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Amex, Twitter Partner to Facilitate Coupons, Glean Customer Data

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In an interesting use of social media, American Express and Twitter partnered yesterday on an initiative that should help Amex glean a wealth of information about its customers and likely customer prospects, strengthen merchant relationships, and get its cardholders to speak up for its brand, creating what's called in social media-speak "promoters," through the lure of coupons. What Twitter gets out of this deal is a way to make money on its messaging service, which has 100 million users. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The scheme is this: Customers are asked to sync their American Express account with Twitter. The customer who agrees to this authorizes American Express to read his or her Tweets and see who he or she follows. When the customer tweets special offer hashtags, he or she receives special offers loaded directly onto their American Express card.

If American Express applies the right social media analytics tools to the information it gathers through these new Twitter streams, it can gain a great deal of information about its customers' preferences and overcome the problem of social media anonymity, in which it's hard to tell who a Twitter user with a handle like "catfan12" really is. It can know in minute detail what its customers are buying and doing, in real time.

The sixteen retailers who've signed up so far, including Best Buy, Dell, McDonald's, Zappos Ticketmaster and Whole Foods Market, also get new information from this program. In addition to getting their coupons distributed to consumers, these merchants will receive reports from Amex about the online and offline spending behavior of their customers, which is especially valuable to brick-and-mortar retailers that often lack information about their walk-in traffic.

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