KLM’s In-Flight Dance Party to Miami: A Social Media Tale

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines wants a collective audience on Facebook (194,000 “likes” currently) and Twitter (122,000 followers) of 1 million by August, while ratcheting up promotions on both sites. An inspirational marketing story is partially responsible for the company setting its sights that high.

The national airline was set to launch Amsterdam-to-Miami service on March 27, but a club DJ and his business partner had another idea. Sied van Riel, the DJ, and Wilco Jung, a video producer, decided to send KLM a Twitter message about moving the service up to let them attend the Miami Ultra Music Festival, which started March 25.

“They replied,” Jung described to ClickZ, “and there the challenge all started.”

KLM told the artists that if they could get 150 people booked for a 200-passenger Boeing 777 trip, the airline would fly to Miami one week early. In an effort called “Fly2Miami,” Jung and van Riel turned to Facebook and Twitter, where the pair totals more than 5,000 “likes” and 12,000 followers on the respective social sites. And then a more popular DJ, Tiësto, retweeted their message to his 425,000 followers.

“We mobilized literally everyone in [our] industry online,” Jung said. “[Our industry] is from its nature very technology driven and a global experience. So yes, Twitter and Facebook can mobilize a big audience and even get even a major airline to change their flight plan for you.”

Within only five hours of making their first Twitter and Facebook messages, the flight had sold out. Of course, Martijn van der Zee, SVP of e-commerce for KLM’s Air France division, and his team then had serious logistics issues to contend with.

“A week advancement is not so easy,” he said. “Our operational people managed to free an aircraft up.”

But the DJ team and KLM didn’t stop there. They got clearing from KLM corporate safety and international airlines regulatory governing bodies to allow a dance party during the nine-hour flight.

DJ van Riel provided the tunes and beats. Van der Zee and KLM marketing staffers joined the party and shot video, which was eventually uploaded on YouTube.

The e-commerce exec spoke about his brand’s commitment to social media.

“We are in a serious business. We truly believe that the way we have positioned ourselves in social media is going to have a fundamental bottom line impact,” van der Zee said. “Thirty percent of our traffic comes from Holland, 70 percent is international. Coming from a relatively small company, you always have to be creative to get attention. For us, [social media] is an ideal way for us to present ourselves and get noticed.”

klmTo that end, KLM is running a campaign this month on Facebook dubbed “Tile Yourself”. It plays off a Dutch custom of decorating a tile with a slogan and imagery and hanging it on a wall in one’s house.

People who “like” the brand are encouraged to design and create a tile before uploading a photo of it via a Facebook app. The winning tile will adorn the side of a KLM Boeing 777 for the rest of 2011.

“It will fly across the world,” van der Zee said. “So far, the response has been overwhelming.”

Lastly, KLM plans on supporting the initiative with Facebook ads and its first-ever Twitter buys via Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts. “For Facebook, we are doing some targeted advertising,” he said. “But for us, I think Twitter might be even more interesting.”

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