/ Money, Technology

American Express – I’m “inspired” by your awful charity tweeting

Sign saying 'epic fail'

What inspires you? A big challenge? Doing something for charity? The people at American Express want to know, and they’ll give to charity if you tell them. Only this charity campaign isn’t quite as inspiring as it seems…

I love it when companies use social media to engage people – it’s something that I try to encourage them to do as it’s a great way to talk directly to customers without having to put them on hold or get them to write a letter to head office.

Usually when a company starts a dedicated social media campaign it’s because they’re promoting a new product or service. However, often the most innovative campaigns come when they just want to spread their brand or show people how ‘good’ the company is.

#AmexBeInspired fails

Enter American Express. They wanted to do a bit of good, and decided to give 50p to the Prince’s Trust for every tweet or retweet that included the hashtag ‘#AmexbeInspired’. The idea was that people would post inspirational, heartwarming things, getting a fuzzy glow at the thought of Amex’s name because they knew they were giving cash to charity.

The reality was slightly different.

Amex is a credit card company. The Prince’s Trust does a huge amount of work getting young people out of debt. Those two things don’t seem to tally that well, as twitter users were quick to point out.

@iamfinlay said: ‘#AmexBeInspired – You inspired me to spend till I couldn’t afford to eat but looked good starving in those lovely trainers.’

This was just the beginning – the feed for the hashtag has now been completely hijacked, with the majority of users submitting jokey, swearing rants at the company. Here are some of the milder ones:

@feralbritain said: ‘Bankers are a REAL Army of Darkness #Amexbeinspired’

@piglungs said: ‘#AmexBeInspired – You inspire in me a desperate desire to live in a world that doesn’t have credit in it.’

@timparmee said: ‘Wow. This #AmexBeInspired timeline sure is inspirational. Can’t wait for #NewsCorpForKidz and #BarclaysSpreadTheLove’

It goes without saying that the campaign hasn’t inspired quite the warm, fuzzy feeling that Amex had hoped.

Show me the money

But that’s OK, right? Even if they’re saying mean things, every mean thing using the hashtag will mean an extra shiny 50p for the charity? Only it appears it won’t.

In the terms and conditions of the campaign, Amex states:

‘We’ve had to set a realistic commitment for The Prince’s Trust so they can get planning the programmes that will offer life changing skills and experiences to the young people they reach out to; and we have committed to giving £150,000 to The Prince’s Trust this year.’

So if they get a million retweets? It’ll be great for them but won’t apparently make any difference to the money the Prince’s Trust is getting.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s brilliant that companies now recognise the value of getting involved with charities – it gives charities a much-needed boost in tough economic times. But so far this campaign just looks like a way of publicising a £150,000 donation.

As an avid tweeter I love how quickly the community exposes organisations who they judge are doing self-serving things. I like the fact that they showed this poor campaign up for what it appears to be, but at the same time I feel a bit bad because essentially American Express is giving to charity. Every penny helps, right? Does the charitable aim mean I should cut them a bit of slack?

KoPow says:
9 September 2011

No you shouldn’t cut them some slack because the aim is not charitable. The aim is to use their vast wealth to publicise their own company. I’m guessing £150,000 is a lot less than they would spend on a traditional ad campaign and this one has the supposed benefit of helping charity.

Amex spends billions on marketing every year. £150,000 is loose change.

The Commenting Guidelines discourage use of ‘text talk’ because it can be difficult to decipher. What confuses me more is ‘social media speak’ or whatever you want to call it.

I’ll depart quietly and leave you to your hashtags, and if someone would like to retweet this for me – be my guest.


Touche Wavechange – hashtags are an interesting beast that work best on Twitter. Plus everything has to fit into 140 characters. We don’t encourage ‘140 character Twitter talk’ here on Convo – helped by the fact that our comments don’t have a word limit! 🙂

There is something to be said for making one point and making it concisely, so using Twitter might help me and others who do tend to go on a bit.

Better stop now or Nikki might say something about off topic comments.