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American Express executive Leslie Berland described how the company is using its unique relationship with merchants to help national brands and local small business leverage social media. Berland delivered the opening keynote address here at ILM East in Boston.

“We want to be where our card-members are and where our merchants are. Merchants are hungry to get into this space,” Berland said. “They want to monetize this opportunity, to get the education, and to be part of the innovation.”

She gave several examples of how American Express is doing with social platforms like Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter.

AmEx’s first big initiative around small business and social media was Small Business Saturday, a campaign AmEx launched two years ago “to start a movement to get people to think about SMBs and drive business to SMBs,” as Berland explains it.

The idea was to make Small Business Saturday akin to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other milestone shopping days. “We knew had to root it in Facebook,” Berland said.

After it was launched on Facebook, the program attracted 1 million fans within three weeks. The offer was spend $25 and get $25 back. The result was a 27 percent increased in SMB spend vs the prior year.

“When we bring technology, brand and our merchant network together with Facebook, it is very powerful,” Berland said.

AmEx recently announced a deal with Foursquare (at SXSW) that delivers a cash back discount to card-holders who pre-synch their cards and check in at participating stores. Berland showed a video that illustrated how the system worked, with two AmEx staffers checking in at an H&M store in New York, hitting load to card on an offer to get $10 back on the card with a $75 purchase. The beauty of this process is there is no training required for store staff, and no awkward coupon presentation by the consumer.

Another AmEx social promotion called “Link, Like, Love” leverages cardmembers’ Facebook social graph. AmEx built an app in Facebook whereby it delivers offer and deals relevant to things you and your friends. “If I like dogs on Facebook, then a Petco offer appears,” Berland explained.

Finally, Berland talked about “Sych, Tweet and Save” on Twitter. It works about how it sounds. The cardmember registered with the promotion, tweets to a special hashtag and has an offer delivered to their card, all without leaving the Twitter platform.

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