I love companies wich not only started to engage on social media early and became very good at it, but also share their newly acquired expertise with their target market. It is a great way to become an ambassador for the sector, improve brand perception and increase propensity to do business with you. And after all, social media is all about sharing, right?
Dell and America Express have a lot in common, despite behind leaders in two very different industries. Indeed, both companies brilliantly engage on social media channels like facebook or twitter, and decided to share their learnings with their small business customers. This is a clever way to differentiate yourself from the competition. We know that differentiation in financial services doesn't occur at the product level anymore, and it is your ability as a brand to be perceived as a trusted and helpful partner which makes the difference.
And currently every study on the face of earth confirms how much small businesses need to increase their online visibility and better leverage social media, such as this study by Citi and this article on Mashable. Good stats, but really?! Did we need so many studies to realize that?
A couple of years ago, Dell launched the popular 'Social Media for Small Business - Powered by Dell' page (with now over 45,000 fans) and American Express launched its own online community for small businesses, the OPEN Forum, with an extended presence on facebook and twitter.
In the last couple of years, American Express as a company decided to invest more time and resources on social media both in B2C and B2B. It is the only financial institution which has two pages on our Visible Banking Facebook Watch series (620+ pages, groups, applications in 55+ countries) and two accounts on our Visible Banking Twitter Watch series (1,300+ accounts in 65+ countries).
On November 8th American Express Chairman and CEO Kenneth I. Chenault, with NYC's Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, launched another industry leading initiative to support small businesses in the US, 'Small Business Saturday' (SBS).
SBS is being presented in partnership with local advocacy, business and trade organizations across the United States.
Basically, the aim of the financial services giant is to increase awareness of the economic benefits of shopping locally at small stores.
They launched a dedicated website with a clear call to action: 'join the movement on facebook' by liking their 'Small Business Saturday' page.
Outstanding Results on Facebook (over 1M Fans), twitter and blogs
In just a few weeks, American Express' newly launched page broke the 1 million fan mark (!) and rocketed into our Top 10 Twitter Accounts.
The page, American Express' third page in our top 10, is the second most liked page from a financial institution behind the 'Chase Community Giving' page (2.5 million fans).
Thousands and thousands of tweeps have been promoting the initiative on their favourite microblogging service with the hashtag #SmallBusinessSaturday.
Some of them more famous and influential than the others such as Michael Bloomberg himself (35k followers, listed 1,8k):
Online Press & Blog Coverage
The campaign enjoyed a tremendous press and blog coverage: today (27 November 2010) a search for "Small Business Saturday" on Google returned an impressive 1,750,000 results.
A Google Blog Search returned a more than decent 129,000 results.
Any Negative Comments?
Most of blog posts and comments on twitter are positive or very positive. But of course, we are talking about social media, right? As you would expect, you have to find some negative comments from influential people too.
I invite you to read CBS Money Watch's Devil in the detail column from Kathy Kristof entitled 'Small Business Saturday: Buyer Beware' who argues that the credit is limited, there is no list of qualifying merchants, and credit can be delayed.
Chase faced far worth criticism about the attribution of the $1 million prize last year when they launched their first community giving campaign. They improved the system for this year's contest.
Negative feedback is equally good, if not better, than positive one: it gives brands an excellent opportunity to make their products or initiatives better. I am confident American Express will take it onboard for the 2011 edition of their 'Smalll Business Saturday'.
10 Reasons Behind this Success
1. First Initiative of its Kind
American Express came up and more importantly brilliantly implemented a unique initiative. There is a premium to be the first, and an even bigger one if you do it right from the get go! To the contrary, social media won't help you much if your initiatives are weak or old news, or if your products are not competitive.
2. Needed Initiative
I covered it a the beginning of my post: small businesses need more visibility online and more cost effective leads. This initiative address a very tangible need from the millions of small business owners in the US.
3. Rewards for Small Businesses AND Card Holders
Even thought the goal of the initiative by itself looks appealing to the small business owners, American Express needed to convince them of the value of participating and spreading the word. They gave away $100 worth of facebook advertising to the first 10,000 small business owners who signe up to participate.
Moreover, to really make an impact on the economy and drive business today, American Express had to find a way to also urge its credit card holders to shop at small businesses instead of large supermarket chains or other department stores. To achieve that, the FS firm promised to give $25 statement credit when they shop in one of the qualifying small businesses on November 27th. Please note that the offer will be available to the first 100,000 enrollees only.
