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How American Express is Integrating Social Media into its Marketing DNA

I remember my father gently chiding my grandfather as to his conservative approach to life. My grandfather was brought up when the world changed ever so slowly and never lived to see the mobile phone or the internet. He was a man who was very slow to adapt to change, which was common for his generation.How American Express is Integrating Social Media into its Marketing DNA

His conservative approach was evidenced by the “belt and braces” approach to life… If his belt broke his braces were always there to hold his pants up. My father said this was the perfect example of a pessimist!

Being slow to adapt to change is not necessarily a bad thing but if business conservatism is standing in the way of innovation and company growth then it is not a positive but often a hindrance.

Large global brands in traditional conservative industries very often see social media as a threat because they hear and see PR horror stories. They feel they have much more to lose than gain by participating and embracing “new media”.

The truth is that social media is becoming a vital asset that provides global publishing platforms with enormous reach and velocity that are searchable and available 24 hours a day.

The Crowd Sourcing of Marketing

Social networks additionally provide viral platforms that can create more stories about your brand than you could ever hope to achieve through your own advertising and marketing efforts with paid traditional marketing media.

This is because  it provides “crowd sourcing” of story telling and marketing.

So how does a traditionally conservative industry sector such as financial services participate, integrate and optimize on a social web.

Here is how American Express are embracing social.


American Express knows that leveraging Facebook with its viral “many to many” social connections will create more stories about AMEX than they could ever achieve on their own as those followers share AMEX’s content including videos, images, and text articles.

In looking at the key metric on American Express’s Facebook page “Talking about this“,  the number of crowd sourced stories at a particular moment in time is 13,406 (this is the number of actions such as likes, comments and shares by AMEX’s fans).

If you multiply this by the number of friends each of these stories may reach (the average user has 234 friends according to an extrapolation of the n umbers in the S1 filing) then the “potential” reach of conversations on Facebook about AMEX is 3,137,004.

American Express did not have to pay a cent to reach those 3 million plus people apart from building the Facebook network and starting the dynamic stories by publishing their content on Facebook.

It did have to participate on Facebook and it did have to actively build its network of fans that currently stands at nearly 2.5 million. Essentially you have to be in it to win it!

American Express Facebook Page

If you look at  AMEX’s Facebook strategy, tactics and activities you will notice how they have woven Facebook into its marketing DNA because they know the power of marketing to a social network with the scale and size of Facebook.

These are the latest statistics released by Facebook and revealed by Huffington Post in its S1 Filing for its upcoming IPO that reveal the scale of the Facebook social network.

  • Facebook as the worlds largest social network with nearly 1 in 2 people who are on the internet being users is the primary social channel that most brands and companies participate on.
  • Monthly active users now total 901 million (up from 680 million a year ago)
  • Daily active users are up to 526 million (up from 372 million last year)
  • Monthly mobile users now total 488 million
  • 300 million photos are uploaded to the site each day
  • 3.2 billion Likes and Comments are posted daily
  • 125 billion friendships are forged per day.
  • Revenue for the first quarter of 2012 was $1.058 billion, up from $731 last year

Here are some key activities American Express utilize to engage with their fans on Facebook

  1. Their images and photos are not just about American Express but about their members and partners.
  2. They build their fan base by offering specials and exclusive offers to those that “like” their AMEX Facebook page. They know that a larger network gives them more reach, leverage and crowd sourced stories and marketing that money cannot buy.
  3. American Express understand that “entertaining” not just informing is essential on the social web and have one of their key tabs all about entertainment
  4. AMEX also knows that its Facebook fans need incentives to participate and one of the main reasons fans “like a page is so they can receive savings and special offers and so feature this tab in their visible tabs on their Facebook page

Americans Express also prides itself on innovation and this is evidenced by the fact that they were included in the “World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Finance Companies” by Fast Company.


American Express uses its Twitter account to distribute its content and also uses it to engage with followers and answer questions.

They understand the power of  online video to engage the user and understand that an entertaining or humorous video is more likely to be shared than just a piece of text.

It is obvious from the interaction I have highlighted below that they are using a community manager to interact in real time to questions inquiries by Twitter followers.

American Express Twitter Social Network


American Express knows the  value of having social networks where their target audiences are hanging out.

LinkedIn with its 150 million high earning and sizable net worth professionals are a social media network channel that  is worth establishing and participating on for AMEX.

