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Amex launches contest for small biz

American Express OPEN has launched its “Facebook Big Break for Small Business,” a national contest designed to help transform the way small businesses use Facebook to connect and engage with customers in a more authentic and personalized way.

American Express OPEN will award five small business owners an all-expense paid trip to Facebook’s Headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., for a two-day, in-depth one-on-one business makeover and a $20,000 cash prize to drive their social media strategy to help their business grow with social media. Winners will be tutored on how to maximize the power of Facebook to better market their businesses, products and services to their existing customer base, and target new customer segments. Each will get practical and personal training on best practices for using Facebook pages, ads and social plugins, and will also receive a consultation about their current use of Facebook.

These Facebook training sessions will be documented and appear on OPEN’s Facebook Page and OPEN Forum, American Express’ award-winning online resource and networking site for small business owners. Content will also include “How To” videos where Facebook answers small business owner questions on how to effectively market on Facebook. Before the five winners are chosen, ten runners-up will win $2,500 in Facebook advertising to help them target and acquire new potential customers.

Nearly half of small businesses said they use social networking sites to communicate with customers and market their products, according to the latest results from the semi-annual American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor. This represents a substantial increase from 2009, when only one-in-ten respondents reported actively using social networking sites. Facebook is the most popular social media site for small business owners, according to the 2011 survey.

“Small business owners are experts at customer engagement, but the tools and techniques for finding and engaging customers are quickly evolving,” said Julie Fajgenbaum, Vice President, Brand and Customer Marketing, American Express OPEN. “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.”

“Facebook is committed to the success of small businesses,” said Adele Cooper, Director of Global Customer Marketing and Communications at Facebook. “Using Facebook, a business can find new customers, let their customers recommend and share information about their business, and create loyalty by hosting an ongoing two-way conversation. This word-of-mouth-marketing is unique to Facebook and allows businesses to create a more personal and engaging relationship with their customers.”

How to Enter

To enter the Facebook Big Break for Small Business from American Express OPEN, small business owners need to visit and submit answers to a short questionnaire describing how they would utilize the competition’s winnings to better their business. During the first round of judging, ten small business finalists will be selected by a panel of judges, including Laura Fink, of American Express, Adele Cooper of Facebook, Guy Kawasaki of Alltop and John Battelle of Federated Media.

Each submission will be judged based on the following criteria:

  • Commitment to their business and growth;
  • Overall social media need where Facebook could improve their business;
  • Energy and enthusiasm for small business.
  • Finalists will then compete in a final round of judging where OPEN Facebook fans will be asked to vote for their five favorite small businesses to win the trip to Facebook and $20,000 prize.

American Express and Facebook Powered Inaugural “Small Business Saturday”

Last year, American Express and Facebook teamed up for the first-ever “Small Business Saturday.” To encourage shoppers to “shop small” during the 2010 holiday season, American Express and Facebook offered free Facebook advertising to 10,000 business owners who signed up to participate. To date, roughly 1.5 million people have “liked” “Small Business Saturday” on Facebook.

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