Dan Phelps has seen a lot of changes in the way financial services approach marketing.

Every year for the past three years, we’ve tripled the amount of engagement we have provided for our distribution and marketing partners.

He’s been in the investments industry for 20+ years, and worked as a PR manager, an RFP marketing manager, and he even took a detour as a General Manager for a boat manufacturer. When he started at T. Rowe in 2007, he was brought on as the Manager of Critical Communications — a role that didn’t involve social media, but which allowed him to develop deep relationships and equity with the firm’s management team.

Like many other SocialMedia.org members, Dan saw the potential for social media as a communications tool and so, with management’s approval, he led the effort to begin using social media as a new communications channel for the investment management firm.

“Social media was starting to gain a bigger foothold in the industry, and as a communications person, the idea of using networked systems to help improve client communications and engagement was fascinating to me,” Dan says.

Now, as T. Rowe’s VP of Social Media, the industry’s acceptance of social media is the biggest change Dan’s witnessed.

The big question we are always asking is ‘Are we giving them content that is helpful?’

For one thing, companies are now more likely to accept that social media is here to stay and that it isn’t free. Dan says more companies realize they need an infrastructure and support system to get the most value from their social initiatives.

For another, people see that social is now a viable way to reach and engage with specific groups of people, whether on the BtoB or BtoC side. The value of social is easy to quantify because social media is one of the most measurable forms of marketing they do at the firm. News of their results has also grown their number of engagements.

“Every year for the past three years, we’ve tripled the amount of engagement we have provided for our distribution and marketing partners. This growth is a direct result of the measurable value we are able to bring through social media. When programs are successful, teams talk about them, and then additional teams want to get involved,” he explains.

That means Dan’s team has also had to grow to meet that need.

What’s been compelling for us is that we are able to leverage social in a fun way to help bring clients and prospects together with our Guidance Counselors.

His core team is focused on the areas where there is the most volume and growth: their associates’ engagement program, Twitter channel management, and the firm’s social campaign strategy. The bulk of his team, however, is spread throughout the organization across legal, content creation, and social customer care teams. They also collaborate with about eight additional people through an outside agency partnership.

“My approach to leading is to help my team run fluidly and help them have ownership of their areas of focus,” Dan says.

He says he avoids constraining them to specific guidelines and trusts his teammates since they’re each experts in their specific areas.

“Communications among the team are ongoing, with everyone able to keep abreast of our activities through shared platforms such as Spredfast and Box Notes as well as regular in-person conversations that help the team stay on track and continue to move forward.”

One big project they’re working on is bringing to light a lesser known T. Rowe Price service through storytelling.

T. Rowe Price’s investment guidance program is a free resource that individual investors can use to contact an investment guidance counselor with questions about their portfolios. Dan’s team conducted a focus group with the counselors and took frequently asked questions and turned them into short, digestible social videos like the one below:

T. Rowe Price video

“What’s been compelling for us is that we are able to leverage social in a fun way to help bring clients and prospects together with our Guidance Counselors. From our point of view, these videos have been a success both because our Facebook and Twitter audiences have reacted favorably to them, and it’s increased visibility on an area of the firm that we know can provide value for our communities.”

Dan says that one of the most interesting parts of his job is the feedback.

He explains that the industry has come a long way in 25 years from taking calls and classical advertising pushes, to creating interactive, social content for distinct audiences. He says he looks forward to reading the comments they receive each day and learning if they’re meeting their clients’ and prospects’ expectations.

“The big question we are always asking is ‘Are we giving them content that is helpful?’ Even if it’s negative feedback, it’s still useful. The more input we get from our communities, the stronger our messaging and communications strategies can become.”

Dan has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2010. He’s also a professional sports photographer. Check out his action shots and follow him on Twitter here.


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