American Express’s guide to social media engagement

From Facebook and Foursquare to Twitter and LinkedIn, here’s a look at how the company engages its audience—and what you can learn from its approach.

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

The truth is that social media is becoming a vital asset with enormous reach.

So how does a conservative industry like financial services use social media?

We look to American Express (Amex) for some answers.


American Express knows that Facebook will create more stories than the company could achieve on its own as followers share content such as videos, images and 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 the company’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 numbers in the S1 filing) then the potential reach of Facebook conversations about Amex is more than 3 million.

American Express didn’t have to pay a cent to reach those 3 million-plus people other than building a Facebook network and publishing its content on the site. Essentially, you have to be in it to win it!

Here are some ways it engages with Facebook fans:

  1. Its images and photos are not just about American Express but about its members and partners.
  2. It builds its fan base by offering specials and exclusive offers to those who “like” its page.
  3. American Express understands that “entertaining” is as essential as informing on the social Web, and has a tab devoted to the topic.
  4. Amex also knows that its Facebook fans need incentives to participate. One of the main reasons fans “like” a page is so they can receive savings and special offers. Again, this is a tab featured on its page.


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

It understands online video to engage users, and that an entertaining or humorous video is more likely to be shared than just a piece of text.

It is obvious from the interaction below that it uses a community manager to interact in real time to inquiries by Twitter followers.


American Express knows the value of having social networks where its target audience hangs out.

LinkedIn with its 150 million-high earning and sizable net worth professionals is a social media network channel that’s worth establishing and participating for Amex. It has more than 78,000 followers.


Social media networks are not just about being serious but having some fun. After all, 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 a place to share a corporate message.

The success and social proof evidence is shown by the sizable number of views (nearly 18 million) on American Express’s branded YouTube channel.


American Express uses Foursquare to provide incentives for merchants and customers to use the Amex card to obtain savings when they visit participating merchants. 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 has built a sizeable network of more than 65,000 followers. Size does matter and should be a priority in your social media marketing strategy.

Jeff Bullas is a digital media coach, mentor, consultant and speaker. He blogs at, where a version of this article originally ran. (Image via)

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