4. Clear call to action
The simpler, the better. American Express invite people to visit its SBS page on facebook and ideally like it to be part of the movement and get involved. The words are very well chosen. People feel like they belong to something big, something which could really make a difference.
5. Word of Mouth on Facebook AND Twitter
Even though the facebook page is (so far) the only dedicated social media asset for SBS, which contributed to the phenomenal growth of the page, American Express cleverly leveraged twitter.
They urged not only small business owners but all the american people to spread the word on facebook and on twitter. You can promote the initiative directly from your facebook page or twitter account, or via the SMB facebook page.
Please note that even though a lot of tweeps are using #SmallBusinessSaturday, the official hashtag is #SmallBizSat.
They also made it easy to promote the initiative on websites by providing ready badges.
6. Promotion - Social Media
I always insist on the importance to fully leverage your own assets to give more visibility to your social media presence.
American Express did a good job promoting its Small Business Saturday initiative on its website, on the small business category page.
SBS is promoted on American Express' two other facebook pages 'American Express' and 'American Express OPEN' with the same dedicated tab on both page and a few wall posts.
They also sent regular updates on twitter fron @AmericanExpress and @OPENForum.
7. Promotion - Online & Offline
'A la foursquare', American Express made it easy for small business owners to promote the initiative on their website but also in their store.
Great idea, but I wonder how many businesses displayed the 'SHOP SMALL NOVEMBER 27' flyer available as pdf.
8. Promotion - TV Commercial
Once again, American Express decided to promote its social media initiative on TV. I invite you to watch the video embedded at the end of my post.
There had to be a charity element to this initiative. Initially American Express said they would give $1 to Girls Inc for every like on the SBS page up to $500,000. Because of its immense popularity, they increased the limit to $1 million.
Please note that Girls Inc promoted American Express' initiative on its website via a splashpage you couldn't miss.
10. American Express
Last but not least, the initiative was a success because of American Express. Over the years, American Express established itself as an ambassador for the small business sector. Moreover he financial services firm is one of the most engaged financial institutions online, and one of the most experienced on facebook and twitter.
This is again proof of the importance of starting to leverage social medias asap to increase your capacity as a company to constently adapt to new means of communication and connect with your market whatever the channel.
Unarguably, American express did a great job spreading the word in such a short period of time and building a sizable fan base on facebook.
I'm curious to find out more about American Express' success criteria for this campaign and especially what their initial expectations were: the initiative surely paid itself thanks to the incredible amount of free press and blog coverage.
Over and beyond the press coverage and their newly acquired fan base, I'd love to know more about the side effects of the campaign: how much new traffic did it drove to their OPEN Forum community? How many new small business and personal client relationships did they win on the back of the initiative? And last but not least, how big the spike of card transactions will be today?
Community Management & Content
Now it is one thing to build a huge fan base on facebook, it is another to build an engaged community in the long run. American Express added another successful page to its facebook portfolio, which means from a community management stand point another content strategy to define and implement. The more pages, the more challenging to produce exclusive content.
I look forward to finding out how American Express plans to engage with this group of people on regular basis, which kind of content they will produce on the page, and how frequently. I can only hope American Express won't stop producing content after today, only to resume a month or so before next year's Thanks Giving.
Will they publish clear moderation guidelines and open up their wall to let their fans produce relevant content themselves "a la Progressive Insurance"? I'll be watching on your behalf, so stay tuned on Visible Banking!
Know Your Fans: How Valuable is this Facebook Community?
I wonder how big this community could be. Now that America Express already reached an extremely high number of fans, you have to wonder how many of those 'fans' are good prospects for the financial services firm? And how does American Express plan to convert them into clients?
Dell didn't do much advertising and didn't offer any incentives to like their popular 'Social Media for Small Business' page. It grew exclusively via word of mouth because the content is actionable and valuable to entrepreneurs. So, according to you, which community is the most valuable to the brand: Dell's or American Express'?
American Express OPEN's TV Commercial Announcing 'Small Business Saturday'
Please find below the video American Express used to promote SBS.
Related articles on Visible-Banking.com
* Top 10 Financial Institutions on Twitter in November 2010
* Top 10 Financial Institutions on Facebook in November 2010
* Visible Banking Directory: Social Media in Financial Services
* Visible Banking Social Media Watch Series (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, YouTube)