Banking on (Small) Business

Big companies leverage social networking to build customer base

Connecting small business owners and entrepreneurs, financial institutions are leveraging the social networking platform.

Two heavyweight online small business communities—American Express’ OPEN Forum and Bank of America’s Small Business Online Community—offer entrepreneurs a means to market their service or products while featuring an array of user-generated content.

Overall, the sites provide a well of content for users. While OPEN Forum utilizes easily digestible one- to two-minute videos, both communities add blogs and expert insight making them invaluable to small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Aimed at allowing users to gain insightful, applicable information and tools and to grow their network, Websites like these serve as invaluable resources for budding companies.

BANK OF AMERICA’s Small Business Online Community
(www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com)

Pros
–Vast well of user-generated content
–Anyone can sign up to be a member
–Members frequently comment in discussion  groups

Cons
–Vague categorization makes the site cumbesome to navigate
–No expert advice from business analysts or notable entrepreneurs
–No video, Twitter app, or interactive tools

Open Forum from AMERICAN EXPRESS
(www.openforum.com)

Pros
–User-friendly, categorization of the Idea Hub makes site easy to  navigate
–Member profiles can be narrowed down by industry, location, or service
–Robust content from users and experts via blogs, videos, and discussion groups

Cons
–Members must be American Express Open cardholders
–Connectdex function, which allows users to narrow down businesses, doesn’t let users narrow by subcategory, i.e. brand management, design, and Web development
–Noticeable absence of African American featured experts/innovators

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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