KLM: how to pilot social media for clients’ benefit

Anna Ketting was presenting  for KLM today at the usefulsocialmedia. Her presentation was definitely aimed at better using social media for customer interaction.

KLM has a small home country and market. 70% of its traffic to KLM.com is coming from paid channels. Google for instance is one of the biggest beneficiaries in that department. When Anna started working on that 3 years ago, questions arose so as to “spend less on paid media”. Discussions ensued, campaigns too (25,000 followers on Twitter joined in) … and then there was the ash cloud. The day after the ash cloud, Schipol Airport was empty but all the phone lines went down! This is when KLM started answering questions via Twitter and Facebook. They had so many questions that they put together a 140 staff organisation to address all these questions 24/7.

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[Schipol Airport on Ash Cloud day!]

“In 2 week’s time, this incident showed our management  that social media was useful!” Anna added.

3 main strategic pillars for social media at KLM.

  1. customer services: address service issues and have the necessary feedback. This enables to pick up on the complains and solve them.
  2. brand & reputation: that’s a straightforward department – such as was demonstrated by Heineken. Southwest had a very bad example with “Southwest breaks guitar” which did a lot of bad publicity for the brand. “This is what you don’t want to happen”.
  3. commerce

KLM started with campaigns, went through service and is now putting products worth sharing online. In March 2011, wit the fly2miami campaign, KLM sold the first-ever flight on Twitter.  In May 2011, the tile and inspire campaign enabled users to propose “tiles” which then decorated a plane (120,000 of them on the whole). In September 2011, the Dutch airline launched “livereply” a video made with real-life employees who advertised live customer service on Twitter and Facebook 24/7. “This worked great for employee cohesion” Anna added.

KLM–Livereply video : approx. 350,000 views so far

Now KLM is no. 2 on Facebook and no. 1 in terms of engagement. “We’ve also had a lot of failures” Anna Ketting said, reinforcing that trial and error is necessary – as in many areas – but maybe even more in social media. Very reasonably she concluded by saying that all of this social media stuff doesn’t matter if you aren’t able to deliver your core service properly.

Social products

After two years of being focussed on social media, KLM decided to go out of communications and delve into how social media would enhance products.

  1. Meet and Seat: share your social profile, see who will be on board, and pick a seat next to the person you are interested in … as long as she/he agrees to it. This generated huge media attention because it’ is focussed on the user and not on the company
  2. trip planner (launched a month ago): based on questions by KLM customers : use facebook to talk to your friends, find a date and book!
KLM Trip planner video

What I liked about KLM’s approach was that they managed to take social media back closer to business and its clients. Anna told us that KLM’s social media team is made of 14 people. Facebook is still on KLM’s radar for social commerce, but isn’t really considering it short term though.

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Yann Gourvennec

CEO & Founder at Visionary Marketing
Yann has a long-standing experience in marketing, information systems and Web marketing. He created visionarymarketing.com in 1996 and since then, he has practiced Web strategy, e-business and Web communications in the field. He was a member of socialmedia.org from 2008 till 2013. He is a lecturer, a keynote speaker, an author and blogger. In early 2014, he went from intrapreneur to entrepreneur when he founded his digital marketing agency Visionary Marketing.
Yann Gourvennec
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