Wells Fargo Launches Breakthrough Twitter Stream

New Wells Fargo Twitter pageOn March 26 Wells Fargo carefully and judiciously launched an ‘active’ Twitter account. By ‘active’ I mean it is actually monitored by a person who is available weekdays, 9-5, to answer basic banking questions. This is a bold move that the bank did not undertake lightly. For months, the bank held an inactive Twitter account, saying it was monitoring the Twitosphere before it would become involved. Usually tweets are one way broadcasts – a company or individual telling its followers a snippet of information. By going a step further – engaging its audience – Wells Fargo is once again proving it is a social media pioneer in financial services.

Leading financial services into social media. Wells Fargo has been blogging for over three years; the company has several blogs in product areas and its own dedicated YouTube channel.  Ed Terpening, VP of Social Media for Wells Fargo, is the kind of buttoned down visionary that financial services neeeds to show how social media can be used for PR advantage. In the top Vator.tv video in the right column of PRBlogNews, Ed talks about how Wells Fargo used a blog to quell a potential crisis.  “We want to use all channels available to get our story out,” says Ed. That means sometimes publishing comments that are harsh and negative- as long as they comply with  strict posting guidelines.  Acknowledging prevailing sentiment to a particular event is often more constructive than ignoring or denying it. By having its blogs set up and running, with thousands of subscribers, Wells Fargo is able to respond quickly to a broad audience.

Social media for mergers.Wells Fargo launched a blog to manage communications for its merger with Wachovia (see bottom Vator.tv video on the right). The objective was to humanize the company, tell Wachovia customers what to expect, and reach a vast audience of constituents with news about the combined company. “Wachovia customers love their bank,” says Ed; there was strong brand allegiance to Wachovia.  Combined with Wachovia, Wells Fargo now has approximately 250,000 employees and millions of customers. A single blog can reach employees, customers, mainstream media, other bloggers and the general public. A blog is an incredibly efficient information distribution channel.

Social media as PR asset for financial services.  Financial services companies are heavily regulated, highly scrutinized and understandably reluctant to delve into the uncontrolled world of social media. Note the disclaimer on the Wells Fargo Twitter page. As Ed Terpening says, blogs, Twitters and videos are usually the last stop for company information to be disseminated, after it has been thoroughly scrubbed and approved by compliance officers, lawyers or regulators.  In essence, Wells Fargo is simply pushing out public information through added channels that have become available via the Internet and mobile devices.

The economy dominates news these days. Money is an emotional issue. We need to feel good about the company, and the people who manage or advise us about our assets.  Social media helps humanize an institution and offers the comfort that real people are listening to our concerns, offering feedback when appropriate, and are consistent in their approach. Wells Fargo has bloggers, an editor and programmer on staff, and now  Twitter ‘responders.’ Not every financial services company can devote that level of resources to social media. But most could benefit from following Wells Fargo’s lead in exploring the PR advantage derived from deploying a social media program.

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