KLM: The 3 pillars of successful social media strategy - #SMWF

KLM has been known as a social media savvy airline for some time, and we managed to pin down its social media manager Karlijn Vogel-Meijer, ahead of her appearance at #SMWF in London later this month, to get some advice and insight.

KLM has done some impressive stuff with social media in the past. Some may recall its scheme to allow people to choose who they would sit next to on a flight via Linkedin profiles, or the “Surprise” random acts of kindness campaign, see video below. But how is the company’s social media activity managed from within?

“Social within KLM is basically organised around 3 pillars; servicing, brands & engagement and ecommerce,” says Karlijn. “The three are very important in everything that we do.”

Servicing: Answering questions and responding to customer. KLM commits to a response to all customer questions within one hour, and to finding a solution to any problems within 24 hours. “We’re actually giving service in seven languages, and we’re planning to extend that to 11 languages in the next year,” she says.

Brand & Engagement: This comes under the remit of KLM’s corporate communications and marketing teams, and comprises the in-house creation of compelling, engaging content.

Commerce:  the responsibility of the ecommerce team, which must continually come up with relevant offers and deals for KLM’s social audience, taking into account feedback and information that delivers insights into what customers actually want. “In the case of social offers, make sure you know what they’re waiting for,” says Karlijn. “Don’t just send out something which is the same for everybody, but look at what they want and make sure it’s a social offer.

“People are on social because they want to interact, they want to talk about something, so don’t just send out a flat offer, one ticket for one price. Make sure it’s their ticket and it’s their price.”

Brands often concentrate too much on the commerce pillar, without paying the necessary attention to the first, crucial two pillars. “If you leave those, only delivering commercial offers, then people get bored. That doesn’t work because in essence, that isn’t social,” she says. “Social is about the three altogether.”

But in a discipline where consistency is paramount, how does tying three business departments together, marketing, ecommerce and corporate communications, work in practice?

The secret, it turns out, is simple. “We sit together,” says Karlijn. Marketing, ecommerce and corporate comms have their meetings together, they plan together; they all know what the other is doing and what’s happening.

“We don’t have a company that makes content for us, we make it ourselves,” she says. “We have an editorial team who makes the content and who really knows what our customers are about.

“We know what our customers want, because we meet them in the aircraft, we get constant feedback from them, and from our own employees, and we can continue to engage them with the things they really want.”

The vast majority of the time, what customers want is for their problems to be solved. KLM are currently working on a scheme that will see iPads in the hands of staff and pilots on planes, so feedback can hit the company’s social media hub even before passengers have disembarked and got back online.

“It’s about solving their problem before they even know they have a problem, that’s what it’s all about and this is the major challenge,” says Karlijn. “It’s also about getting your employees involved and making sure that everybody has the same attitude towards the customer and the same answers.

“We’re really working hard on that, getting data right and knowing who is the customer.”

Karlijn is appearing at #SMWF, which kicks off at London’s Brewery on 18-19 March. Visit - www.socialmedia-forum.com/europe/ to find out more.

“With social, nobody really knows the truth yet, she says. “So everybody will be there to learn. I’m really looking forward to the discussions with other companies to see what are they doing, what are their lessons learned and what can we take for that and use ourselves.

“What we’ve found is that once you want to do something on social, it has to be social by design. The essence has to be social, and I’m really looking forward to learning how other people think about that. What works and what doesn’t.”

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