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Dutch airline’s social media experiment: Success or stalking?

As more and more companies struggle to leverage the power of social media in new and interesting ways, one airline recently took an old school approach to rewarding its customers for mentioning them via social media. Dutch airline KLM used the power of social media for a campaign dubbed “KLM Surprise” to pinpoint certain customers and buy them gifts depending on who they were and where they were going .

The campaign, involved a close monitoring of social media channels by members of the KLM staff. They were on the lookout for people who were waiting at airports for KLM flights and using social media channels while they did so. The staff then identified a particular customer and tried to find out as much about them as they could.

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Once they had enough information, they rushed out and bought a small, appropriate present for that passenger and gave it to them before they left the airport. For example, a woman who was going hiking in Rome was given a watch that tracks distances and walking speed, and an old lady travelling alone was upgraded to first class.

Watch the video and you’ll see exactly how it works.

The campaign provoked a mixed reaction amongst viewers. Some saw it as the perfect, well-rounded social media campaign that managed to personalise the social media experience and leave a lasting memory in the clients that it touched. Others saw it as an invasive, slightly creepy campaign that almost amounted to stalking, and they imagined that clients could be a little overwhelmed in a negative way, as the video itself implies in some cases.

One thing is for sure. KLM really did its homework on the campaign. As marketing blog Diggett explains KLM “made it a priority to seek out their followers and create relationships with them. They created a website and Twitter feed dedicated to their campaign, joined Foursquare, and posted their video on their YouTube channel and the KLM Facebook Fan page. They attempted to start and join conversations on those platforms, and get a feel for what their customers are like.”

Then they took it one step further to create the magic of this campaign. Instead of randomly choosing 40 customers and giving them gifts, they took the time to try and find out what their customers would really like and need and get it to them while they were still in “the KLM moment”. They may have only done it with 40 passengers, but the news spread quickly via social media and resulted in over 1 million views of the video on KLM’s YouTube channel.

Personally, I felt that it was a charming, heart-warming campaign that managed to breakthrough the clutter. Privacy was not really an issue for me, as the people who are tweeting about where and when they are travelling should already understand that they are putting that information out into the public domain.

However, the only critiscism is that once the campaign ended, KLM seems to have given up its interest in social media. The KLM Surprise website is dormant and queries and questions remain unanswered on their YouTube channel.

Nevertheless, the campaign should be viewed as great inspiration for brands looking to make a real-world impact on the lives of their customers via their social media channels.

Thanks to @instantgrass for bringing this innovative campaign to our attention.

What do you think of this campaign? Let us know in the comment section below.

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