AmEx + Twitter Could Equal Huge Opportunity for Local Businesses

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American Express just taken another major step into local.

The credit card company has partnered with Twitter to create a program that allows consumers to receive discounts directly applied to their accounts — all for the price of a single hashtag in a single tweet (after a quick, one-time visit to AmEx’s website to sync a card). The “Tweet your way to savings” program automatically credits discounts to a person’s bill after they tweet using a specified hashtag; no vouchers needed.

Launch partners for the initiative include companies H&M, McDonald’s,, Sports Authority, Ticketmaster, Virgin America, and Whole Foods Market.

“Every day, millions of people use Twitter to get special offers from the brands and retailers they care about,” Adam Bain, Twitter’s president of global revenue, said in a release announcing the news. “Now, American Express is making it even easier for people to act on those offers simply by sending Tweets with special offer hashtags from retailers. It’s exciting to see American Express build on Twitter in a way that benefits both consumers and retailers.”

For now, small retailers are not eligible but it’s easy to see a world where AmEx expands to include local vendors. If the credit card company does do so, it would open up a huge opportunity for small businesses.

AmEx is not averse to targeting the locals. In fact, they are perhaps the most proactive of the competing credit card companies that are doing so. The company already partnered with Twitter to provide an automated service that allows small businesses to control their marketing accounts. American Express also ran a campaign with Foursquare (and offered deals on Small Business Saturday and beyond).

But gaining access to Twitter’s 100 million-plus users is a much bigger platform for local shops — think a daily deal offering every day, or as long as said vendor wanted to participate.

The issue is enticing customers to use the service. The Foursquare partnership was about rewarding already existing consumers; presumably, AmEx, Twitter, and national (and, eventually, local) merchants would like to expand to new customers. That is obviously a more difficult play. I can imagine tweeting a hashtag that I serendipitously ran across at my corner store, but getting me or another potential customer to actively go to a place with a AmEx deal will take increased marketing and effort. That will need to happen for the initiative to achieve scale.

Still, this is a no-lose situation for AmEx and Twitter. It is good business and smart marketing for national brands that will hopefully be expanded further. For the credit card company, it is another step into the deals market. For local businesses, it could be a new way to reach millions of potential customers.

Noah Davis is a senior editor at Street Fight.