American Express OPEN Forum – A Small Biz Community Case Study
- 17 Comments
- January 23rd, 2009
The idea is to provide information and strike up a conversation with small business owners, on a special conversational site that American Express OPEN has set up (separate and apart from its corporate website). Among the benefits to American Express OPEN from the OPEN Forum initiative are: building brand equity, acquiring new customers, and building loyalty of existing customers.
Of course, I am one of the people involved with the OPEN Forum — yep, that’s me on that slide of the presentation. I was one of the original blogger-commentators in the blog portion of the site, from the very beginning. After a while, American Express OPEN gave approval and even encouraged me to involve the talented network of contributing Experts from Small Business Trends in writing at the site — widening the circle of conversation.
It’s a fun project and a testament to the open-mindedness and creativity of the American Express OPEN staff, their agency Digitas, and Federated Media. Collectively they all had the vision to see what the OPEN Forum could become.
But the best part for me is that American Express OPEN is totally hands-off when it comes to the conversational element. They have had the guts to let the conversation happen … to let the conversation be directed by small business owners and entrepreneurs, and not try to control it.
For instance, they’ve never once said anything about the topics covered on the blog, even when a few of the topics have been controversial or unpopular in certain circles. There was the time I spoke out against reclassification of independent contractors as employees and ticked off some union activists. And there was the time I suggested that RFID technology was unfairly maligned and got the conspiracy-theorist posse on my tail. And a few of the other authors, such as Guy Kawasaki, have written some controversial things, too. But American Express OPEN does not try to squelch free speech.
If you’re looking to develop a vibrant social media community for small business owners, the OPEN Forum is an excellent case study. It’s the kind of project to feel proud of.