time to answer all those questions. She started the Facebook group in hopes that suppliers would be able to come together in a spirit of mutual support and assistance.
Fortunately, that’s exactly what happened. Both novice and experienced suppliers, as well as some vendors and Walmart employees, interact freely in the group. Questions asked in the group vary and range from accounting to replenishment issues. Because of the group’s size, there is almost always somebody on hand who can answer the question.
The group also makes use Facebook Group’s file storage feature. The group’s files include store listings, reports and retail math worksheets. These resources make it easy for suppliers to get the information they need without having to post a question and wait for an answer.
One area in which the group can be extremely helpful is in verifying whether Retail Link or Data Sync is “down” or whether connection issues are due to a supplier’s Internet connection. Just being able to reach out and ask others if there is a problem can save a supplier time and worry. In fact, a Data Sync representative is an active member in the group and frequently answers questions about technical issues.
The NWA Walmart Supplier Support Group is also a vehicle for opportunity and networking, but Parrish notes that her strict moderation and rules keeps self-promotion to appropriate levels. Hiring managers are free to post job notices in the group, though “job wanted” postings aren’t welcome. The group is “closed,” which means that Facebook members must submit a request to join.
Parrish mentioned, with some amusement, that some suppliers are joining Facebook just so that they can become part of the group. Unfortunately, the new, barren profiles of these Facebook newbies often resemble those of scammers, causing Parrish to reject their applications. Fortunately, many suppliers respond to the rejection and explain their interest in the group so that Parrish feels comfortable letting them in.
Parrish and other group members have also found the secret to using social media for networking and professional growth: By consistently providing high-quality information and support, a group member is eventually recognized by others as someone who “knows what they are doing.” This acknowledgement is what builds business relationships and reputations, not relentless self-promotion.
This emphasis on community guidelines, screening potential members, and encouraging high-quality conversation is what keeps this group going strong and prevents it from devolving into relentless advertising and squabbles. As Parrish herself says, “In our Facebook group, we have zero drama.”
Interested in joining the group? Search for “NWA Walmart Supplier Support Group” on Facebook and submit your membership request.