In a December 14¬†interview with Geoff Colvin, Fortune Magazine’s senior editor-at-large, Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn talked about the value social media brings to the brand. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

Walmart CMO Stephen QuinnWhen asked how Walmart stays in touch with what its customers want and need, Quinn replied that the company puts a great deal of emphasis on market research, including social media.

“[T]hat includes some of the newer areas like social media, where we’ve got almost 11 million Facebook fans, and they’re constantly giving us feedback because that’s the very nature of that medium,” he stated.

When queried about Facebook’s influence on sales (“When people go to an e-commerce site from a Facebook page, they’re twice as likely to buy something than if they go there some other way.”) Quinn remarked that, “We’re obviously looking at the interaction between Facebook and our social media strategy, and how that ties into our e-commerce, which is one way we can trigger sales.”

More importantly for Quinn is the emphasis on community-building at the local level via the social network, which led to Walmart’s recent launch of 3,500 individual store Facebook pages.

“[M]ore important for us is how we use that to build communities, even local communities, around our stores. We’re a retailer that is very committed to our stores, our bricks and mortar,” he said.

“How we interact at a local level is really important to us, and that’s why we’ve launched these local Facebook pages. Our goal is to integrate into the things that are happening in a local community and to make us better merchants through that,” Quinn concluded.

To its credit, Walmart makes extensive use of Facebook as not only a community-building vehicle, but social commerce as well. The company recently launched its own social shopping app called Shopycat, which looks at a user’s Facebook friends likes and uses that information to recommend gifts for them.