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American Express and Discover are leading the pack in their social media efforts, with other major credit card issuers lagging behind in terms of social media outreach and programs they offer through blogs, Facebook, and social media communities.
But does social media marketing really benefit credit card customers?
We think: It depends.
Let’s take a look at some of the popular social media/credit card tie-ins and see if they serve a purpose beyond hawking specific credit card goods and services on the social Web.
American Express OPEN Forum
The OPEN forum for business owners is a community where you can read articles about running a small business, communicate with other CardMembers on a user forum, and watch videos of how smart business owners are using their Amex cards to save money and simplify business operations.
Is it useful to cardholders? Extremely.
And because you can access some (but not all) areas of the forum without an Amex card, it’s also a great marketing tool for the company.
American Express recently made its card offerings even more desirable to small business owners by offering the option to redeem rewards points for Facebook advertising at a rate of 6,750 points for $50 in Facebook ads.
American Express Social Currency
If the OPEN forum is tailor made for small business owners, the American Express lifestyle website GetCurrency.com is designed for regular cardholders. Through Federated Media, the site offers tips on saving money, tools and technology, dining and entertaining, and more.
The Social Currency theme ties-in with a mobile app of the same name, where Amex users can earn discounts and rewards point by checking in to their location through FourSquare. The app lets you see what your friends are using their rewards points to buy, add products to your “wish list,” and lots more.
Discover Social Media Initiatives
In a quarter-long contest, “Feel the Earn” Discover card members were encouraged to share tips and tricks for earning and spending rewards points. Participants entered through a special Discover card Facebook page.
Discover also uses video strategically in social media by uploading the popular commercials featuring “Peggy,” a call center employee at the fictional USA Prime Credit credit card company, to YouTube.
Peggy even has his own Facebook fan page where he interacts with fans and (presumably) Discover card holders. Peggy’s fan page is not an advertisement for Discover, but an odd cultural phenomena made possible through social media.
On the Six Flags theme park fan page, Peggy and his call center friend Brad are the stars of a video series where they “discover” they’re not getting VIP treatment at the park without a Discover card.
The page kept me captivated (read: wasting time) for nearly an hour, so you could call it successful marketing by Discover.
Chase, Capital One, Citi, Bank of America and other credit cards all have Facebook fan pages for their companies in general or specific card offerings. None have the level of interactivity or community involvement as Discover or American Express, who lead the way in social media outreach.
The Bottom Line: Is Social Media Helpful to Credit Card Customers?
I’d say that both Amex and Discover have found the perfect balance between offering value to customers — whether it is useful business or money management advice or simply fun diversions — and promoting their brands and images through social media.
The social media initiatives of American Express do a lot to make others — who may not have access to all the information CardMembers can get online — desire to have the card themselves.
Discover’s outreach efforts seem to be targeted more at showing members how to maximize their rewards, getting them to use their Discover card over other options.
It will be interesting to watch as the other major credit card companies recognize the value and race to catch up to Discover and Amex in the social media game.
What kind of social media outreach would you like to see your favorite credit card company doing?