Nelnet is a student loan servicing company—but they’re so much more than that. The company has business lines including student loan servicing, private student loans, improving K-12 school management through service and technology, renewable energy, encouraging a more educated workforce, and telecommunications.

In total, they have 64 social media accounts and hundreds of thousands of followers across platforms. I was surprised to learn the team behind Nelnet’s vast social presence is only a team of two (who work with customer care and marketing groups across the company).

A screenshot of the Nelnet X (formerly Twitter) profile. In the screenshot you can see the brand's logo and bio.

I interviewed Dan Levey, Social Media Manager and Team Lead at Nelnet, to learn how his “small and scrappy team” balances their limited resources across a wide range of business lines. He explained the relationship building and resource prioritization required to manage multiple accounts effectively. Keep reading for his tips to allocate social resources—especially for nimble teams with bandwidth constraints.

The dream team: How social team structures can support product portfolio marketing

According to Dan, “The Nelnet social team sits on the corporate marketing org, and functions like an in-house agency for Nelnet’s various brands—each with different goals and identities on social.”

Dan leads the team strategy by consulting on strategy, best practices, and interpreting key campaign metrics and trends. The Social Media Specialist who reports to Dan handles scheduling, pulling metrics and monitoring conversations across social channels. Together, the duo conducts social listening research and generates monthly reports for relevant business lines and internal teams. The team also partners on content production with other in-house creatives, like copywriters, graphic designers, project managers and video producers, and consults the legal and compliance team to remain compliant with industry rules and regulations.

To ease collaboration with each of the business lines they serve, Dan created a presentation within his first few months at Nelnet that explains the breadth of the social team’s capabilities and the different skills they can offer each business. “We are here to educate the partners on best practices and what goes into social media management and strategy,” Dan said. “The big misconception about social is that it’s easy. It’s so much more than posting. It’s A/B testing, reporting, interacting with audience members and more.”

A screenshot of the Nelnet Careers Facebook page. In the screenshot you can see the brand's intro, address and the employment email address.

He shares the presentation with each business marketing leader, who mix and match the services they need á la carte. Dan explains, “The presentation I created lists each of our capabilities, including creating content, strategy, end-to-end production, graphics, social listening, reporting and regular check-in meetings. Each of our business lines needs different things.”

Make it your own: Whether your social team functions like an in-house agency or uses a center of excellence model, it’s critical that they have open lines of communication with each brand or business line. Give social team leaders a seat at the table, and encourage them to build relationships and educate other leaders about what goes into managing (and maximizing) social.

Accomplishing each brand’s goals requires having hard conversations

Managing multiple brand accounts does not mean copying and pasting your approach to social from one brand to another. Every brand or business line has their own objectives and audiences.

As Dan explains, “Each business line wants to accomplish different things. For example, some are more focused on organic growth, while others are more invested in paid campaigns.” It’s up to Dan, his team and the business lines to decide where they can spend their time and resources, and consider how to prioritize projects with company-wide goals in mind.

A screenshot of the Nelnet Campus Commerce LinkedIn page. In the screenshot you can see the Nelnet Campus Commerce logo, tagline and company boilerplate.

Dan’s team adapts their approach to social strategy accordingly, while also being honest with stakeholders about what’s feasible for a small team. Dan often pushes back in conversations with partners by asking, “What goal are you trying to accomplish? What’s the greater purpose of this proposed project?”

The Nelnet social team has a comprehensive view of brand performance and company-wide strategy, which gives them a unique and valuable perspective. Dan is tasked with keeping each business line grounded in their own goals and the business’ vision.

He brings valuable insights to these conversations with the help of Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox and Social Listening solution. As Dan says, “We use Sprout’s Automated Rules and Social Listening tools to give us alerts on brand sentiment, competitive analysis and customer satisfaction.”

A screenshot of the Sprout Social Smart Inbox, an inbox that streamlines all incoming messages into a single stream. In the screenshot, you can see a pop-up message that indicates a spike in activity.
Sprout Social Listening Dashboard showing a circular graph that plots out a brand's share of voice versus several competitors.

Make it your own: Trust social team leaders when they say it’s impossible to achieve every goal. Be their champion when they ruthlessly prioritize projects. Use the performance intel they share to shape your company’s goals, and keep them in the loop of the larger business strategy.

Ensure all of your brands get the right level of support

One of the most challenging things the Nelnet social team faces is the fear of making any of the internal partners they work with feel like other business lines are being prioritized over them. As Dan puts it, “How do we make every business line feel like they’re getting the right amount of support?”

This is especially challenging when they need to shift resources from one product line to another—whether it’s because corporate goals changed or a campaign is falling short of expectations. In those moments, Dan relies on the trust and relationships he’s built with stakeholders. In his words, he has a “heart-to-heart” with internal partners to let them know they need to pull back social team resources.

Sometimes, the conversations result in business leaders being more invested in their social strategy, and signing their own teams up to take a more active role in social management. Through compromises like these, the social team is able to free up bandwidth and nurture more meaningful stakeholder collaboration.

Make it your own: In the face of tight budgets and plateaued headcount, make sure your org has the right tools to do more with less. With collaborative enterprise social media software, the social team and other departments can co-manage social together—ensuring no brands slips through the cracks and there are enough resources to go around.

Set all your brands up for success on social media

Dan sums up his approach to managing different internal clients like this: “Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Set clear expectations that are tied to their goals. Over communicate.”

When your social team faces an overwhelming amount of requests from your many brands, remind them to seek simplicity and go back to the basics of building relationships. Advise them to be honest, accountable and transparent.

To help them more easily share results from social across your company, use our social media scorecard templates to give leaders a digestible view of their brand’s (and your company’s overall) health and strategy.