AmEx encourages owners to promote Small Business Saturday themselves

Small Business Saturday, an initiative pushed by American Express to drive holiday traffic to small businesses between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is taking an increasingly social turn.

This year, American Express is urging small business owners to promote the day themselves through social media such as Facebook and Twitter, instead of relying solely on American Express’ television spots and advertising, American Express OPEN senior vice president Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly said.

“We want [Small Business Saturday] to be driven by small businesses in 2012,” she said.

The credit card giant is offering resources to help the firms, such as personalized e-mail copy, Shop Small logos, talking points, and social media copy for Twitter and Facebook.

American Express is still negotiating a deal with several large social media companies to guarantee wider promotion for the campaign in the next week.


WASHINGTON,DC- SEPT. 19, 2011: Matt Krimm and John Anderson, owners and partners, of the W.Curtis Draper Tobacco store in a new location at the corner of G and 15th streets in Washington, DC.on Sept.19,2011. W. Curtis Draper has participated in Small Business Saturday for the past two years. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR WASHINGTON POST)

The campaign’s leaders are hoping social media leverage will bring more awareness to Small Business Saturday. After its launch in 2010, 37 percent of small business owners said they were aware of the initiative, and this year, 46 percent of independent merchants plan to incorporate Small Business Saturday into their holiday sales strategy, according to a study from the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Sixty-seven percent of these businesses plan to offer discounts on the day.

American Express plans to continue its own advertising, and will reprise its $25 credit promotion, in which enrolled American Express customers can spend $25 at certain small businesses in exchange for $25 in credit, encouraging American Express credit card transactions. Last year, American Express observed a 23 percent increase in its own credit card transactions over an average Saturday, according to Reilly.

Participating small businesses have seen varying sales success on Small Business Saturday.

Loree Shirazi, who has owned pet bakery Original Paw Pleasers in San Diego, Calif. for the past 15 years, participated in Small Business Saturday for the first time last year. She said she heavily promoted the day on Facebook and other social media, as well as at her store

Shirazi offered 10 percent discounts on much of her merchandise, and said she saw an 800 percent increase in business over the same day the year before. This year, she plans to offer 15 percent discounts.

But John Anderson of W. Curtis Draper Tobacconist, a tobacco shop with locations in D.C. and Bethesda, said he hasn’t noticed an appreciable increase in traffic on Small Business Saturday in the past two years, especially at the D.C. location, where Saturdays don’t typically bring a lot of customers.

He did notice an increase in American Express card usage — which he said likely comes from the $25 credit promotion.

While he said he’ll promote the day on social media and put a couple of signs up in his shop this year, “I wouldn’t spend extra money to promote it.”

Follow On Small Business on Twitter.

Mohana Ravindranath covers IT and small business for the Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication.
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