Friday, October 31, 2008

Social media diary 31/10/2008 - Amex

Amex to launch online community for travel managers

One of the best examples I know of a brand using information they have to add a social layer to their site is the Members Know site from American Express. On this site Amex use the data from spending using their cards to highlight restaurants and hotels in certain cities that are popular with their members. Once you've signed up you can share your thoughts on these establishments and exchange travel tips with other business traveller. Today, they are launching a new online community, and this time it isn't aimed at the business travellers, but at the people who organise their travel for them.

Business Travel Connexion is aimed at corporate travel managers and will combine editorial from Amex and other suppliers with user-generated content. Amex hope to create a real-time resource for the members and also build a fairly homogeneous community of a group of people who would valuable to marketers. They will be able to share information and ideas with each other and also with Amex and other suppliers. The site includes a "Product Lab" area for feedback and co-creation.

So what can we learn from this?

Amex are a great example of how brands are adding social layers to their existing sites and products, delivering real value to people and making the most of the product and information they already have. With Members Know they took data that previously wasn't used externally (data on spending in hotels and restaurants) and repackaged this in a way that was both useful for members and encouraged them to interact and upload their own content. In the same way, Business Travel Connection, links a set of individual customers who are isolated (often working with no peers in their organisation) but who share a strong common bond (they all deal with the same problems). That they can be linked through the Amex brand is even more powerful.

When thinking about 'going social' - building online communities or using social media - too many firms build approaches that don't always address their unique position in the market or capitalise upon what they may have to offer. Amex have done things the right way. They've thought about their strategy and about why people would engage in an online community that they manage; and about what they have to offer that's different. These are important stages and ones that we at FreshNetworks spend a lot of time on with clients. Working out why people will engage and why they will engage on your site is a critical first step to any online community

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