Allen Plummer

Allen Plummer of Vanguard on running a decentralized in-house social team

Allen Plummer is on Vanguard's Institutional Marketing Team.

It's important to build a team that can operate independently.

At Vanguard, marketing is decentralized and social is embedded within business lines. He's responsible for marketing in their BtoB space including corporations, pension plans, 401Ks, and small business owners. He's also a member of

Social media at Vanguard has always been in house.

Allen says that's for two reasons: the regulated nature of their business and the need to control content. From a compliance standpoint, they have to audit and get legal approval of everything that gets published. So by creating that content in-house, Allen believes it gives them a better sense of control over their brand image and monitoring across any channel.

Right now, Allen works with a team of seven: two writers, two editors, one designer, and two channel managers. And they all run Vanguard's institutional presence across Twitter, LinkedIn, and their blog.

Vanguard Team

He says the reason behind having a decentralized social team is in part because of necessity.

“It's really hard to make the case for headcount. So more and more marketing teams are learning to do more with less,” he explains.

For Allen, that means pulling from the creative talent that's already within Vanguard. A lot of his team's primary responsibilities are in advertising, print, and the web. Social media is only one part of each team member's job.

When he brought them on, he wasn't just looking for good content creators.

Allen sought employees to be on his team who had a passion for social too.

“When you're bringing content in-house you can teach a talented writer to write tweets — what you can't teach is that interest or desire to learn social media. One common factor we have is the idea of being innovative, being interested in the space, loving to learn, and being really tech savvy.”

And to keep everyone on the same page, the social team meets often.

You can make it work in a small team, but you have to be prepared with a contingency plan to pick up any slack.

Although they're decentralized, it helps that Allen's team sits within close proximity to one another. That way, they can have weekly in-person content meetings to go channel by channel and discuss content quality, themes, and balance. They also have standing daily huddles to handle urgent situations 30 minutes out of the day, which they cancel if they don't need.

He says these meetings coupled with a group email address has helped his team stay agile. They're also prepared to cover one another if someone's out.

Allen says, “You can make it work in a small team, but you have to be prepared with a contingency plan to pick up any slack.”

“It's important to build a team that can operate independently.”

Allen explains that one of the winning features of a decentralized team is to be able to make quick decisions on their own. He says that as the social team's leader, he serves as the editor in chief. But he doesn't want his approval process to create a bottleneck, or slow the team down when he's gone.

“A measure of success for me is a team that can handle social on their own and doesn't depend on me to make every single decision. Fortunately, we've got great folks who do that, and everyone truly feels ownership over their work. I love seeing our team evolve and seeing their instincts and skills in social grow.”

Follow Allen on Twitter and ask about his favorite thing to do in Philly. Allen's been a member since 2014.