What if you could hire someone to exponentially improve your social media program's organic reach, increase the number of cost-efficient, highly credible word-of-mouth referrals you receive, generate thought-provoking, branded content for your website and social media platforms, and deepen and enrich your relationships with your members? You'd do it, right?

Guess what? You already have. And they're sitting right next to you.

As your biggest advocates, your employees and co-workers offer a tremendous amount of talent and influence. And they are equipped to wield it, with access to our big, social, connected world via smartphones, tablets, and the very computer you purchased to enable them to do their jobs. But are you leveraging this valuable resource?

A lot of credit unions aren't. And frankly, this is high on the list of missed opportunities. It does no one any good in this day and age to pretend your team isn't on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. all day long on their mobile devices. In fact, it may actually be hurting you to be ignoring and/or inhibiting this behavior. Here's why:

1. Your social media program needs love.

The reality is that having fans doesn't mean people are visiting your social media pages. Take Facebook, for example. To drive visitors to your Timeline, you need your posts to appear in the News Feed, right? Well, given constantly evolving algorithms, you can no longer assume that your content is getting served up. (Facebook's average organic reach is already as low as 6%.) To get eyeballs on your stories, you need likes, shares, and comments; i.e. engagement. Who better to help build this momentum than the people sitting right next to you? 

2. Your social media/marketing/jack-of-all-trades manager needs support.

If 10% of a person in your marketing department is responsible for generating and monitoring 100% of your social media content, how successful can your program really be? The fact is that social media should have a full seat at the marketing table—and a good, cushy seat at that. It's direct, it's measurable, and it's reaching a growing audience of 25–55 year olds, the same people who represent the loan, credit, investment, and insurance growth your organization likely needs. But it requires significant attention.

3. Your employees are surprisingly talented. 

Who knew Bob in Compliance was a collector of credit union memorabilia? Or that Jane in HR secretly aspires to write the next great American novel? Did you know that Becky in the Mortgage department is taking night classes in photography? My point is this: there are people in your organization who would jump at the chance to share their talents and contribute to the success of the brand. Why not harness that energy by assigning these talented folks to stories, articles, and images that showcase your culture, brand personality, and thought leadership? Think of your social media manager, not as your beat reporter, but as your editor-in-chief fielding a variety of perspectives.

The impact of empowering your employees to contribute to your brand story is potentially huge. Not only do they represent new, cost efficient avenues for content generation but engaging them may create a more passionate, honest, and motivated culture. Let them know that you value their opinions, respect their networks, and trust their ability to be productive when they are online.

If you want to talk more about this, my colleague, Charlotte Boutz, and I would love to hear your thoughts. Comment here, and we’ll be sure to respond.