Tuesday, October 9, 2012

This could be the worst branded social media idea ever

Meet Flynt, KLM's idea of social media engagement.

The "Very Interactive Puppet" was launched as a Facebook account back in September. KLM went so far as to develop a backstory in the timeline.

I'm sure somebody thought it was a great idea for the Dutch airline to communicate with Facebook users via a puppet. I do not.

As the satirical minds at Condescending Corporate Brand Page put it:

KLM return to us like an old social media friend that smells of bad engagement attempts and desperation...

I recently wrote a post on Acart's Change Marketing blog about a great customer service experience I had with an anonymous Air Canada social media administrator. What impressed me was not any silly branded "engagement" they did, but rather that there was a real person monitoring the page, ready to assist customers with the information they needed.

Believe it or not, such practical engagement is pretty rare in the corporate social media world. Marketers  keep trying to bring advertising thinking to social media platforms. Rather than seeing them as  communication channels that allow people to get and share information, they try to hijack the conversation with branded content and incessant pleas for likes and shares.

But this is not primetime television. Following brands online is always a choice. The only way you can interrupt people's online experience is by ponying up the cash for pop ups or pre-rolls on mainstream sites. Waste their time when they're with you by choice, and you're asking for trouble.

The problem with the KLM puppet account is that it does just that. It almost seems like a parody of the most overwrought branded social media out there. Somebody invested time and money into creating a character who you are supposed to care about. But what this mascot approach really says to me is that KLM isn't taking customer engagement seriously.

Even the puppet seems to know this. The "about" page includes the line, "KLM’s social media editorial board sees me as a communication tool, which feels a little uncomfortable, but okay."

I'm with you, Flynt. Nobody likes to be a treated like a tool by corporate social media.

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