"April 10, the ash cloud took over" declared Anna Ketting, head of social media for Air France KLM, at The Corporate Social Media Summit 2012 in New York this week. From the havoc an Icelandic volcano created for airlines in 2010 came the genesis of the brand's social media strategy.
Throughout the panel discussions during #CSMNY, the wide-ranging conversations shared a common theme — responsiveness. Whether discussing gamification, marketing synergy, impact or big data, it is clear brands are feeling the pressure to prove social can be a successful commercial enterprise. But what also became clear from the summit is that responsiveness in social media creates opportunities for strong return on investment.
In the case of KLM, their community management during a crisis was an endeavor to minimize financial losses via successful damage control. For many of the brands at the summit, customer service and crisis management have been catalysts for developing social presences. PR cleanup as incidents arise has also served to "justify" the need for social activity and community management for some corporations.
KLM managed its ash cloud crisis and emerged to find in the social space, as Ketting observed, "social media makes customers happy and happy customers buy more." Discovering that the "multidimensional return from social is obvious," she noted, has allowed the brand to innovate socially. Case in point: KLM's "Meet and Seat" in-flight social matchmaking test, and the airline's "Live Reply" promotion, shown above.
The idea, a one-day event last September, was brilliant yet simple. To show how KLM responds to questions within the hour on Twitter and Facebook, 24/7, the brand replaced its usual typed responses with a living alphabet for one day. The company deputized 140 employees to give unique replies to tweets and posts, by assembling the answer live before their eyes. All within the hour, day and night, for a 24-hour period.
Engaging in personal conversations with customers through initiatives such as KLM Live Reply, Ketting told participants, KLM has seen significant gains in brand perception, loyalty and commercial success. Experimenting with retail's one-day sale model, something Ketting says was not an obvious fit for an airline where purchases are often rare for customers and far less impulse buys, social polling found there was in fact interest for such a sale, and particularly a sale on tickets to Barcelona. Responding to the poll results and creating a sense of urgency to a desired destination created a positive revenue boost.
LEGO, according to head of social media Lars Silberbauer, also found itself doing damage control on social after the launch of its Lego Friends (aka "Lego for Girls") product line "went wrong." But thanks to responsive community management, even one very angry and persistent tweeter stuck on hold with inundated call centers then tweeted thanks and praise for the personal attention via social.
And for LEGO responsiveness is not only a customer service tactic, but is built into a comprehensive strategy with a clear mission to monetize. LEGO's CUUSOO, which means "wish" in Japanese, is a social crowdsourcing site where the most popular user designs can become product reality. LEGO has seen products selected from those that receive 10,000 or more user votes and move on to internal review become not only real products, but collector's items. CUUSOO project #4038, LEGO Minecraft, the first since the site went global, was unveiled in February to much positive buzz and promises to be a revenue powerhouse for the toy company.
Whole Foods has been widely regarded as a success story in engagement in social. Head of promotional commerce Bill Tolany shared that in launching their social efforts, the team was lucky to have a CEO who "really believed a number is not the way" to govern strategy or exclusively measure success and that "if you do everything right, the number will take care of itself."
Thanks to coordinating independent local stores and responding to customer feedback, Whole Foods was able to create one-day sales of special items at "aggressive prices." Nationally, stores saw that in doing something "revolutionary" for them there were "huge increases in sales for those items," special trips to stores for that sale item were up and there was a dramatic "basket increase" as consumers int he store for the deal bought other items.
Tolany said in listening customers Whole Foods is able to track trends. Noticing a spike in searches within their website for Acai, for example, the brand looked to track down why Acai? A social search of their own revealed, as Tolany quipped, "as with all things, it went back to Oprah." Whole Foods was able to share Acai recipes on social networks, capitalizing on the sudden interest, encouraging sales of not only Acai, but other recipe related products.
As many panelists during the conference noted, sentiment can be hard to quantify, but the value of brand reputation definitely impacts the bottom line. When customers complained about Whole Foods' "no photography in stores" policy, the social marketing team listened and responded. They took the issue to executives, sharing images customers had stealthily taken and shared socially on Flickr and other sites, demonstrating positive buzz for the brand vs. the negative buzz of "just got busted at Whole Foods for taking a picture" Facebook and Twitter complaints. Customer feedback led to a policy change and a positive reception from consumers on social networks.
Now customers can happily share pics of kids in carts enjoying their experience in the store, drool-worthy food, moments of "honey was this what you want" or "want to try this" and community events within stores, allowing customers to serve as marketers and brand ambassadors. Whole Foods has embraced pictures, sharing healthy lifestyle images on Pinterest, strengthening the brand's position and mission of providing healthy food options and helping the bottom line.