Monday, April 02, 2007

Wells Fargo Blogs: Case Study from Blogher Business Conference


The BlogHer Business Conference two weeks ago had the conference title of "How to Succeed in a Social Media World". The goal was to explore questions about social media in the business world and consisted of two days of various panels, conversations and networking opportunities from small to global enterprise businesses that have waken to the fact that Social Media is here to stay, continues to evolve very quickly and needs to be incorporated into your business strategy.

On the first day, a lab session took place in which four business blog case studies were presented through interviews with their main bloggers and it was obvious during those interviews that social media regardless if you are selling Giftbaskets, News, educating people on racial issues or selling financial products is an important tool. After the session, we broke into groups with the case study blogger to dig a little deeper and i joined Staci Schiller a marketing program manager from the Wells Fargo Education Financial Services group and a key member of the Wells Fargo Blogs team. I volunteered to report back to the bigger group what we learned in our discussion so below are my notes on The Student LoanDown™ blog case study:

The Student LoanDown is Wells Fargo's blog about financing a college education and they blog about student loans: applying for them, selecting them, repaying them etc.

How is the decision made as to which Wells Fargo employees Blog:

  • the blogger needs to know how to write and be passionate and want to write
  • has to have lifestyle experience - you can't talk about a subject if you haven't 'lived' it
  • subject matter experts for example the Wells Fargo Historians (Congrats on reaching your first year anniversary!)
  • recently they added a fictional character that was hired specifically for Stagecoach Island Community™ which is an online virtual community to create a financial literacy program for young adults- if you want to have fun on the island you need to have money and the program shows them how.
  • how much time does it take the bloggers? Staci started spending about 20% of her time blogging but now spends close to 50%
  • there are 5 people on the Student LoanDown all from marketing communications . All with full time jobs and blogging has been incorporated as part of their jobs.
  • how do they figure out which writer writes want post? the team has experts on specific items so for example there are specific blogger that at specific times of the year are writing about scholarships

What are the internal processes for the Student LoanDown blog:

  • The Wells Fargo Blog team is headed by Ed Terpening one of their first bloggers (HERE IS AN INTERVIEW WITH ED that Staci just posted announcing their first year anniversary of the Guided by History Blog)
  • It took the team about 2 1/2 months the first time they wrote a post to get it approved through legal and risk management groups. There were obviously a lot of meetings and policies but into place
  • The Student LoanDown was not the first Wells Fargo Blog but it was the first blog to talk about financials issues that affect Wells Fargo products and services
  • Over the months (it launched in Sept 2006) the team has learn to 'negotiate' with the legal and risk management groups and the process is shorter for approval
  • The team has weekly meetings to discuss upcoming posts

Blogging in a financial world- Compliance and Risk issues to deal with

  • The financial banking world is full of compliance issues and the Student Loandown team are educated on all issues
  • Compliance issues certainly affect the way they write and many times that are self conscious about posts- reading and rewriting them
  • Many times they might want to be judgement but obviously can't because the reader might be a potential client so that affects how and what they write. Staci shared with us an example from a recent MTV show (she is a self proclaimed MTV fanatic) in which a young women was filing for bankruptcy yet was drinking a four dollar latte from Starbucks. Her post on the incident is here.
  • Because of compliance issues they need to have very clear rules as to how readers can participate. From their blog "As a bank, regulations prevent us from obtaining your personal information—hence the restrictions in our blog comments that prevent you from submitting your full name. Also, we can't capture your blog's URL in our comments due to concerns about phishing". Their guidelines in the about page are very clear.
  • We asked if comments had to go back to legal/risk management and they don't- the team can make the decision to post them- they do go back to them however if they don't feel comfortable.
  • We asked if there have been any comments trashing Wells Fargo products and Staci said to date there haven't really been any but if they were on topic they would be posted. They are here to establish credibility in the community and being upfront and transparent is required.

How are they promoting and measuring in the impact of the Wells Fargo Blogs:

  • They are not doing active promotion of any of their blogs but have gotten a lot of coverage in the main stream media mostly because of world of mouth and the novelty of a banking institution blogging
  • They go out and contact influential bloggers in the personal financial blogging world
  • THIS IS A MUST FOR ANY CORPORATE BLOG: they promote it internally- with over 170,000 team members who are providing services to clients and potential clients using them as a main distribution point is ideal
  • They are still not able to track conversion to specific products and do not have a solid plan to do so
  • They do use multiple online tools to track what people are saying about Wells Fargo (so hey this post should pop up!)

Overall, i think both Staci's stage presentation and our little breakout session were excellent and Staci did a great job of presenting the Wells Fargo Social Media Strategy. I extremely impressed with Staci's passion for what she does and i think that myself along with many others that participated in our breakout session where extremely pleased with what Staci shared with us. I did ask Staci if i could blog this case study and she graciously agreed- whatever she said with us on that day was sanctioned as public knowledge.

The one thing i did not ask Staci is how they came up with the Student LoanDown name-did someone bring it to the table when the idea started or was it a work in process with the team once the theme was decided? i think it is pretty clever- get the lowdown on borrowing money for college at the LoanDown!

If you attended Blogher and want to add additional thoughts that i might have missed please do- thanks.

Here are some other blog links that covered this specific case study:


Ed Terpening said...

Hi Daniela, glad to hear Staci's participation at BlogHer was helpful. We were happy to participate.

Regarding the name--good question! This was a tough one for us, as we wanted to balance the needs of brand qualities and striking a chord with this younger community. We discarded many names beforing deciding this one fit.

Staci Schiller said...

Daniela, you are too kind! Thanks so much for blogging our case study lab at BlogHer. The smaller group was a great place to address the specific challenges and successes, and you've done an amazing job of capturing all that here!

To build on what Ed said about the Student LoanDown name--it actually evolved once the project was underway. We had a few names that we submitted, and as with most things, getting this one approved took a bit of convincing! People either love it (think it's clever) or hate it (think it's too "cute"), but so far it has been a good descriptor that resonates with both our brand and our audience.

Toby said...

Daniela - Thanks for posting your notes .. great details!