Social media case study: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Social media campaigns are absolutely everywhere now. Seldom that original, and often poorly executed, the space is becoming so turgid with a mix of good, bad, ugly and downright embarrassing examples of campaigns that it’s becoming harder to stand out from the crowd.

But as with everything, there are a few shining stars in the ether, and one of those in the social media space is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Granted, they are incredibly vocal and they are never not doing something, but there are 3 campaigns in particular that stand out for me from KLM that deserve some recognition.

KLM Surprise

First up is the KLM Surprise campaign. KLM wanted to reach out to KLM passengers in the real world to reward them for flying with KLM. They monitored check-ins on Foursquare at KLM locations and did some social media monitoring to find the people that mentioned KLM in their check-in. When they had a picture of who the person was, their activities, interests and personalities, they hunted them down, bought them a small gift,  and gave it to them as they waited for their flight.

This campaign really punched above its weight for a few reasons. The numbers paint the first picture: 1 million impressions on Twitter alone came from the few weeks of gifting. The shady area of impression analysis aside, that’s a pretty major number and one to shout about (which they do indeed do). The other side, and the real gem here, is their insight in taking the offline conversation back into the real world, albeit briefly, and managing to turn an average day in a few customers lives into a pretty awesome day that they felt the need to share. Brands these days are so hung up on the digital conversation that they often forget the power of the offline element too.

Tile & Inspire

The Tile & Inspire campaign is another great example of KLM both engaging their fans but also re-affirming their Dutch brand identity in one fell swoop. Using a Facebook app, fans could upload a photo of themselves that would be made up in the style of a delft tile and entered with a chance of being painted onto a real Boeing 777-200.

In doing this, KLM sent out a very clear message to their fans: we’re serious about you. We want to have our customers woven into the fabric of our brand, and we’re excited about a future where our customers shape how the world perceives us. It’s an important lesson – if a brand is not sincere in their involvement of their customers then they won’t reap the rewards that they are after.

Live Tweet

The Live Tweet campaign took a bunch of KLM employees (140 to be precise) and used them as a ‘live’ tweeting medium for a single day. Each person had a character, and they were used to spell out tweets as replies to the tweets that KLM were receiving.

Yes there will be those that are screaming that they are just re-hashing the work of W+K on the Old Spice campaign, and yes there is some cross over, but it was executed pretty well. The purpose of this campaign was to highlight their social media services – to let people know that there are people on the other end of Facebook and Twitter 24/7 waiting to help out. It’s just another example of how KLM is telling their customers that they are invested in being as accessible and helpful as they can be, and social media is one of the best ways that this can happen.

You can pretty much sum up KLM’s ideas on how important their social media audience is with this advert; drawing a parallel between football fans and the passion inherent in supporting a team with an airline is an unusual association to create, but with the hyperbole aside, it’s one they seem to believe in none the less.

Social media diary 07/11/2008 - Air France-KLM

Air France-KLM launch Bluenity, the ‘first’ social network for the airline industry

Today Air France-KLM launch what they claim is the ‘first’ social network for the airline industry: Buenity. Once signed-up, members will be able to share tips on hotels, restaurants and shopping at destinations across the globe. But the real USP of the site is that is allows members to make their travel plans public - showing their flight bookings made through KLM or Air France. They can then find other members on the same flight or in the same locations when they are.

There are some obvious benefits to this - people to meet in the lounge and to travel, people to share taxis with, people to meet for dinner or business or just a way for people to share ideas with others who are similar to them. As Patrick Roux, Senior Vice President Marketing at Air France-KLM, says:

This is a response to those customers who would like to be proactive on their trip, whether they are travelling for professional or leisure purposes. From 7 November onwards, travellers and especially the 75 million customers who choose our two airlines every year, will be able, by using Bluenity, to meet before, during and after their flight

So what can we learn from this?

Whilst I’m not sure that this is the ‘first’ airline social network (see the launch of BA’s MetroTwin), but the proposition certainly is an interesting one. When we are working with clients at FreshNetworks, building online communities for them, we spend quite some time identifying why an online community could work in this situation and what the connection between and motivation of members would be. In this case it is clear that the commonality between members is first that they are both customers (maybe regular travellers on) Air France and/or KLM, and second that they might both share a closer experience - the same destination or flight.

I would expect the team who built this site to have looked into this shared experience in quite some detail. Do people who fly want to interact in this way? How do they currently meet people and spend their time in the lounge and on the place? How much do they actually want to engage and how much of this do they want to do online.

With the launch last week of LinkedIn Applications it is now possible for your TripIt travel plans to be visible there so that people can see where you are going and so that you can find others going to the same place. It will be interesting to see if users are more likely to use this kind of service than they are to use a site like Bluenity. Airfrance-KLM do have the significant benefit of a direct link to their reservations engine which makes the whole process much simpler, but I expect this will be a good case study of whether people prefer a separate social network or a widget to help them in this goal.

Of course, at FreshNetworks we know that travel is a vibrant market for online communities and social networks. It’s a sector that a lot of our clients come from and a sector where engagement with your customers and guests is critical. It should be no surprise that Air France-KLM have entered the fray. I’d expect most of the big players in this sector to be doing the same in 2009.

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