FT ComMetrics Global 500 blogs case study: American Express

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2008/12/02 · 6 comments 1 views

in a dos and don'ts,c blogging - case studies,d business Fortune 500,d business SME

    The Ups, Downs, Ins, and Outs of corporate blogging at a Fortune 500 company. American Express tries aggregating content to gather conversation. Does this attract new clients and also help build the brand?

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During 2008, several financial institutions have opened small business networks on the Web. Today we focus on:

American Express’ OPEN Forum

The owner of OPENforum.com describes the site as an education and networking resource. The site provides small business owners with practical, actionable information from business experts, celebrity business owners, and best-in-class bloggers and news outlets.

It is a project where AMEX through Federated has a blog area that aggregates interesting business content. The objective is to gather a conversation in a sponsored area by current clients who own a small business and those that might still become clients of AMEX’s products and services.

The ‘blog’ is essentially a way for AMEX to spread its brand by piggy bagging using blog content from various commissioned writers. Chris Brogan did a nice review shortly after the site opened:

2008-06-21 by Chris Brogan – American Express is open

In October 2008, American Express Company announced the launch of OPEN Forum’s Economy section, a new platform for small business owners. The site aims to give business owners a way to discuss how the current state of the economy affects their businesses. Looks as if the editor of this section – Anita Campbell and her team are one reason why the membership (5,400) and unique visitors (11,000) has nearly doubled since May 2008:

Look Who is Appearing on the American Express OPEN Forum


1) For getting some benchmark data, I went to our web-based application and typed in the URL:


Google PageRank of 5 is reported and some more stuff (CHECK IT OUT YOURSELF – see above link).

2) Calling the forum OPEN is smart, since OPEN is AMEX’s small business brand.

Accordingly, even the uninitiated person can figure out that this information forum is for small businesses owners sponsored by a small business geared credit card.

3) Having these experts write about issues that are of interest to small business owners in the U.S. means they get news content that is of value to them.

4) Another nice thing is that you can get access to the content without having to subscribe first.


a) There is quite a bit of content coming your way each week. To reduce the time needed to read it all you can look at particular content section of the site only:

Small Business Trends Contributors — follows trends in small business.

Unfortunately, the RSS option does not allow you to subscribe to a particular section of this site or one writer’s content only (e.g., Guy Kawasaki – The sole of a new machine – Zappos is a machine).

b) If we consider that some claim about 20 percent of blog readers use RSS feeds, why not offer people to subscribe to the content using e-mail

c) While the site covers issues of interest to small business owners, the latter are a very heterogeneous group of individuals wanting different kind of content depending upon the:

size of the small business – self-employed individuals have different needs for relevant information than a business with 100 employees; and

– retail versus wholesale biz – online vs. brick store – finance or building industry and so forth.

Not everybody can serve this heterogeneous group like Guy Kawasaki with the post – The Art of Bootstrapping. Good that he blogs for this site :-)

Mastering these points will be critical factors when it comes to the future success of this blog. As well, resolving these issues will remove the obstacles that could prevent the site from reaching the objectives that were set for it, such as:

– How do the blog and its valuable content affect the bottom line for the OPEN brand?

– Will having this blog make AMEX’s cash register ring more often than without?


I like this blog very much. Nevertheless, if many large businesses do similar things as American Express did with this blog, content needs to be tailored specifically to readers one wants to reach – potential and current customers of the OPEN – small business – card American Express offers. Here there might still be some room for improvement.

I hope that the owners of the site will further tailor content to serve small business owners in particular areas.

I do not think I will subscribe to this blog right now even though I run a small business. Its content is a bit broad for my liking.

Please share your feedback, ideas, and critique.


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  • http://daringfireball.net/projects/smartypants/ Guy Fritzen

    Great post.

    By the way, why does AMEX not offer one to subscribe via e-mail. I don’t use RSS and why should I have to?

    no e-mail subscriptions on the Open Forum blog

  • http://www.smallbiztrends.com Anita Campbell

    Hello, thank you so much for noting our work on this blog. I and my assistant, Staci, and the Experts who are part of my network, work very hard to come up with quality content on a regular schedule. So it is nice to know that people are reading. :)

    You raise some excellent points. Let me share a couple of thoughts:

    (1) Yes, the content is broad but I think that helps it appeal to a very very wide range of interests. That reflects the range of interests of American Express OPEN customers. They are not all in the same industries. They are not all in the same stage (startup versus established). They do not all have the same interests.

