A walk-through of Wells Fargo’s social media team structure with Dan Phelps

Social media as a practice is widely distributed across Wells Fargo — with more than 100 employees contributing to experiences for both marketing and customer care.

Dan Phelps, Head of Social Media Marketing, has the challenging task of building and managing the company’s social strategies across this group, which houses 33 Team Members and extends across ten of Wells Fargo’s global locations.

Dan’s team is split into five different Centers of Excellence.

The group’s first CoE is their Brand Content and Platform Strategy team — led by Julie Cochran — whose charter is to define the voice and purpose of each channel across the Wells Fargo social portfolio and then create the foundational content strategies and experiences across these handles.

What we’re looking to do in many cases is help people understand who Wells Fargo is. Dan Phelps
Their next CoE is the Brand Publishing and Capabilities — led by Jennifer Manger — which not only identifies the tools and best channel features for their social content, but also effectively and efficiently manages content publishing across their brand portfolio of channels — between 60 to 300 items per day.

Their third CoE is the Social Response Marketing team — led by Jennifer Heyman — which is responsible for the amplification of positive posts and management of customer engagement on earned Wells Fargo content. “While ‘account questions’ from customers are managed by our Social Care team, this group responds to everything else from our communities — some months, the team is triaging more than 60,000 posts,” Dan said.

“Our fourth CoE is dedicated to empowering our Team Members to leverage their own social accounts for business purposes in a governed and risk-aware way,” he said. “Our Distributed Social and Digital Strategy team — led by Tim Venturella — is helping empower our team members to use social to build their professional networks.”

According to Dan, nearly 6,500 Team Members participate in the program, including their financial advisors, home mortgage consultants, business bankers, and their corporate communicators.

Wrapping these strategies together is their Social Listening and Intelligence CoE — led by Brian Wright. Leveraging their bi-coastal social media experience and command centers, this team distills the ongoing, earned social conversation surrounding Wells Fargo into actionable intelligence for their business and marketing partners.

Dan joined the team in 2016 and the process of building out the individual CoEs has been a multi-step initiative.

According to Dan, it’s been an evolution over three years to get their operational structure into the five distinct CoEs and make sure they’re not only bringing the right talent together in the right way, but also clarifying the direction and goals for these new teams.

“Collectively, each of these five areas represent the core functions of a modern social media program,” he explained.

However, Dan emphasized they’re constantly looking at and evolving the team’s overall structure.

For many of us leading social media teams today, finding an optimum structure can be a challenge, as platforms we work on are constantly changing around us.
“For many of us leading social media teams today, finding an optimum structure can be a challenge, as platforms we work on are constantly changing around us,” he said. “For example, Facebook recently announced that they’re thinking about a greater focus on messaging. So of course, we are looking at how to build greater expertise in this area and also understand what that could mean for our advertising on the platform. These ongoing channel evolutions shape our strategies for how we build and grow resources.”

He added that the fastest growing area on their team is the build-out of their distributed social media networks. “The work this team does to activate team members on their own channels is probably some of the most significant work we’re doing for Wells Fargo today,” he said. Because, he explained, it can be more impactful to hear our stories from a Wells Fargo team member, especially when they are an active member of their communities.

To motivate such a large team and continuously operate at a high-level, Dan focuses on two main concepts.

“One is that we’re all communicators. And the better we can communicate and craft powerful stories for social, the better experiences we can provide to our communities,” he said.

Dan explained how they focus the majority of their professional development on communications skills. “We’re not only constantly selling ‘the new’ to our leaders, but we’re equally trying to best position these ideas to our communities and make sure they resonate,” Dan said.

Beyond drawing from the right vocabulary, Dan emphasized that he asks everyone on his team to think of themselves as a storyteller. “What we’re looking to do in many cases is help people understand who Wells Fargo is,” he said. This goes beyond the impact of any single post. His team works to create a narrative across their channels, because building a foundational story will continuously engage their communities.

According to Dan, it’s important for the team to understand that the work they do on a daily basis helps improve how people experience Wells Fargo on social, which naturally leads to improving their expectations of the brand moving forward.

For Dan, keeping the team connected is one of his biggest challenges.

The work this team does to activate team members on their own channels is probably some of the most significant work we’re doing for Wells Fargo today. Dan Phelps
His team members and leaders are located across North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri and California — as well as in Manila, Philippines.

“It’s not only a challenge to manage this team and keep them connected,” he said. “We’re also dealing with the challenges of different time zones. So, we leverage many tools to help optimize our digitally connected workforce.”

The Wells Fargo culture is very collaborative. Beyond regular meetings with his leaders and their teams, and ever-present email, they also leverage internal messaging platforms, collaborative file sharing and video calls. “We tend to use a lot of video because of our team’s distribution, making sure we can see everyone is critical to ensuring we are all on the same page and aligned with our strategies,” Dan explained.

In the always-on world of social, he’s made a point to encourage his teams to still find time for themselves.

Dan said most social media professionals tend to integrate a fair amount of flexibility into their day due to the reactive nature of the work — and similarly at Wells Fargo they generally don’t work a strict nine-to-five schedule. “Many days I start my mornings around 7 AM and don’t finish until 9 PM ET,” he explained. Though there is certainly time built in for breaks, this extended schedule allows time for his west coast teams to meet with him each day.

“That connection to my team is so critical to making sure that we’re all going in the right direction and so we can manage issues and opportunities in real time,” he said.

While the team’s global presence can be a challenge, Dan explained that it’s also an advantage.

“It’d be great if we were all in the same spot because we’d be able to more powerfully draw from each other’s energy,” he said. “We could sit across the table and strategize and see the body language and really be more connected.”

Collectively, each of these five areas represent the core functions of a modern social media program. Dan Phelps
But, Dan explained, their global structure is strategically designed to allow them to support a 23-hour day and more effectively service their social channels. “Our east coast people can start a conversation and then hand-off to our west coast teams who are able to finish it,” he said. “We have changed how we work to allow us to support our communities’ conversations over a longer, more flexible period of time.”

And when there are peaks in social media activity, the size of the team also allows them to meet the higher workloads.

“We try to view serving our internal and external stakeholders as a #TeamSport,” Dan said. “Although we have unified to five distinct CoEs, when we have higher activity in one area of our team, such as Publishing, the expectation is that we can draw from other areas to help meet this load.”

He explained with a larger team, they’re able to meet those variable needs organically and avoid the time and expense of having to engage contractors or outside agencies. And, using their own team members also provides development opportunities because the team becomes cross-trained in roles across the group.

Dan said having a larger team also offers opportunities for diversity of thought, which helps ensure the content they create resonates with Wells Fargo’s broad populations. “For example, we have two individuals who help us engage with our Spanish-speaking audiences,” he explained. “As native speakers, they empower us not only with an authentic voice, but also help to position our brand in a way that enables us to be more empathetic and intentional in our approaches with these audiences.”

For other organizations looking to grow their social teams, Dan suggested considering the needs of your specific brand and growing intentionally.

“Wells Fargo has 70-million customers, we communicate in social across four languages (English, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese), have enabled 6,500 team members to use social for business, and we manage a significant spend in social content amplification across our portfolio,” Dan said. “To operate this program well, required us to build the team we have today.”

He advised against a growing for growth’s sake. “I believe that social continues to provide significant opportunities for brands to tell their stories and engage personally with their communities,” he explained. “However, it is still important to have the right level of resources for your team that will ensure successful client experiences across this very fluid space and while still allowing you to meet your business goals.”

Dan Phelps has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2010. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.