American Express is Killing it with their Digital Media Strategy

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 10.48.01 AM

American Express went from having almost no social media presence to having an extremely strong one in just a few years. The credit card giant is continually launching carefully crafted social media promotion after social media promotion, allowing the brand to build a strong and passionate online community of cardholders.

American Express is active on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ — and is continually experimenting with new and emerging social networks.

The credit card company doesn’t just randomly post content. Instead, they carefully tailor each message targeted toward users on that specific medium.

Mashable spoke with Leslie Berland, SVP of digital partnerships and development at American Express, to learn about how AmEx develops its online strategy:

Customer Service is at the Core of the Strategy

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 10.47.06 AM

American Express began using social networks back in 2009, but didn’t really utilize social media until a bit later on. The company launched its social media initiative with a Twitter account called @AskAmex. The handle focuses on answering customer questions and concerns. Soon after the launch of @AskAmex, @AmericanExpress came to fruition.

Berland explained to Mashable, “Our mission is to be everywhere our Cardmembers and merchants are. To engage with them, service them, deliver unique value that’s shareable and create seamless digital experiences that surprise and delight.” She added, “We spent a great deal of time listening to the community. The community interests and feedback defined our strategy.”

Celebrating Small Businesses

The American Express social media strategy appeals to both consumers and businesses. AmEx goes beyond its core mission of enhancing the customer experience online by also creating content that appeals to merchants.

An example of how American Express reaches out to small businesses is with the Small Business Saturday campaign it created. AmEx used both online and traditional media channels to promote its Small Shop Movement. The company encouraged consumers to head over to their favorite local business on Small Business Saturday to makes purchases between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Berland told Mashable that the program was a huge success, explaining, “In 2011, more than 2.7 million Facebook users ‘liked’ the Small Business Saturday Page –- more than doubling the 1.2 million Likes in 2010. Nearly 195,000 tweets were sent in support of Small Business Saturday in November, many leveraging the hashtags #SmallBusinessSaturday and #SmallBizSat.”

Another example of American Express reaching out to small businesses is when they partnered with Twitter to open up the Twitter self-serve advertising platform to cardholders. To promote the partnership, AmEx offered up to $100 in free advertising for the first 10,000 businesses to sign up.

Yet another example of AmEx working to help small businesses is when they partnered with Facebook to create a contest where five small businesses were given a Facebook makeover and $20,000 to grow their businesses. This was part of the Small Business Saturday initiative.

Transforming Corporate Culture

Social media often forces companies to rethink corporate culture. Some companies embrace social media, while others resist and fight it (see Amy’s Baking Company). AmEx decided to embrace social media, hunting down every opportunity imaginable to increase its social media influence.

Berland explained, “The digital transformation occurring at American Express cuts across many business units, and it has to because of the breadth and depth of our business.” Adding, “From customer service to merchant services to our entertainment and travel business units, to corporate affairs, as well as our newly formed digital partnerships and development team, social media is a company-wide initiative.”

American Express was founded in 1850, so it’s anything but a new company. With over 160 years of business behind them, the company continues to evolve. The most current business trend that AmEx is embracing is figuring out how to mature in the digital space and figure out how to build a true member community online. Community and membership are at the core of the American Express business model and it shows by the way they strategically utilize the growing digital media landscape. The friendly, inclusive, and easy-going vibe that AmEx shows online makes people want to be part of the American Express experience.