It also integrates its other social networks by linking and embedding other social networks such as YouTube.

American Express Linked Page


American Express’s branded YouTube channel reveals more about the weaving of social into their marketing strategy.

Firstly they have created videos that are made for social networks and traditional media like television.

The success and social proof evidence is shown by the sizable number of views (nearly 18 million).

Social media networks are not just about being serious but having some fun because at the end of the day they are “social” and “human” networks, they just happen to be online rather than offline!

The YouTube channel is about entertainment and lifestyle not just about a corporate message.

THey also make it easy to click through to your social network of choice by having them obvious and linked in the YouTube home page.

American Express YouTube social media channel


American Express are using the location based technologies of the social game Foursquare to provide incentives for merchants and customers to use the American Express card to obtain savings when they visit participating merchants and use their AMEX credit card . It uses the Foursquare mobile app to power this marketing campaign.

This strategy is also about creating crowd sourced conversations and stories on this social network of 15 million users.

By actively participating on Foursquare AMEX have built a sizeable network of over 65, 000 followers that leverages their brand. Size does matter and should be a priority in your social media marketing strategy.

American Express Foursquare

What About You?

Are you integrating your social networks into the marketing DNA of your brand and business? What social networks work for you with your customers and prospects?

Look forward to hearing your experiences and stories

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  • Anonymous

    I am really liking how AMEX is moving in the social media channels, especially their foursquare strategy! Locking in the partnerships early help to gain competitive advantages!!

    • Thanks for your comments Dwayne. The Foursquare partnership is an interesting one but it is only available in the US because Fousquare doesn’t have critical mass anywhere else yet, but time will tell

  • Peter Wilkinson

    Like the blog Jeff; no mention of Pinterest?

  • Becca Seo

    Because they know how powerful social media and there are more prospect
    client in the internet that usually socializing. It has now been a bridge between
    the actual consumers and the companies.

    • Thanks Becca for your comment and insight. Jeff

  • I’ve had my eye on AMEX for a while. I think they’re doing some great stuff to engage with audience using social channels in a way that makes people want to interact with them. I give them a great amount of kudos for the work they’re doing.
    My only gripe (and this is more personal to myself) is that while they have a great thing going in the US, they seem to fall short in other places. As a Canadian I read and hear about these great things they’re doing in social, but I don’t get a chance to participate or interact. They’re forgetting that people word-wide use their services, not just the US (which I’m sure is their largest market). Other than that though, I’m constantly impressed by what most people would believe to be an old school, stuffy type company.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos 

  • Thanks for dropping in Bhuvan. Amex even though it is in a conserative industry has realised the power of social media to leverage and amplify its brand globally and create dynamic storytelling.

  • Thanks for your comments Adil and yes you are right about the Facebook Edgerank algorithm but I did use the term “potential reach” because it depends on the level of engagement as to how many actually see it 🙂

  • Thanks for your comments Adil and yes you are right about the Facebook Edgerank algorithm but I did use the term “potential reach” because it depends on the level of engagement as to how many actually see it 🙂

  • Thanks for your comments Adil and yes you are right about the Facebook Edgerank algorithm but I did use the term “potential reach” because it depends on the level of engagement as to how many actually see it 🙂

  • Steven Ramirez

    Hi Jeff,

    Very nice overview of American Express’ social media efforts.  We did a deeper dive into one of their programs, Link, Like, Love distributed via Facebook. A link to the case study is available on the Beyond the Arc blog: http://beyondthearc.com/blog/2012/customer-experience/taking-card-rewards-programs-to-the-next-level

    Steven Ramirez, CEO
    Beyond the Arc

    • Thanks Steven for further information on AMEX. It adds a even more information to the conversation

    • Thanks Steven for further information on AMEX. It adds a even more information to the conversation

    • Thanks Steven for further information on AMEX. It adds a even more information to the conversation

  • Excellent article, Jeff! It’s clear that AMEX truly “gets it”. I often refer to AMEX as a great example of a Finserv company that thoroughly understands the benefits of community engagement, in all channels, and how to connect social to all their marketing initiatives.
    Thanks again for the great read!

    Julie Meredith

     Radian6 – Community Engagement Specialist/ Financial Services

    • Thanks Julie for your comment. I think they lead financial services in that regard.