    So I thought long and hard about: “how does one appeal to the widest range of interests possible?”

    In the Small Business Trends Network, for instance, I do that by selecting the Experts based on particular areas of expertise and their writing styles. Dawn Rivers Baker writes about microbusiness issues and in particular follows regulatory issues. Deborah Chaddock Brown writes from the home-based business perspective, often with humor that those in similar situations can relate to. Steve King has written about artists and online artisans. I write about practical operational issues of interest to mainstream small businesses. And so on. Not every reader will be interested in everything (I’m not interested in everything in the Financial Times, for instance, but I do read parts of it). Yet I think the blog tries to be all-inclusive by design, because OPEN’s customers cover such a wide range.

    (2) The blog is built on WordPress software, and it’s a little-known fact that you can very easily create your own feed for particular authors or topics — in about 5 seconds. Here’s how to subscribe to different authors: just add “/feed” at the end of the URL for the author’s contributions page.

    To subscribe just to Guy Kawasaki, use this feed URL:


    To subscribe to Anita Campbell on the OPEN Forum, use this feed URL:


    You can even subscribe just to certain topics, such as “Management”:


    And so on. Maybe in the future the OPEN Forum will consider making these special-interest feed URLs into the orange RSS button to make it easier for people to subscribe to just certain channels, authors or interests.

    I think that is one way OPEN could appeal to as wide a range of customers as possible, but still allow those customers to self-select content based upon their own interests.


  • http://FTindex.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Dear Guy and Anita

    Guy thanks for this input, I agree it is unfortunate that the site does not offer its content via e-mail to subscribers.

    Anita thanks so much for pointing this out. Of course I knew but I felt a non-geeks might not know about this trick.

    Based on your important comment I have two additional remarks to make if I may:

    a) Getting an RSS feed for an author or a category can work in different ways.

    For instance, in our case you need to know the category number (go to category – bottom of post or right side on our blog – click on category you want and you get the number).

    This post is http://commetrics.com/?p=351

    One category this post is assigned to is FT ComMetrics Blog Index which gives you the following link:


    Important is the category number 284. Hence, the RSS feed delivering me posts that fall under this category only is:


    2) Your site is using custom permalinks. Hence, one needs the complete path to the category folder or the author. The format for my blog would be something like this:


    Anita, I needed a wake-up call from somebody like you.

    I am making a special page that will help my readers figuring this out right here:


    Maybe you want to get a page up with this information on your site as well?

    Why did I not think of this earlier …. ts ts :-)

    THANK YOU so much.

  • http://commetrics.com/?page_id=317 Urs E. Gattiker

    Tweets between Anita Campbell (see comment above) and Urs E. Gattiker

    Smallbiztrends @ComMetrics Hi, you raised a great point about corporate blogs – how do you appeal to a broad customer base, but give people what they want?

    Commetrics @Smallbiztrends Do you offer RSS feed for comments only

    Smallbiztrends @ComMetrics OPEN Forum doesn’t have RSS comments — not enough demand. Offers email subscription to comments – gives readers more control

  • http://commetrics.com/?p=121 Urs E. Gattiker

    I am not sure if I agree with Anita I am torn:

    a) offering subscribers the chance to get comments might be of interest to users

    b) if you offer a person that comments to get subsequent comments to this post via e-mail, do I want to get 10 or 100 e-mails in case were a post gets many comments such as 2008-12-03 Seth Godin – sale – post that might get plenty of comments thereby giving one e-mail for each comment

    c) we do not have the answer either but based on Anita Campbell’s comments above I decided to create a page on my blog. The page explains how my readers can get comments separate from postings. This link is available on the blog (1st right hand-column – heading called Meta):

    Entries RSS
    Comments RSS

    Thanks to WordPress, you can get comments for certain categories only by setting up an RSS feed for yourself – it is soo easy – takes 2 seconds as explained here on this page on our blog – applies to your blog as well, of course:

    RSS – forget about user engagement – just focus on retention!

    Again, if you use my explanation as given above you should be able to create such a possibility for your blog as well. I have no clue how this works on TypePad.

    I will bring more in an upcoming post. This Saturday so stay tuned.

  • http://www.xbox360achievements.org/forum/member.php?u=237117 Bill Bartmann

    Excellent site, keep up the good work. Love this case study, insightful and interesting read. Thanks.

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