American Express Open, the credit card company’s small business unit, is declaring the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday, in an effort to boost sales at local retailers.

Small Business Saturday, patterned after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is a national movement to drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S. 

For every $100 spent in locally owned, independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures, according to the small business advocacy group The 3/50 Project.

“Small business is the engine of job creation in the US economy,” said American Express chairman and CEO Kenneth I. Chenault in a statement. “It is also among the sectors hardest hit by the recession. By spreading the word about Small Business Saturday, we can help raise awareness about the critical role small businesses play in cities and towns across the country at a time when they need support the most.”

Social media will play a central role in helping raise awareness about the importance of supporting small business and recognizing Small Business Saturday. American Express is launching campaigns on Facebook and Twitter driving consumers and business owners to facebook.com/SmallBusinessSaturday where they can participate.

American Express is also giving a $25 statement credit to 100,000 card members who register their card and use it to shop on Small Business Saturday at any locally owned, independent small businesses that accept American Express.

In addition, American Express is giving $100 of free Facebook advertising to 10,000 business owners who sign up at facebook.com/smallbusinesssaturday to help build online buzz and drive customers to shop at their businesses on Small Business Saturday. By entering a few pieces of information and clicking a button, business owners can create a personalized, geo-targeted ad that will run on Facebook leading up to November 27th. Facebook has donated $500,000 in Facebook credits for small business owners to use in the future.

Small business owners can also download online promotional materials and use a number of social media tools to promote their businesses on the inaugural Small Business Saturday.
Facebook and Twitter users can spread the word about the day and their favorite businesses by giving a shout-out to their favorite local shops and restaurants via the social networking services. 

For every person who “likes” Small Business Saturday on Facebook, American Express is donating $1, up to $500,000, to Girls Inc. to empower young women to be the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

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