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How can we maintain control of our brands?

no control

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, the lesson we’ve learned over the past years is that we cannot fully control our brands anymore (it’s quite possible we were never in control, but now we can actually see and hear our lack of control more readily).

The digital ecosystem is too complex, the opportunities for third parties to interfere too numerous, to really exercise control. Instead, we need to think of ourselves as moderators and participants in the constant conversation flow about our companies, their products, and their brands.

But this is not a reason to throw up one’s hands. If things are spinning out of control, they are not spinning out of our ability to influence. And social media has provided the greatest “touch point” opportunity on the planet. Facebook in particular has succeeded in bringing hundreds of millions of people together onto a common platform, and the worst thing you could do is fail to participate — at least consider participating – in some way.

One way to “control” the message is to attempt to drive that activity from social networks to your own, branded web sites. But increasingly, we at Nokia think that is a mistake. Instead, more and more we are “fishing where the fish are,” and “syndicating” our content on social media platforms to engage and motivate consumers to take action directly from there.

For too many companies, the response to the new mobile and social media environment has been simply to create apps. “Get me an app so I can check the box,” seems to be a common attitude. But it is not enough. We are seeing the device screen itself become an important place for communicating with our customers through text messages, for instance. Last year, we sent 1.1 billion messages to mobile users directly from our servers, and customer response has roughly matched the conversion rate we get from direct email.

In this new environment, it’s critical to map and understand how consumers navigate a “digital ecosystem” in which lots of intermediaries help shape their opinion. Product review sites, forums, social media, and all sorts of other digital influencers stand between us and our customers, and if you haven’t studied that digital ecosystem and mapped out how your own customers are negotiating it, you’ve already let the situation spin out of control.

You need to know all those touch points where your customers are being influenced. You need to be engaged in those conversations in relevant and valuable ways. And you need to be responding rapidly.  If digital communications have created a need for rapid-response capability, the increasing use of mobile creates a need for immediate response capability. That’s especially true as mobile devices increasingly gain the ability to monitor and transmit information in real time. If your organization can’t do anything or say anything without layers and layers of review and approval, you’re going to be “dead in the water.”

One of my favorite examples can be found in how the various European airlines reacted to the air space closings and flight cancellations caused by the volcanic eruptions in Iceland last year. The Website Travel 2.0 compared how well – or how badly – different airlines used social media like Twitter to keep customers informed and ease rebooking.

KLM got the highest marks. It deployed Twitter for rebooking requests, Facebook for FAQ and other information, and a combination of YouTube and Facebook for a video message from the CEO. Lufthansa and British Airways were also praised, though less lavishly. But Air France was sharply criticized for ignoring YouTube entirely and giving Facebook and Twitter short shrift because they weren’t the “official” company sites (Remember what I said earlier about fishing where the customers are, and not necessarily trying to drive everything to your site?).

In particular, Air France was chided for having a “Follow Us on Twitter” banner on its web site. “Why would I follow you on Twitter?” Travel 2.0 wrote. “So I could not be updated?”[1]

In short – if you’re not using those tools in real time, and as real communication tools, especially after you raise your customers’ expectations, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.

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