A Great Example of Customer Service by KLM

I would like to share an amazing example of customer service, and what can be accomplished when a business truly puts a customer – and not a brand, product or service – upfront and central in its core focus. This is also a great example of why businesses need to be listening to and participating amongst the conversations that are happening about them in social media.

Last month, Dutch airline KLM announced on Twitter that they would be restarting their Amsterdam to Miami route on March 27th. Following the announcement, a Dutch DJ and a filmmaker replied, both indicating that the flight was too late for a DJ festival that was starting in Miami a week earlier. They also mentioned that they could easily gather enough people for a full flight, should KLM wish to move up the launch date so they could attend the festival.

It’s safe to say that most airlines would likely have ignored this request – at most, the DJ and filmmaker would have received a polite reply on Twitter.

What did KLM do? They took the DJ and filmmaker up on their challenge! If the DJ and filmmaker could get enough people to book for the flight, KLM would restart the route to Miami a week earlier. Within five hours, 150 requests for the flight were collected.

On Twitter, KLM announced that they would be re-starting their Amsterdam to Miami route on March 27. A Dutch DJ and filmmaker then replied, mentioning that the flight was too late for a DJ festival in Miami starting a week earlier.  They indicated to KLM that they could easily gather enough people for a full flight. KLM  took up their challenge – and within five hours, the DJ and film maker collected 150 subscriptions for the flight.

Here is a video that tells the tale:

I really hope more companies follow KLM’s lead, truly focusing on and engaging with customers. You can bet that KLM won over a number of new customers and increased the loyalty of existing customers by changing the date. Sure, there’s no doubt it cost KLM a fair bit of money to make the change – but imagine what the longer term returns will be over the course of the life-cycles of customers who took the flight?

Clearly, social CRM has become part of KLM’s DNA. Rather than just focusing on traditional advertising, they leveraged social media to engage with their customers – and they made a difference, providing true value. Bravo! Way to go!

The Role of Social Media in Disaster Response

It goes without saying that the disaster in Japan is an absolutely profound tragedy. Thousands of lives have been lost, and many thousands more adversely impacted, as a result of the earthquake and tsunami. Let’s hope that the current nuclear situation is brought under control, and that radiation effects are kept to an absolute minimum.

Social media and digital technology have played a central role in the disaster on a number of levels – and no doubt have resulted in improved response and provision of aid to Japan. Here are three key positive impacts of social media.

1. Increased awareness of disaster realities

We used to just watch disaster coverage on television, hear about disasters on the radio, and read about them in newspapers. Now, thanks to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media, we witness travesties on a completely different level. Instead of seeing the after-effects devastation of a tsunami, we can actually watch a tsunami role in – from the personal perspective of whomever is holding the camera.

Through social media, people impacted by a disaster can share the realities of their situation, providing detailed personal accounts. The stories about Japan were passed around, they were shared, and we all grieved. On March 11, the day of the Japan earthquake, 177 million tweets were sent – well above the daily average of 140 million – and a significant number of new Twitter accounts were created

2. Improved disaster response

Social media has become pivotal in augmenting governmental and aid organization disaster response efforts. Facebook, Twitter, wikis and other tools facilitate collaboration and response to disasters on a truly global scale. Volunteer communities can mobilize quickly, regardless of geographical location, to provide varying types of expertise.

Moreover, mobile technology and applications such as Ushahidi allow disaster information to be crowdsourced and mapped – enabling ground level concerns and issues to be identified in a more immediate manner and responded to accordingly.

3. Enhanced fundraising

Social media facilitates fundraising through quick mobilization, ease of campaign set-up, and broad reach through massive social networks.  Shortly after the Japan disaster struck, people at SXSW Interactive already began to mobilize a fundraising effort – SWSW4Japan.  A website was created within a day, and over $100,000 was raised.

Worldwide, scores of local fundraising events were set up and promoted through social media.

Community Management Best Practices

With online community management still in its nascent stages, I thought I would share some observations on how companies can best participate – and nurture true, genuine affinity amongst community members. It seems that things are very fluid at the moment, with even well-established brands being guilty of missteps. Of course, that being said, there are still plenty of good examples to follow.

Here is an initial Community Management “Top 5”. Please feel free to share your own best practices by commenting on this post. I will follow up with additional posts on best practices in the weeks to come (there are definitely more than five!).

