Amex Extends Social Media Strategy with Small-Biz Twitter Offer

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American Express Co. is dangling another lure to hook its small-business cardholders on social media as a promotional channel: $100 worth of Twitter advertising.

The offer builds on previous social-media promotions Amex did with Facebook, Patch and Foursquare.

Twitter Inc. on Feb. 17 announced plans to roll out a service this year that simplifies the process of buying Twitter ads. Amex is teaming with Twitter to promote the new service, providing early access to its customers in late March and providing a $100 credit toward Twitter ads for the first 10,000 Amex cardholders who sign up.

The service, which Twitter calls its first advertising system designed specifically for small businesses, will enable owners "to run their own promotional campaigns" through an interactive program instead of working directly with Twitter sales reps, Twitter said on its advertising blog.

For Amex, the move appears to be another in a series designed to get small-business customers to experiment with using paid social media to promote their businesses.

In a first for the credit card industry, Amex last June announced that its customers could use Amex's Membership Rewards points to pay for Facebook advertising.

Amex simultaneously launched an application on its website for small-business owners to create special deals and discounts for other Amex cardholders based on their preferences.

Though Amex declines to reveal participation numbers, its social-media offerings for small businesses have been well received, says Brad Minor, Amex vice president for social media communications.

"We got into social media early with our small-business customers, and we're putting a huge focus on this area as a way to drive business and win over new cardholders," Minor says.

And while many entrepreneurs are struggling to find ways to use social media for promotional purposes, the $100 Twitter advertising credit "at least gives business owners an incentive to try it," Minor says.

But investing in "promoted Tweets" may not work for all small businesses, says Robert Scoble, a website-development expert and social media blogger.

"Buying an ad on Google can make sense for a small business if you're going after consumers who are looking to buy something specific, like a local dry cleaners," Scoble says. "But small or local businesses using Twitter for brand advertising or promotions would need to devise some specific strategies to target local communities online."

Twitter's system offers business owners access to both "promoted trends" and "promoted Tweets," which are targeted to search results and therefore increase visibility of specific Tweets of interest to Web users, Amex says.

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