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Amex OPEN Forum Is First to Deploy FM's Conversationalist Ad Unit

Conversationalist unit for Amex

I spotted this at my former colleague James Gross’s blog.

“Here is what we call a Conversationalist unit, that runs between a post and comments. The unit is made to drive a call to action as a user finishes reading an article and is off to share, comment or engage in the next or related publisher’s work.

“This ad grabs the latest posts from the American Express OPEN Forum along with the corresponding hero images (on the left). On the right you have the most popular stories over the last 24 hours you can scroll through.”

He closes his post with the evolution of a marketer (I’m picturing that bumper sticker with the monkey -> cave man -> upright man -> soccer player).

Brands have customers -> Lucky brands have fans -> Really lucky brands build an audience.

Amex Adds Financial Management Content to Its Blog

This week Amercian Express’s OPEN Forum blog launches a new section on Financial Management, with editorial contributions from Paul Kedrosky and the writers at Wisebread, The Simple Dollar, Recession Wire and others.

Amex Financial Mgmt Section

Amex OPEN Forum “Best Social Media Effort,” Sez @TheBrandBuilder

Gabriel Rossi @TheBrandBuilder tells his 1200 followers that Amex’s OPEN Forum blog is “one of the best social media efforts I’ve ever seen.”

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Amazing (and widespread) credibility for a website that started as an ad campaign.

Amex OPEN Forum Blog: A Top 25 Blog for Entrepreneurs

Earlier this week, I claimed that American Express’s OPEN Forum blog had been validated by the mainstream press as a legitimate small business publication. Now sites like Open Business are counting the OPEN Forum blog among the most influential blogs for entrepreneurs, alongside the leading editorial voices on the web: Matt Marshall’s VentureBeat, Arrington’s TechCrunch, MacManus’s Read/Write Web, Guy Kawasaki’s How to Change the World, Fred Wilson’s AVC, Anita Campbell’s Small Business Trends, Blodget’s Alley Insider, and others. Open Business ranks the OPEN Forum site at 21 out of the best 150.

That’s not a total surprise, given that many of the above authors are contributors to OPEN Forum site, and that American Express has the good sense to let them write unfiltered editorial stories that have no direct relation to any American Express product.

(Disclosures: FM works with American Express on the OPEN Forum blog, and the above authors are all part of the FM family.)

Amex OPEN Forum Blog: It's an SMB Publication Now

I’ve viewed American Express’s OPEN Forum blog as a legitimate small business publication for a long time, but, hey, I’m biased. Amex partners with FM and top SMB authors and experts (Anita Campbell, Scott Belsky, Guy Kawasaki, John Jantsch, Mike Masnick, Knowledge@Wharton, the Techdirt Insight Community, et al) to create the editorial content published on the site. (More on the FM / Amex partnership here.)

Turns out, I’m not a alone. Mainstream business publications such as the NY Times, Entrepreneur, FT and Mediapost are four that sourced Amex OPEN blog articles — this week alone.

NYT Sources Amex OPEN Forum The Bluetoes Christmas Elf trailer

AMEX Open Blog Wins Praise In Multiple Languages

I hope the folks at Cococu are saying nice things!

Marketing Shift weighs in, too:

“…companies are looking for ways to aggregate communities even if it’s not directly tied to their core business. Chris Brogan points out that American Express is doing just that with its OPEN Forum, which aggregates blog and business information in one place and encourages conversation in a sponsored area with the hopes of subtly marketing to people who have an interest in business information (e.g. potential American Express users). When you think about it, the concept is a no-brainer. We trust people more when we don’t feel like they are selling us on something. It’s why we hate ads — and marketing.”

Steven Lewis at Inside the Box, while not exactly speaking a different language, adds his support from Australia.

And if financial jargon qualifies as a foreign language, we can count NetBanker:

“American Express’s OpenForum: As the name suggests, it’s a business forum and resource directory, not unlike Bank of America’s…. American Express has added posts from several prominent bloggers such as John Battelle’s Searchblog and Anita Campbell’s Small Biz Trends, to keep the site fresh. The site has 5,400 members and monthly traffic of about 11,000 unique visitors, up three-fold from a year ago.”

Goes to show you: If your marketing projects are great media with quality content and authentic conversation, not only will you engage your customers more deeply, you’ll benefit from social-media amplification as those customers spread the word across the web.

AMEX Open Blog Wins Even More Fans

Here’s more positive coverage of American Express’s OPEN Forum blog, a partnership between American Express and several FM business authors. My favorite line:

“To everyone behind the creation of the OPEN Forum, good job! To anyone who has not checked it out yet, please do!”

AMEX Open Blog June 2008

AMEX Open Blog Wins More Fans

Chris Brogan writes American Express is OPEN.

He’s referring not only to Amex’s small business brand (OPEN Forum is an American Express trademark); he’s congratulating the company on its open approach to content at the OPEN Forum blog, a site where American Express teams up with several FM-affiliate small-business authors to create credible, third-party business content (not advertising or advertorial) and to give American Express customers reason to come back to the site for something other than account status. As my colleague James Gross (the guy who put this program together) describes it:

“Our goal was to bring together leading experts in an engaging experience at the OPEN platform itself. Thus, any of the authors work that was picked up on other blogs, social media engines like Digg, StumbleUpon, etc., would all give credit back to OPEN as being the keeper/facilitator of the conversation. In the new world of media, these trackbacks and links provide a new form of Brand Equity for OPEN. This again drives home the point behind the OPEN brand that they are here for Small Businesses to make their life better and grow their business.”

Brogan, a business blogger himself, likes the idea:

“I think it’s definitely a way to build a content network [for a marketer] that would be more useful to end readers. It’s not that we don’t want more traffic to our blog, but that there are ways this content can be made more useful to end readers, by being curated by others in interesting ways. That’s why we use Creative Commons. That’s why we use RSS. It’s the plan.”

Google Results for Plum Card, the Newest Card from Amex

American Express announced their new “plum card” earlier this month at the Inc 500 event in Chicago. Two FM authors, John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing and Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends, attended the event and covered the launch. (Amex runs ads on both sites.)

Googling “plum card” gives you a glimpse into the new dynamics of influence. Business Week and Inc. have more reach (unique users and pageviews) than sites like Duct Tape Marketing and Small Business Trends, and American Express owns the “plum card” trademark, but Google ranks results in order of relevance. Which sites, Google’s algorithm asks, are most trusted by others, based on their in-bound links? It turns out Duct Tape Marketing (the #2 organic result) and Small Business Trends (#3) are the marketshare leaders when it comes to trust influence in the world small business. American Express’s own site ranks #4.

Google for Plum Card

Imus Loses P&G, Amex, GM and Staples Money

I’m glad to see this. Being offensive — even in the name of humor or whatever else — is becoming more expensive. At least four blue-chip advertisers have pulled the plug on the “Imus in the Morning” sponsorships. A P&G spokesperson told AdAge:

“This particular venue where our ad appeared was offensive to our target audience. And so that’s not acceptable to us….”

Related: Advertisers pull ads off Ann Coulter’s site (Link).