1. Participate where the conversations are happening

This goes without saying. While Facebook, with over 600 million members, and Twitter, with over one billion tweets sent per week, are the primary platforms people use – there might be many other niche conversation forums where people are talking about your company or your brand. Make use of tools that enable you to locate, track, listen and engage in conversations – such as Radian6 or Sysomos, or any one of the many free tools available (albeit with less functionality).  Using Google Alerts, with key words relevant to your brand and industry, is a good first step.

2. Be timely with your responses

Imagine that social media is like a telephone, one that your customers can dial at any time and any moment. Are you ready to chat with your customers, and answer any questions they might have in a timely manner? As a general rule, customer inquiries should be responded to within 24 hours – and ideally sooner. Yes, that means staffing the “social media lines” on weekends. 9 to 5 customer service hours can now be thrown out the window. Remember, an ability to provide timely, personable responses shows your customers that you’re listening and builds affinity.

3. Focus on being people-centric, not company-centric

It surprises me how many companies still view social media as a marketing “channel”, one that is focused on one-way (company to consumer) communication promoting products and services.  Effective online communities are NOT channels, they are not company-centric. Think of communities as networks of people – with participants communicating and sharing information that is most relevant to them. A great example of a people-centric community is Fiskateers.com. Fiskars is a fairly well-known brand of scissors. How can a company create a vibrant online community for such a low-involvement product category? Well … by focusing on a shared passion. In the case of Fiskateers, it’s scrapbooking!

4. Be careful what you say

Everyone is listening, everyone is watching, and people will call you out if they don’t agree with something you say. I already wrote about Kenneth Cole’s ill-advised tweet during the height of events in the Egypt. Last night, a couple of friends tweeted about an inappropriate Groupon blog post, which essentially mentioned that depression is a cure for insomnia. Huh? We voiced our displeasure for the post through Twitter. To Groupon’s credit, the post was edited by the end of the day with the depression comment removed, and I received a personal apology from Groupon on Twitter. Make sure that messaging is appropriate, and if people ever call you out on something – acknowledge and respond.

5. Don’t ignore negative comments

In most cases, the worst thing you could do is to ignore a negative comment that has been made about your company, product, service or brand. If someone made an effort to write a legitimate comment, acknowledge it – and if any issues were cited, address them.  Be genuine and open, the customer who wrote the comment will appreciate it, as will others who read your response. Openness is a great way to build trust.

There are more best practices I intend to write about … stay tuned!

50 Key Takeaways from The Art of Marketing Conference

By all accounts, The Art of Marketing Conference held in Toronto on March 7th was a smashing success – as speakers provided the audience with cutting edge thoughts and insights on key marketing issues. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend, however thanks the willingness of a number of audience members to share what they were learning through Twitter, I did get a flavor of what was being discussed.

Here are the top 50 takeaways I was able to glean from the Twitter stream!

Avinash Kaushik – Brand Measurement: Metrics & Analytics

  • doomzto: “If people tell me that you can’t convert love to money over the Internet, then they’re wrong.” – @avinash #taom
  • KimMcWatt: Marketing can be orgasmic if you use data for insight #taom
  • amirad: People focus too much on the what and not enough on the how much #TAOM
  • GGFM: you have access to all your competitors data so use it says @avinash #taom
  • casiestewart: HITS = how idiots track success. Bounce rate = “I came, I puked, I left”. This guys is funny. #taom
  • luudiana: Are the metrics you’re using measuring people’s behaviours? Getting rid of the data puke is the first step @avinashkaushik #TAOM
  • SocialKamel: #taom @avinash you can’t improve something by 1000% but u can improve 1000 things by 1%
  • soniyamonga: Most websites aren’t effective because the purpose doesn’t overlap w/ customer intent. Therefore efficiencies are missed #taom #segmentation
  • KimMcWatt: Look at your site content, where are you spending your time, compare to where your customers are #taom
  • YouNxt: @avinash at #TAOM – use social media not just to add revenue but to build economic value to your company

