Porter Novelli

“When a big company enters social media, it’s like giving birth,” Leslie Berland, SVP of digital partnerships & development at American Express stated.

Berland spoke about “The Digital Transformation of American Express: Social, Local, Mobile & Viral” at Mashable Connect 2012, sharing insights from AmEx social media campaigns and her experience trailblazing in a very large organization.

The AmEx social media team had lofty goals when they started, but Berland shared that the company’s foray into social media started with launching one Twitter account, @AskAmex. The first tweet, 3 weeks in the making, Berland noted, simply stated the purpose of the account and asked, “How can we help you?”

Since then they have scaled their social efforts and are now an innovator in the industry. Through Berland’s leadership, American Express now holds strategic partnerships with all the major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, YouTube and Zynga.

These relationships helped pave the way for future programs and integrations. In November 2010, Berland guided the launch of “Small Business Saturday,” a wildly successful Facebook campaign that quickly garnered 1 million fans and created a movement in the industry that is now in its third year.

And AmEx continues to innovate.

Just this past March, AmEx launched its Twitter Sync campaign to create a better couponing experience for users. AmEx invites you to, “Turn your tweets into exclusive offers loaded directly to your card.” The process does not involve any hard-copy coupons, you simply, “sync, tweet and save.”

The experience is very streamlined:

  1. You sync your AmEx card with your Twitter profile (through a secure AmEx-hosted site)
  2. Tweet with a special offer hashtag
  3. And then the offer is immediately loaded on your card (saving you money)

What Makes AmEx’s Twitter Sync Work?

Berland emphasized both the user experience & critical partnerships as keys to the success of Twitter Sync.

1. Ease of Use
The couponless campaign allows you to stay on the Twitter platform and instantly receive benefits from signing up to participate. Users do not want to deal with multiple screens and websites and redirects in order to join a new program.

If you have a cool campaign but your barrier to entry is complicated and logistically difficult, conversions may be low because users are likely dropping off between sites.

Also, as we should know by now, the old saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” really holds true with digital and social media. When users are on Facebook, they want to stay on Facebook and they want content that’s appropriate and optimized for Facebook. Likewise for when users are on Twitter.

So, what does this mean for your campaign?

You should optimize for the platform most relevant for your audience and create applications and campaign integrations that allow users to stay on that platform, acting as they normally would.

2. A Network Of The Right Partners
AmEx launched Twitter Sync with 16 launch partners for this campaign, including (client) McDonalds,Virgin America, Whole Foods and Best Buy among others. In total, AmEx’s partnership network for Twitter Sync included 7 million followers.

The launch mechanism for the campaign was launched organically through conversation on Twitter, which resulted in a viral campaign resulting in viral growth early on.

The Overlooked Key To Social Media Campaigns

Berland also spoke about the various forms of relationships that are necessary to create a successful social media campaign.

This should be intuitive given the industry is called “social” media, but sometimes we get so focused on the ROI we overlook the critical role of relationships.  Relationships make the campaigns possible and give us something to measure.

The HOVA
By the way, the Twitter Sync launch event included a concert at SXSW featuring an artist with 2 million Twitter followers who hails from the Empire State. That’s right. Jay-Z.

HubSpot summed it up nicely in its campaign review:

This Jay-Z concert was the official launch of the cardholder’s program, and one of the 25,000 tickets to the show was offered to every cardholder, for free, who synced their AmEx card and Twitter account… marketers should care because this is an example of not just one brand, but many brands coming together and actually executing a large scale Twitter campaign correctly.


So, as you’re considering your next social media campaign, heed these lessons from AmEx and ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is the user experience aligned with your goals?
  2. And have you invested in strategic partnerships?