23 Jan

American Express OPEN Forum – A Small Biz Community Case Study

Neat visual case study about American Express OPEN’s social media approach at the OPEN Forum — the following presentation by VizEdu does a nice job capturing it: 

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.

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  1. Amanda said on January 24th, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I think that’s what a makes a social media community good. When there is noone stopping you from expressing yourself and your thoughts & ideas. Amex is doing a good job at promoting open conversations. I wonder if that’s where the name came from…

  2. Martin Lindeskog said on January 24th, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    I am glad to be a participant at the forum. Do you know if other financial companies are catching up and have started their own online communities, similar to Open Forum?

  3. Bianca Aquino said on January 26th, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Is American Express forum only for Americans?

  4. Bianca Aquino said on January 27th, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Btw, the presentation of the graph is really impressive. Sometimes it do really helps to spend a little more effort with your presentation. Readers would love to stare, read, stare and read all over again. 🙂

  5. TJ said on January 27th, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    @Martin — yes, there are others. Just look at the credit cards in your wallet and you’ll find they followed American Express OPEN Forum. And Anita!

    @Bianca — I thought it is for any American Express cardholder, but it could be totally open to anyone.

    I love the fact that they’ve opened it up and left it alone. Left the comments, good and bad, to be what they are and let the community speak. Absolutely essential and they knew that. Of course, they had people like John Batelle and Anita and Guy Kawasaki advising them, to some degree. Professionals who knew and deeply understood how the social media universe works.

  6. Bianca Aquino said on January 27th, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    TJ, thanks for the reply. I appreciate that.

  7. Bianca Aquino said on January 29th, 2009 at 3:24 am

    I think there are, Martin! Try googling Visa or MasterCard.

  8. TJ said on January 29th, 2009 at 3:42 am

    This presentation is cool. I went to VizEdu’s site and thought it was some type of application, but it appears they are a consulting type shop and can help you create a presentation or site. Either way, it is still very attractive and grabs your attention. Has anyone here used their services before?

  9. Bianca Aquino said on January 30th, 2009 at 3:01 am

    Definitely TJ. They succeed in grabbing everyone’s attention.

  10. Staci said on January 30th, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    The OPEN Forum has been a great place to learn for me and they are doing an excellent job of allowing the thoughts, opinions and views of others to be unleashed there. In my opinion, a little controversy is a good thing as both sides tend to come out of it having learned a thing or two that they may have otherwise not known about regarding the opposing side of view. Personally, I’m glad that they’re not afraid to let that take place there.

  11. Sandeep Arora said on February 2nd, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Thanks for sharing our Flash Presentation. I absolutely love Open Forum – have spent hours watching the videos. Richard Branson’s videos are awesome and inspiring.

    Open Forum emits a positive enthusiasm – broadcasts inspiration. That is what i like about open forum.
    Credit obviously goes to the content writers – like yourself, Guy, etc.

  12. Karen said on February 2nd, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I totally agree with Amanda. The essence of a good social media community is allowing users to express their thoughts and ideas. I used to think that online communities where a waste of time. But I have learned a lot since I joined my first small business community. I even found ideas for cutting costs such as teleconferencing on http://www.24conference.com/blog. The American Express Open Forum is going to be huge for business owners.

  13. Ivana Taylor said on February 7th, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    You have to admire the supporters of the AMEX open forum. It takes guts to not meddle and let the conversations unfold. I also appreciate reading the articles from the expanded expert community. Whenever businesses ask me the right way to handle their social media strategy – I often recommend the AMEX open Forum approach.

  14. Joel Libava said on February 8th, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    OPEN is one of coolest places for small biz owners to hang out. I find it a little edgy, and has a nice llok and feel. Didn’t it just win an award, last year?
    Joel Libava

  15. Waldo Waldman said on September 9th, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Freedom of speech is what make America beautiful. The ability to express yourself and your ideas without fear of getting band or physically punished. I appreciate this forum because of that. Real business, real people.

  16. Steven Roddy said on September 9th, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    I agree Waldo! As a marketing model, I love the controversial topics. controversy is what causes you to think, express and explore. In marketing, controversy sells. That is why you rarely see newspaper companies going out of business. There is always some form of juicy gossip, tabloid, or secret information that is being released.

  17. du hoc uc said on March 16th, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Definitely TJ. They succeed in grabbing everyone’s attention.

  18. Elena said on May 4th, 2014 at 10:27 am

    I am hesitant to sign because you have to agree that Open Forum would like to Access to
    1) Retrieve and post updates to LinkedIn as you
    2) Send messages and invitations to connect as you

    I must be misreading this because I can’t imagine anyone wants to agree to have anyone else send messages and invitations to connect on your behalf.

    Can anyone clarify?


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