Gary Vaynerchuk – Social Media & Word of Mouth Marketing

  • Debbie_h2o: #taom @garyvee when asked “what’s the roi of social media?” he responds what’s the roi of your mother? Your best friend? Your pet?
  • amirad: Everyone talks about content, but the focus should be on context #TAOM
  • SocialKamel: #taom social media has scaled caring, one on one marketing is here, that’s the thank you economy @garyvee
  • laurenonizzle: “I don’t care if you have 40,000 followers – if you have 17 that care, you have 17 followers” -@GaryVee #TAOM
  • write_mich: @garyvee: “it is totally unacceptable for companies to not respond to customers talking about their brands” Context matters. #TAOM
  • GGFM: according to @garyvee a social media campaign is a one night stand not a conversation which is what socia media is #taom
  • GraceMarketing: Run 3 less commercials and hire more people to actually respond to customers @garyvee #taom
  • JRiddall: Companies who mine data properly and execute on some form of humanization will be the winners @garyvee #taom
  • samantha_kwan: When you hit the emotional centre of your customer, you will never loose them as a customer, it’s human #TAOM @garyvee
  • lauralimawilson: Social has tremendous ROI ’cause it’s emotional @garyvee #TAOM so true

Jeffrey Hayzlett – Brand Strategy & Growth

  • JRiddall: Passion is not a substitute for planning @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • shamattygalle: You have 8 seconds to hook me and 110 seconds to sell me – @jeffreyhayzlett #TAOM
  • jdojc: “HR and Legal shouldn’t drag you backthey should keep you from falling down” @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • DebWeinstein: “A Social CMO’s job is to: set Conditions of Satisfaction; cause tension; be who you are; & be brave,” @JeffreyHayzlett #TAOM
  • JRiddall: Gotta be willing to take risks..no one is going to die @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • alinebadr: A brand is nothing more than a promise delivered #taom
  • JRiddall: Four E’s of social Engage Educate Excite Evangelize @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • amirad: The social game now is about hearts and minds not eyeball and ears #JeffreyHayzlett #TAOM
  • ACURASHERWAY: What’s ROI on social. “I don’t know tell me what ROI is on IGNORING” – @JeffreyHayzlett #TAOM
  • clickeric: What is your 118? People don’t take pictures they capture moments #taom #marketing

Dr. Sheena Iyengaar – Consumer Behaviour & the Psychology of Choice

  • YfactorInc: @taom Dr Iyengar “the Jam problem” too much consumer choice makes it harder to actually buy
  • Drafted_Boy: What happens when faced with too many choices: less commitment, poorer decision quality, lower satisfaction @Sheena_Iyengar #TAOM
  • melissa_very: #taom “How many choices can we handle? The magical number 7 (+/-2)” Dr. Sheena Iyengar
  • jdojc: Experts know enough to limit their choices to important criteria. Amateurs end up with paralysis when faced w\ too much choice #taom
  • thecellularguru: Cognitive overload is the 1st cause of Choice Overload #TAOM 2nd cause is indistinguishable options
  • thecellularguru: Everyone believes theyre more unique than others but everyone conforms to being just unique enough not too bizarre & not too boring #TAOM
  • KimMcWatt: Categorize choices to help the decision. Our brains can process more categories than choices. Dr. Iyengar #taom
  • KimMcWatt: Condition people for complexity. Help them learn their preferences. Dr. Iyengar #taom
  • djacob: “People may say what they want is more choices but what they really want is more control” #TAOM
  • shamattygalle: We are born with an innate desire to choose but we are not born knowing how. – @sheena_iyengar#TAOM

Guy Kawasaki – Creativity & Innovation

  • soniyamonga: The process of delighting and enchanting people; that’s @GuyKawasaki’s mission when it comes to building lasting influencers #taom
  • irwinliunews: @guykawasaki There are three steps to likeability: (1) Smile [preferably Duchenne] (2) Dress for a “tie” (3) Perfect handshake #taom #yam
  • clickeric: Become a bakery not an eater @GuyKawasaki #taom and u need to default to a yes attitude
  • amirad: Make the position of your product short, sweet and swallowable. No acronyms or industry term @guykawasaki #TAOM
  • samantha_kwan: When you create a product/service, do something DICEE: deep, intelligent, complete, empowering, elegant @guykawasaki #TAOM
  • soniyamonga: The change in mktg today is a direct result of the lack of understanding of the ‘A-listers.’ So plant many seeds, across all levels #taom
  • keridamen: @guykawasaki #Taom: The most innovative people will encounter the most resistance.
  • SocialKamel: @guykawasaki in all the negativity failure and resistance try to find the bright spot. For apple it was desktop publishing. #taom
  • YfactorInc: #taom Guy Kawasaki “Enchant all the Influencers” consider impact of families + friends + others in decision process
  • savvari: @GuyKawasaki says the best response to “Thank You” is “I know you would do the same for me” #taom


The Hyper-Social Organization

It seems that we are only at the early stages of truly understanding how companies must adapt their business processes and resources to fully realize the potential associated with becoming a social organization. At the February 22nd Third Tuesday event in Toronto, Francois Gossieaux, co-author of The Hyper-Social Organization, shared some leading insights, supported by intriguing case studies and data, on why businesses must become hyper-social in order to survive and thrive in the era of social media.

