Social Lessons from KLM at the World Travel Market

09 November 2011

It was hard to predict there was going to be so much demand for social media learning at the World Travel Market (WTM) so for the first session there were more people queuing up than could fit in the small room allocated to the session. Fortunately WTM came to the rescue and the capacity was doubled enabling more to squeeze in to enjoy the social media sessions in the North Hall rooms.
Mark Frary explained how Social Travel Market came about as a result of an idea in a pub some time ago with veteran Sunday Times online travel writer Steve Keenan. As a couple of “old school hacks” they determined that it was a case of “evolve or die”.
The session kicked off with a great video cartoon to draw home the point that sometimes social media people speak a different language to the rest of mankind. The next two days of the social travel market are aimed to demystify social media and thus help you to find out if you know your bit.lys from your RTs. Social media is quite simply an easy way for people to share stuff and the key is to look at how you can use it to add value to your customer relationships.
The first session included Catharine van Dijk who has one of the longest job titles in the industry as Corporate Communications Manager Reputation & Content Social Media. She explained how they had developed their social media activity.

 How KLM got started in social media
KLM started monitoring online conversations involving their brand in November 2009 and opened a Twitter account and started a blog pilot. They did not involve the board at this stage as they were only doing a pilot. In February 2010 they started a Facebook campaign and then the Iceland volcano erupted in April 2010 with the subsequent ash cloud and the closure of European airspace and this had a huge impact on the business.
In October 2010 KLM introduced their social media hub with 24/7 service with a multi-disciplinary team.

KLM Strategy
KLM has three pillars to their social media strategy which includes
1. Captivate
2. Involve
3. Engage
This in turn drove action plans regarding Reputation, Commercial and Service.
KLM focused on developing the right storylines, customer relevance & value, metrics to measure success, and processes for issue management and dialogue.
Authentic and open dialogue are key to their social media offering and their call centre take over the calls after office hours to provide their 24/7 service.
For one day they involved 5-600 of colleagues in a campaign to promote their social media activity and their aim to answer every tweet and Facebook post. They have active listening and 2 way conversations as a central aspect of their social media and strive to answer customers within one hour.
KLM rules of social media engagement
KLM has several rules as follows:
- embrace feedback even when negative.
- respect privacy – do not share info publicly
- show empathy
- stay in control, don’t argue.
- be friendly, correct and businesslike.
Their plan involves working together and creating inspiring content.
They have an editorial team which creates planned and unplanned social media content. They use old pictures of KLM from their archive in their posts which generates interest and retweets. They ask their fans to share all the time and have created the hashtag #KLMGeek
KLM Surprise Campaign
They showed a video of their “KLM Surprise” Campaign team which was extremely successful in generating social media coverage and won the Simplifying Social Media award in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago.
They asked their staff to research a sample of their customers online using social media and they had to find them at the airport to give each customer a suitable gift based on their social profile and interests. They captured their response on video and gave out a total of 28 gifts which created over 100,000 posts over a 3 week period as the KLM customers shared their experience on social media. The campaign showed the viral impact of doing something personal to engage with customers and is a great example of an integrated offline and online campaign.
Fly2Miami - Tile and inspire Campaign
Fans were asked to upload their picture with an inspirational message – if they got 3000 images KLM agreed they would be used to decorate a plane which is still flying on their routes.
There are 30,000 staff in KLM and the airline does not allow all staff to post or tweet and ran an internal campaign to raise awareness of the impact that negligent social media activity can have on the brand. They created an educational video for staff to ensure they think before they post.
KLM now has 350,000 Twitter followers and over 200,000 Facebook fans and has
just opened a business account on Google+.
In response to questions Catharine confirmed that they work with small agencies to organise and produce the campaigns but try to do a lot of the work in house.
There was a good question related to whether KLM put a business case together. They did not have a business case but do log every question in Salesforce. They are surprisingly still not currently tracking ROI.
Given the challenge of managing multi lingual social pages, they only tweet in English and provide servicing in Dutch and English.  A local office will send a translation if the question is in another language.
Despite the campaigns Catharine admits that some staff still don’t understand why they are doing social media.
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