Facebook users with profile info suggesting they could use a small business credit card have likely seen an ad on the social site recently for American Express's "Open" initiative. And the brand's targeting of SMBs has been ratcheted up a notch, as today Amex announced a contest called "Facebook Big Break for Small Business," giving small businesses the chance to win $20,000 cash and a trip to Facebook's headquarters.
Five winners will fly to Palo Alto, CA, where they can attend a "boot camp" on Facebook advertising and marketing. In addition, 10 runners-up will win $2,500 credit for Facebook ads.
Visitors to Facebook.com/Open (180,700 "likes") can enter the contest by submitting answers to three questions that detail how they'd improve the reach of their business if they won. They are also asked to upload up to three photos of their small business, and provide contact information.
A panel of marketing industry executives, including Laura Fink of American Express, Facebook's Adele Cooper, Guy Kawasaki of Alltop, and Federated Media's John Battelle, will judge the competition.
At the so-called boot camp, the winners will be tutored on how to employ Facebook pages for business, buy and target ads, and incorporate the site's social plug-ins. According to New York-based Amex, they'll also receive one-on-one consultation about how they have been using Facebook up to that point.
The training sessions will be videoed and eventually appear on the Amex Open Facebook page, as well as on the initiative's microsite, OpenForum.com. On the Facebook page, Amex has incorporated an "Open" tab and posted a short video in which SMBs are interviewed about how Facebook helps create customer relationships. Underscoring how social media marketers almost never miss an opportunity to appear "hip," one of the SMBs is the vinyl records boutique Other Music in New York's East Village.
In a prepared statement, Julie Fajgenbaum, American Express Open VP of brand and customer marketing, said, "It's critical that business owners understand these new channels and platforms, which is why we are collaborating with Facebook to educate on the benefits of engaging customers through social media and provide real, tangible tips on how to do it effectively."
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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