According to Gossieaux, companies do not just need to understand Web 2.0 technologies, they also need to understand basic, if not primal, “human 1.0” tendencies.

Case-in-point, while we often tell others what we think we actually want, our decisions and actions often speak otherwise. Recently, JetBlue surveyed their passengers asking what kind of snacks they would like to receive during flights. Respondents indicated that they would like to receive healthy snacks, and JetBlue revised their offerings accordingly. However, as it turned out, the healthy snack offerings were not well-received.

Gossieaux also touched on people’s desire for status and power, and mentioned that he believes social leader boards will take off as a result. If you’re not familiar with social leader boards, they’re becoming prevalent in applications such as FourSquare, and are also being used in some online communities as a gaming mechanic. Participants earn points for completing various tasks, with leader boards indicating where people are on the power ladder – enabling comparison of rank and creating incentive to earn more points.

How can companies become more social? Here are a few key steps Gossieaux suggested companies focus on:

  1. Become human-centric as opposed to company-centric. Be ready to engage with consumers wherever they are, using platforms they use. Hierarchical, fixed processes for response need to give way to nimbleness – people want responses to their suggestions, and fast.
  2. Start thinking in terms of tribes, and not market segments (hat tip to Seth Godin – read more about tribes here). We have been hard-wired to think in a particular manner for eons, and this needs to be overcome.
  3. Focus on knowledge networks, and not information channels. The most important conversations happen within networks of people, and not between company and community. To highlight this, Gossieaux cited a great stat from the McKinsey Report – 60 to 80% of all buying decisions are made without consumers receiving information directly from the brand!
  4. Increase resources devoted to social. 67% of companies surveyed have only one-full time or part-time employee involved with social programs. Consider establishing a social media center for excellence – covering all departments.
  5. Think culture, not technology. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are just tools.  Leverage them to the best of your ability – but realize that tools will evolve, and be ready to use whatever is available.

Now, I’m off to Indigo to buy the book …

Create Hype for Your Brand – Engage Cultural Curators

One of the more interesting events I attended during Social Media Week Toronto was an interactive discussion, “Cultural Curators – Creating and Controlling Hype in the Digital Age”, led by Daniel Berkal, Director of Knowledge and Insights at The Palmerston Group.

Berkal provided insights on how things, such as brands, events, people or news items, become popular in a digitized, connected world that is ridiculously abundant in media sources and information – all competing for attention. He encouraged the audience to think about what garners their attention, and more specifically who communicates or delivers relevant information to them.

It is an open playing field, with people often gathering their information from the same sources. Social media enthusiasts look to websites such as Mashable, ReadWriteWeb and TechCrunch. News junkies might turn to CNN or The Globe and Mail. Fans of celebrity gossip rely on the likes of TMZ and Lainey Gossip.

There are certain people, however, who wield more influence than others on just what becomes popular and gains attention in the online world – Cultural Curators.

According to Berkel, Cultural Curators have a number of common traits. Most notably, they tend to be spontaneous, open-minded, uncensored, truthful, accessible, confident and, perhaps not surprisingly, opinionated. Their voices, for the most part, are louder than others, enabling their influence to spread.

Content is king, and Cultural Curators are most definitely concerned about the quality of content they produce. However, it’s also important for curators to be connected with the right people, and have knowledge of the role each person in their network plays. They need to know their audience, and provide information that is timely, relevant and authentic.

They also, quite notably, engage with their audience – and provide them with information that is leading edge, ahead of the masses, to keep them engaged.

Using the above as a guideline, over time Cultural Curators become recognized and build clout, expanding their influence and their following. Now, the trick is for companies and brands to attract, engage and build relationships with the right curators for their target customers.

Measuring up to Expectations

As alluded to in my earlier post on Social Media Week, one of the hot-button topics that ensconced a number of presentations and discussions throughout the week was measurement and metrics. It seems that there is a fair bit of uncertainty, and correspondingly a lot of debate, on how to correlate social media activities with bottom line business results – and provide informed, proper analysis to senior management.

It’s no secret that there is a lot of gray area when it comes to measurement. Historically, for traditional marketing, marketers have focused on metrics such as brand awareness, brand perception and brand loyalty. While important, the accuracy and value of some of these metrics may not be as high as some perceive – particularly in the digital age, when start-ups can rise from relative obscurity rather quickly.

