American Express Open and Facebook are partnering for a contest targeting small business owners.
The "Facebook Big Break for Small Business" aims to help transform the way small businesses use Facebook to connect and engage with customers. Business owners can enter to win an all-expense-paid trip to Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., for a two-day "boot camp" and a $20,000 cash prize by visiting www.facebook.com/OPEN.
To enter, businesses owners submit responses to a short questionnaire describing how they would use the winnings to better their business.
Entries will be judged by a panel of experts including Guy Kawasaki of Alltop and John Battelle of Federated Media. Ten semifinalists will compete in a final round of judging, where Open Facebook fans will be asked to vote for their five favorite small businesses. The 10 runners-up will win $2,500 in Facebook advertising to help them target and acquire new potential customers.
The experience from the Facebook training sessions will be documented and appear on Open's Facebook Page and Open Forum. Content will also include "How To" videos where Facebook answers small-business owner questions.
Winners will be tutored on how to use Facebook to better market their businesses, products and services to their existing customer base and target new customer segments. They will get practical and personal training on best practices for using Facebook Pages, Ads and Social Plugins, as well as receive consultation about their current use of Facebook.
Nearly half of small businesses say they use social-networking sites to communicate with customers and market their products, according to the latest results from the semiannual American Express Open Small Business Monitor. This represents a substantial increase from 2009, when only one in 10 respondents reported actively using social-networking sites. Facebook is the most popular social media site for small-business owners, according to the 2011 survey.
Although small-business owners are experts at customer engagement, the tools and techniques for finding and engaging customers are quickly evolving, states Julie Fajgenbaum, vice president, brand and customer marketing, American Express Open. "It's critical that business owners understand these new channels and platforms, which is why we are collaborating with Facebook to educate on the benefits of engaging customers through social media and provide real, tangible tips on how to do it effectively."