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Small Business Summit: Once More, American Express Leverages its Authentic Social Media Experience to Support and Rally Small Businesses

I wrote this post to share my comments on ‘Spark Growth NOW‘ the small business summit co-hosted by American Express and the New York Times on 13 June 2011. Scroll down and pass the intro to find more info on this excellent event.

Amex-SparkGrowthNOW-Homepage
I love companies which 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?

Logo-DellAmex
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.

For the last 18 months, every study on the face of the earth confirmed 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.

A few years ago, Dell launched the popular ‘Social Media for Small Business – Powered by Dell‘ page (with now over 50,000 fans) and American Express launched its own online community for small businesses, the OPEN Forum, with an extended presence on facebook and twitter.

American Express and Social Media on Visible Banking
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 three pages on our Visible Banking Facebook Watch series (900+ pages and applications in 70+ countries) and two accounts on our Visible Banking Twitter Watch series (1,500+ accounts in 70+ countries).

American Express’ initiatives are usually market defining, hence their regular coverage on my blog:
R.I.P. Chase +1 on Facebook. Long Live American Express.
Big Break: American Express OPEN Partners with Facebook to Offer Small Businesses $125,000 & a Facebook Makeover
American Express Launches ‘OPEN Forum Pulse’ to Help Businesses Share their Insights and Advice on Twitter
10 Reasons for the Success of the American Express ‘Small Business Saturday’ Facebook Page
7 Reasons You MUST Check the Newly Redesigned OPEN Forum, the Online Community for SMEs Powered by American Express

Unlike many financial institutions which see social media as an opportunity to better market themselves and use those new communication channels mainly from a marketing / brand angle, Amex has a more honest and strategic approach to social media.

Sites like facebook or twitter help the global financial services firm to reach its business goals, increase customer satisfaction and customer advocacy, and strengthen its position as an ambassador for the small businesses in the US.

The Fantastic Success of the Small Business Summit (Offline AND Online)
On Monday last week, American Express and the New York Times delivered what looked like a superb event in NYC. This was the 6th edition of the summit.

Due to other commitments in Europe, I couldn’t fly to NYC and attend the summit in person. But thanks to an amazingly connected and vocal crowd of passionate entrepreneurs, I was able to follow the conversations on twitter via the hashtag #OPENNYT. And what a volume of tweets!

Please find below more stats on the twitter coverage from 13 June 2011.
AMEX-OPENFORUM-EventNYC-13June2011
A big THANK YOU to all the tweeps who covered the event live from NYC. On the day of the summit, I flagged over 470 tweeps who joined the conversation.

And to the most active ones: @SBStartup, @openforum, @candacelepress, @ramonray, @NYTBizSummit, @chike_v and @w3consulting.

This is a great example of the value of social media at conferences.

Best of the Summit in 35 Tweets
Please find below my favourite tweets from the event.

* At a big company you’re physically very healthy, but at a small company you’re mentally very healthy
* The idea for @foursquare was to create a social city where your friends tell you what to do & where to go then layer it into a game
* You can’t simultaneously give great service and product quality & be the cheapest one on the market says Jay Goltz.
* Don’t worry so much about offering consumers the best deal, focus on convincing them your product/service is worth it!
* 44% of small business are using social media 35% are using Facebook 15% are using LinkedIn and 10% are using Twitter. Stats are low
* The most valuable thing about marketing is WORD OF MOUTH. Get people to use your product and talk about it
* Develop word-of-mouth; rather than spend $ on ads, spend it on creating a great product
* foursquare currently has more than 400,000 verified businesses.
* Foursquare is a tool for geeks – but biz can encourage customers to get perks through – hence building customer loyalty
* IMay feel like it costs a lot to go the extra mile for customers but costs more to have an angry person out ther
* To be authentically customer centric focus on all customers, not just high spenders.
i* f you have a lousy product stop thinking about #qrcodes – first make your product better
* At early stages business spend all of your $ investing in the customer experience not marketing
* @LivingSocial in 14 countries and around 300 markets now
* in the future it won’t be about daily deals but about better ways to interact with local merchants
* Tim O’Shaughnessy of@livingsocial: “figure out what the new mechanisms are to reach consumers, or go out of business.”
* It’s all about getting products out there and getting early feedback from users and going from there
* Customer loyalty is alive and well — for those companies who deserve it.
* The funnel has flipped today. You put one or two loyal customers in the top and you get 50 out.
* Today people create the story along with the product and it’s more authentic with storytelling baked i
* don’t launch when the product is done but make the creation of the product part of the story
* Customers only want to be evangelists for brands they believe to be authentic.
* You don’t just want people to say how great you are because it creates a false sense of greatness, invincibility… You want people to tell you what they don’t like about your service so you can fix it!
* You don’t gain by being over-controlling of social media and the conversation that’s going on out there
* If things go badly on social media, respond to it immediately with honesty and openness — have fewer secrets
* Did you know that 83% of @Yelp reviews are positive?
* Make sure you’re on every single one of your competitors, mentors social media sites and read them religiously
* Susan Sobbott: AMEX was able to become a source of information for #smallbiz bc of its foundation of trust
* Amex’s Sobbott at #OPENNYT: how to control the uncontrolabe social media? You don’t. Tools can help
* In the midst of a problem – don’t hide – set expectations, be honest – TALK TO customers #opennyt – from anger to forgiveness
* Connect with your consumers proactively, don’t wait until a crisis occurs: Susan Lyne, Chairman of @GiltGroupe
* Rather than just focusing on critics, focus on your advocates…
* Amex’s Sobbott at #OPENNYT: use the media with the biggest audience. try Facebook first then Twitter
* Proactively engage with consumers online before you need too – it will help greatly with crisis management
* Listen to your community & ask them what they want before building products!
* If your tweet is amplified like the right person its like fireworks (or Angry Birds!) #OPENNYT Who helps amplify your #smallbiz?
* “Dont feed the trolls,” u cant do much abt angry customers; all u can do is focus on happy ones

And a special thumbs up to Mari Smith who tweeted one of the most popular (RTed) tweets of the day. I’m loving it!
“Excellent place to promote your social sites: under signature line on receipts! http://t.co/uR6el9w

MariSmith-SMReceipt
Pictures
I invite you to check my crowdsourced photo album of the event.

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