Engaged consumers now, more than ever, hold the true key to brand success. A company can benefit by building genuine relationships, leveraging social media, with key, well-connected consumers – brand advocates. As a result, traditional measures are evolving, and a variety of new tools and metrics – measuring, amongst other things, influence and sentiment – have been introduced.

Digital and social media are very measurable, perhaps more so than traditional media. But how meaningful are the measures for senior business managers who might still be entrenched in old paradigms? What can marketing and communications professionals do to effectively communicate the results of social media activities?

Here are a few key points that come to mind:

  1. Educate. As the social media champion in an organization, be proactive and take the initiative to educate peers on emerging measurement methodologies and metrics – particularly with regards to influence and sentiment.
  2. Set specific and realistic targets for social media activities. Where possible, quantify and correlate them to key business objectives. Emphasize the importance of the results (again, educate!).
  3. Speak the language of business. Over the last year or so, some social media pundits have re-defined ROI as “Return on Influence”. While influence is important to evaluate, remember that business parlance for ROI is “Return on Investment”.

Having some sort of gauge for success is critical, enabling refinement of efforts based on key learning. Equally as critical, it’s important for company peers and cohorts to learn and understand the business value of social media activities.

Social Media Week – What a Rush!

Wow … what an amazing, busy week it’s been so far at Social Media Week Toronto (#smwto). I’ve been attending a lot of events, spread across the city, and thus have not had much time to write.

There have been numerous intriguing discussions and debates, covering a wide range of topics related to social media. How will the group buying phenomenon evolve? How are mobile and social changing retail? What are some great case studies of companies that are effectively engaging with customers? What trends should we watch out for in 2011?

There is, however, one overarching topic that has permeated throughout the week – social media ROI.  How can a company’s social media efforts be measured in an effective and reliable manner, demonstrating the true value of allocating time, money and other applicable resources?

I intend to share my thoughts on social media ROI, as well as other other topics discussed at Social Media Week, in the weeks to come.  And now, off to my next event …

Celebrating Social Media Week!

This week, several cities across the globe are hosting Social Media Week. Social Media Week is week-long series of events and seminars that facilitate conversation and learning about opportunities, issues and trends in social media.

I am very excited about the opportunity to attend a number of events in Toronto – and I will be participating in some online seminars as well. I am going to endeavor to provide periodic updates, through this blog, on what I’ve been hearing and learning at Social Media Week.

There are several things I’m hoping to get out of Social Media Week:

  1. Direct insights from people “in the know” on effective social media strategies. I’d really love to hear some case studies, and learn what the results were – qualitative and quantitative.
  2. Thoughts and examples of social media initiatives that have been effectively integrated with traditional marketing.
  3. Insights on where this is all going. What trends can we expect in the short and long-term?
  4. Connections!  I’d love to meet others who share a passion for all things social.

In addition to Toronto, Social Media Week events are also being hosted in New York, San Francisco, Rome, Paris, São Paulo, London, Hong Kong and Istanbul. Not located in either city? Not a problem!  A number of events are being streamed on livestream.

Don’t Put a Shoe in Your Mouth

The strong and immediate backlash to today’s tweet by fashion designer Kenneth Cole, attempting to leverage conversations about the pro-democracy uprising in Egypt to promote the brand’s new spring collection, serves as another example of the power of social media – and how brands *must* participate in a sensitive and sensible manner.

It goes without saying that the was completely insensitive and ill-advised. If you missed it, here is the tweet, which Kenneth Cole himself has taken responsibility for:

“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC”

A couple of hours later the tweet was deleted, an apologetic one was sent, and the following apology was posted on Kenneth Cole’s Facebook fan page:

“I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.” – Kenneth Cole, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer”

Will this fiasco have a negative impact on the Kenneth Cole brand? I doubt it.  Overall the brand has a very solid reputation, and Kenneth Cole is a known philanthropist – on both corporate and personal fronts. Further, the apologetic response was open, very human in tone, and immediate.  Kenneth Cole made a dumb mistake and admitted it.

That said, it’s important to remember – in a world connected by social media, news of a brand’s missteps can reach an awful lot of ears very, very quickly, with potentially damaging consequences. People who represent a company, whether through social media or otherwise, must do so in a responsible and ethical manner – at all levels.

If they don’t, they will be held accountable.