7 Reasons You MUST Check the Newly Redesigned OPEN Forum, the Online Community for SMEs Powered by American Express

I have already sent a few updates on twitter about the newly redesigned OPEN Forum community (check the email sent to their members on the left handside), but it is such a good redesign that it is worth dedicating a few minutes this afternoon to write a proper post on Visible Banking.

Social Media is all about people. Don’t reinvent the wheel and don’t spend too much money on the interface! Unfortunately this proved to be too costly to, the innovative online community for european entrepreneurs launched back in February 2007 by Fortis Bank in Belgium, which shut down just two years later.

Success lies in your ability to convince people of the value of your platform and to give them a good reason to use it. It needs to be intuitive and simple to register and use.

VisibleBanking-SocialMedia-RewardThen you must find the most appealing ways to REWARD your members for visiting, contributing and promoting your platform.

One of your initial key hurdles will be to drive adoption of your platform and reach a critical mass of users.

Let me reassure you: your interface won’t be perfect at launch and that is not a big issue.

You will observe how your founding members are using your platform, then you will ask them to share their comments and suggestions. You will take those ideas into account, review them, categorize and rank them, and you will deliver the ones which will have the biggest immediate impact. Simple, isn’t it?

Context: Online Communities in the Finance Industry
Since 2007, most of the online communities launched in the Finance industry (banking, financial services and insurance) happen to target the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) market which does make sense. Indeed, entrepreneurs are seeking new ways to increase their recognition from their industry and give more exposure to their business. If executed well, an online community is the best place to network, find useful information, share with your peers, and trade.

But very few communities have managed to sustain a decent growth and generate a good amount of activity: I would like to mention two of the most successful communities: Ideablob w/ bloblive by Advanta (congrats to Ami Kassar and his innovation team) and the award-winning smallbusiness online community by Bank of America.

OPEN Forum 2.0 or How to Reward your Customers
But let me get back to the OPEN Forum. It is rare to find an online community with a simple and sleek interface, and with the right level of features. It shows me that American Express worked with subject matter experts who really get social media.
At Visible Banking we too are totally focus on helping our clients leverage social media to drive client and employee engagement. Social Media is all about people, not technology.

You MUST check the OPEN Forum for the following reasons:
1. Sleek Interface – It is clear and simple. You are not overwhelmed by too many features or options
2. Twitter integration – I invite you to follow OPENForum on twitter. It is quite rare to find a major social media initiative from a financial institution with an embeded live twitter feed. Bloblive (used to?) and UBank‘s thank you page also include live twitter feeds.
3. Focus on Ideas – Now, there is a clear emphasis on crowdsourcing which I believe brings more clarity to the American Express initiative
4. The connectodex – This feature is useful and straight to the point: find the right contact and trade
5. Content – They partnered with recognized social media experts such asGuy Kawasaki @ alltop or Pete Cashmore @ mashable who are likely to spread the word and reach out to their sizable audience of influential people
To reach your crical mass of users and attracts potential new customers, you must make your online community as open as possible and at the same time you need to find ways to give extra value to your clients. I believe it is the first time I see a community achieving that. Bravo!
6. Reward your clients – Easy Login – Amex made it easier for their clients to register using their existing ID & password (it sounds obvious, but it is genius)
7. Reward your clients – Full Features – Even though the community is open to any business owners, only their clients get full access to its content and services

I am not a huge fan of communities hosted (or worse ’embedded’) on corporate websites which could be perceived as too salesy, but it works well for American Express. The community even has its own URL

According to, it looks like OPEN Forum generates more traffic than some of the very best online communities in finance.

Well done Amex. You deserve your spot as 48th most engaging global brand in Charlene Li latest study. It looks like butterflies are leading the way in Financial Services!


Online Communities Reviewed on Visible Banking

Please find below some of my reviews of the most innovative online communities in Finance: BoA – Smallbusiness Online Community, Fortis –, SEB – the Benche, Vancity  changeeverything

Over 20 Online Communities Listed in the VB Social Media Directory 
You will find below a list of 20+ online communities in 10 countries (the idea generation platforms are not listed there).
I invite you to check my social media directory to get the links and flag any missing initiatives.

* US: Advanta – Ideablob, AllState – Good Hands Community, American Express – Open Forum Members, Bank of America – smallbusiness online community, Capital One – Slingshot, Embrace Pet Insurance – Community, NYSE – NYSE Connect, Scottrade – Online Community
* the Netherlands: ABN Amro – flametree, Rabobank – Starterscommunity Ultrecht
* Canada: Scotia Bank – MyVault, Vancity –
* Australia & New Zealand: ANZ – The SB Hub
* Spain: BBVA – Tu Cuentas (in Spanish), BBVA – Actibva
* France: Caisse d’Epargne – Benefices futures (in French)
* UK: HSBC – The HSBC Business Network, firstdirect – Little Black Book
* Asia: Citi – Clear after hours
* Belgium: Fortis – Join2Grow (offline), Fortis –,
* Sweden: SEB – The Benche

What do you think?

Written by Christophe Langlois

Based in London for almost a decade, Christophe is an entertaining fintech marketing keynote speaker and a trusted advisor to the global financial services industry on the topics of digital marketing, innovation and B2B social media.

Christophe has contributed to over 140 events in 18 countries.

Currently, Christophe is advising a number of fintech startups on marketing and growth hacking and he is the Chief Marketing Officer of The Fintech Power 50, an exclusive annual programme helping fintech scale-ups to accelerate their growth globally.

Christophe's views on are his own.

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