Wells Fargo uses its Twitter to tell customers they’re not on Twitter

This is odd. A Wells Fargo ATM declined my Wells Fargo Visa debit card over the weekend. I wasn’t allowed to access my accounts and the machine didn’t provide a specific explanation of the problem. The card was issued to me in August and it doesn’t expire until May 2013, according to the date printed on the card.

I called the Wells Fargo phone bank and was told that Wells Fargo debit cards occasionally expire before the date published on the card. The customer service rep was hesitant to talk about it, and I could tell he probably didn’t have a good answer. The rep ordered a new card for me, and I went to Twitter to complain about the issue.

Even stranger than the mystery of the randomly expiring debit card, Twitter hasn’t updated its primary feed (@wellsfargo) since March 2009. The feed is littered with explanations that say the company is not yet on Twitter.
But it’s most recent tweet points users to a separate “test” account, (@Ask_WellsFargo), where a rep responds to customer service issues. The “test” account, as it’s referred to on the @wellsfargo feed, is a monotonous stream of apologies for bad service and “Thx 4 the mention!” tweets. It’s all incredibly insincere.

There’s very little value here for anyone, and it raises the awkward situation many companies put themselves in when they approach online communities in an unsure, clumsy and unhelpful manner.

As I’ve said before, social media is about customer service and conversations. If you cannot serve customers, please don’t barge into their communities and pretend to do so.

3 thoughts on “Wells Fargo uses its Twitter to tell customers they’re not on Twitter

  1. Ed Terpening, Wells Fargo


    I manage the social media team at Wells Fargo, responsible for our Twitter, Facebook, YouTube pages and blogs. While I can’t speak to the issue with your debit card (sorry to hear it), I did want to comment on your feedback re our Twitter pages.

    As you know, Twitter is a limited domain system (eg, there can only be one twitter.com/welllsfargo), so we felt it was important to claim our trademarked name early on, to prevent our name use by fraudsters That’s why the most recent tweet was to point customers to our pilot channel. We didn’t launch service on @WellsFargo, because use of that name implies expectations that we were not prepared to meet (eg everything about Wells Fargo). Instead, we decided to launch a more limited test channel with a focus on service, @Ask_WellsFargo.

    We were one of the first large banks to launch a Twitter page. We refer to it as a test, because we’re only supporting a limited number of products at this time (eg online banking, checking, savings, etc) Wells Fargo is in many different financial businesses (Eg, Insurance, Brokerage, Mortgage, etc), and are not yet prepared to support the full scope of products on Twitter. We hope to, but it will take us some time.

    I’m disappointed that James’ tweets somehow appeared insincere. Knowing James, he does his best to address every customer individually. Also, please realize that because we need to collect confidential information to resolve many customer issues, James will introduce himself and then connect customers on Twitter to existing secure channels (eg, phone bank) where we can support them fully. Where possible, we’ll resolve the problem on Twitter but regulatory/security requirements prevent us from doing so in every case. Sometimes he can resolve issues, but not often as we like–and that’s more related to the regulated industry we work in, and not lack of sincerity.

    We’ve received lots of positive tweets and “thank you”s on Twitter from our customers, so I hope in the future you’ll consider trying us again. We appreciate your business, and are trying our best to participate in channels like Twitter to support you!


    -Ed Terpening
    VP Social Media
    Wells Fargo


  2. Anonymous

    Ed, it seems to me Wells Fargo’s presence is rather fragmented over Twitter. For me, and I’m sure most users, the logical choice to search for customer service issues is @wellsfargo. Anything that is not @wellsfargo invites suspicion for the same reasons of confidentiality you outline in your post.

    I understand the need “hold” the name, but the feed creates the impression of abandonment and doesn’t reflect the service that I’m sure the company would like it to.

    Check out the landing page Dell created for their Twitter presence. Notice how they’re categorized by topic, location, etc: http://www.dell.com/twitter


  3. Ed Terpening, Wells Fargo

    Yes, all good points, and some things we’ve considered. I’m glad you bring up Dell, because their presence is extremely fragmented. I’ve been cautious about that, because I don’t think over-segmentation is necessarily a good thing. We know customers are addressing us at @WellsFargo, so the @Ask_WellsFargo team is watching for those tweets and responding to them as they would any other Wells Fargo keyword mention on Twitter. We don’t want to miss opportunities to help customers just because they’re unaware of @Ask_WellsFargo.

    Thanks to your input, I did just make changes to @WellsFargo bio and tweets, trying to make it clear what we’re doing. The bio was especially off, so I appreciate your bringing that to my attention. I can’t pre-announce any new products, but you can imagine that launching @WellsFargo as a central part of our Twitter strategy is important. It’s just that with a company our size and complexity, I want to ensure we can meet the broad expectations customers will have with that name.

    Thanks again for your help/input, and again, I’m sorry about your debit card issue. I wouldn’t be happy either; I’m sure it was a very frustrating experience. Thanks for being a customer.



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