With the conclusion of the much-anticipated annual big box brouhaha known as Black Friday, major retailers now turn their attention to Cyber Monday.

But what about America’s small businesses? Considering the important role America’s 27 million small and independent businesses play in our nation’s economy, is there a post-Thanksgiving shopping “holiday” day for them?

There sure is. It’s called Small Business Saturday and it’s going on ​right now​:

Now, because this particular shopping “holiday” is young, it’s understandable if you’ve never heard of it. But don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for.

Here is a basic primer on Small Business Saturday (with some interesting trivia thrown in!):

American Express Started it all

A Brief History of Small Business Saturday

Aided by a full-fledged radio, TV, and social media ad blitz, credit card giant American Express launched Small Business Saturday on November 27, 2010. The idea was simple: Encourage U.S. consumers to use the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday to shop at their local mom-and-pop businesses.

“It began in 2010 when American Express founded Small Business Saturday to help small businesses get more exposure during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year,” the company’s website reads.

“Now, in its third year, Small Business Saturday will be even bigger,” the website promises.

Twitter Loves Small Business Saturday

A Brief History of Small Business Saturday

Seriously, the folks at Twitter really, really want Small Business Saturday to survive.

“Twitter is offering $1 million in free ads for small businesses,” writes Dylan Tweney for Venture Beat.

“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,” he adds.

Considering how powerful social media has become, that’s an awfully generous gesture on the part of Twitter. Indeed, the company could make a killing if it charged small businesses for that kind of promotional power.

“It’s a sweet gesture from Twitter to the vast engine of economic growth that is made up of America’s small businesses,” Tweney adds.

Few Thought Small Business Saturday Would Last Beyond its 1st Year

A Brief History of Small Business Saturday

After the shopping “holiday” launched in 2010, Jeff Harrington of the Tampa Bay Times had little faith that the America Express-founded event would survive to see another year:

Small Business Saturday: Mom-and-pop retailers and American Express tried their darnedest to get this entered into the holiday shopping routine tucked between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So far, it’s gained as much traction as a “free Bernie Madoff” campaign.

But it Has Gained Traction

A Brief History of Small Business Saturday

Although its 2010 debut was relatively small, Small Business Saturday has seen an exponential increase in consumer participation.

“American Express started the Small Business Saturday ‘movement’ in 2010 and last year over 100 million people decided to Shop Small for the big day [emphasis added],” Marketing Pilgrim notes.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

“In just three years, Small Business Saturday went from an idea to help Small Business find more customers, to a permanent fixture on the holiday shopping calendar,” said Susan Sobbott, president, American Express OPEN. “According to the research, we are seeing the small business community take ownership of the day and make it their own.”

More Small Businesses Want a Piece of the Action

A Brief History of Small Business Saturday

Almost half of small and independent businesses plan to participate in Small Business Saturday in 2012, according to the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express.

“The inaugural Small Business Saturday Insights Survey, which was released this week, found 47 percent of independent merchants will make a point of using Small Business Saturday as a way to draw customers,” Tim Gallen write for the Phoenix Business Journal.

The study also shows that at least 67 percent of small businesses intend to include Black Friday-style discounts to help drive sales.

“Research has shown that American consumers have a deep trust in, and admiration for, the small business community. Small Business Saturday gives them a chance to show their appreciation – and help America’s essential job creators in a very real way – by patronizing small shops, restaurants and service providers,” said Dan Danner, CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business.

“And anything that helps with sales is certainly appreciated by small business owners, many of whom have struggled to stay afloat in a rough and uncertain economy,” he adds

Bottom Line: True, the shopping “holiday” was founded by a credit card company, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking into. Indeed, considering the crucial role small businesses play in hiring, economic growth, and charitable contributions, we’d say Small Business Saturday is certainly worth at least a small investment.

Oh, and speaking of small businesses, you can find (and support) a whole bunch of them right here at The Marketplace by TheBlaze.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

All photos courtesy Getty Images.