"Shop Small" photo from American Express Small Business Saturday website

Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday falls … Small Business Saturday.

Yes, that’s actually a thing now: Created (and trademarked) by American Express in 2011, “Small Business Saturday” is an attempt to encourage people to do their holiday shopping at small businesses. It’s set for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. So after you go on a mall-shopping binge on Friday (or perhaps after you stay home knitting in observation of Buy Nothing Day), head downtown on Saturday and buy some stuff from local merchants.

And to help out, Twitter is offering $1 million in free ads for small businesses. The first 10,000 eligible businesses in the U.S. will get $100 in free advertising credits each, which they can use for promoting tweets or for promoting their own Twitter accounts. Nice, huh? You don’t even have to claim the credits this weekend — Twitter will keep the offer open until December 14. Click over here to apply for the program.

It’s a sweet gesture from Twitter to the vast engine of economic growth that is made up of America’s small businesses. But it’s also a canny promotional ploy for Twitter to call attention to its own advertising services, isn’t it?

But, let’s not be too jaded about this. After all, we’re talking about an imaginary holiday invented by a credit card company, but at least it’s one that might benefit some actual mom-and-pop shops.

Now, who wants to start a campaign for Startup Sunday?

Photo credit: American Express/Small Business Saturday