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What NOT to Do on Social Media: KLM’s World Cup Tweet #FAIL

{Originally published via LinkedIn on the day of the match, Sunday 29 June 2014}

Some social media train wrecks are quite fun to watch. My favourite is still Amy’s Baking Company with the crazy owners and their heap of lies. Indeed there have been some doozies this year but for the most part my recent favourites appear to have all been genuine mistakes from human error.

That is not the case, however, for KLM. During the World Cup today, KLM decided to treat their corporate social media feed as if they were a cheeky fan of The Netherlands national football team and NOT a global brand.

My Mom always told me…’It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.’ And I think KLM definitely could have found a nicer way to congratulate their favourite team than this.

Here’s what happened:

  • Being a Dutch company, they’ve shown pride for ‘their’ team like most companies have around the world. And that’s great.
  • KLM leveraged the global popularity for all things World Cup, promoting flight deals with images in soccer stadiums, retweeting positive posts promoting the Dutch team, etc. Again, that’s still great.
  • To celebrate the Dutch team’s entrance into the quarterfinals, made possible by their win over Mexico today, KLM immediately published an edited airport departures sign and Tweet >> the departures sign shows an avatar with a Mexican sombrero, poncho and moustache next to the word ‘Departures’, accompanied by the text: Adios Amigos! #NEDMEX. Now…that’s not great. That is undeniably an EPIC FAIL.

Here’s why:

  • The tone of the post and the ‘voice’ was a huge departure from KLM’s social brand.
  • The company’s social media team instantly turned KLM into a troll because that premeditated – not an accident of human error – post was crafted to be cheeky and taunting. That’s fine for the average social media user but never for a brand or business. Especially one that operates across so many countries and cultures.

What they should have done is shown their ‘orange’ pride with positivity, and a healthy dose of dignity. Instead of berating the Mexican team (and every fan and customer), they should have congratulated the winning team in style, perhaps while giving a shout-out to Mexico for the exhilarating match. Period.

I wonder what they thought would happen? After publishing the Tweet, KLM witnessed an almost instantaneous downpour of negative comments and deleted it (also a no-no) … but not soon enough. It was immediately all over the social feeds. Their post went viral, that’s for sure, but not in the way they intended or hoped it would.

Kudos to the comms team for being on the ball, this is great!!

In fact, AeroMexico’s social media team ended up winning! They saw KLM’s post and jumped right in to grab a little of the spotlight by posting an arrivals sign with a message that (translated in my broken Spanish) says >> Thanks for the great championship, we are proud and are waiting for you back home.  Now THAT is a winning social media post!

Personally – unless it was 100% part of a company’s brand voice – I would never allow my team to use the failure of someone or a company (or a national sports team, in this case) to generate buzz or shine limelight on us …even if it’s ‘just a little joke’. There is simply no reason for it, especially when being upbeat and positive will go so much farther. What might be funny for one segment of the customer or prospect base, will not be for another.  And at the end of the day, it would never be worth risking the brand image of the company for one seemingly clever or funny Tweet. I’m guessing that KLM would agree on that point today.


© 2014, Angela Carson and All rights reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.

Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 37 countries on 4 continents, residing in 8 of them (currently Indonesia's Riau Islands is my home). I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Keith Coelho

    Hi Angie,

    How are you God its been ages since I last heard from you or read one of your posts. Hope things are well with ya. You were supposed to write to me about three months ago about your situation in China. I have been there many times and I have first hand knowledge great place to shop and also import industrial items but I would not put my money invest there its very difficult for Foreign companies to make money there. We were the first foreign joint venture in China with the Chinese Govt and we lost money every year for fifteen years till they relaxed the laws and we bought over the Govt our partners shares and since then we are doing ok. Considering its a big market we should have been doing really well. In this case India is far better for foreign Joint Ventures and now with the Modi Govt having relaxed foreign partnership FDI’s all the leading countries in the world are flocking to India what is important is that he is tackling corruption with his govt requesting the Swiss banks for the list of Indians who have money and the amounts there that black money is bigger than India’s economy stashed away in Swiss banks and with other offshore banks. I am going to be leading a trade delegation from NZ and we are working closely with the Modi govt they want to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in Milk processing plants with India being the largest producer of Milk in the world and after harvest stock of fruits and Veges with India being the no. 2 producer in the world 50% of both these commodities get spoilt and are thrown away because of the weather in India . We have invited an the Indian Agricultural Minister and leading industrialists to NZ who are due here in September to show them our technology and for them to have a first hand look at why we are one of the leaders in Dairy and Agriculture in the world even though we are a tiny country village! Otherwise I am having a ball here in Auckland work and party hard! You have a good one when time and opportunity permits drop us a line, Big Love Keith Coelho

    1. Angela Carson

      Hey Keith, thanks for the big update! I’m glad things are looking so bright there for you, you deserve all the best in the world. I’m in between jobs at the moment, and in a few selection processes in Dubai, Ireland, the US and a Canadian tech startup…will be fun to see where I end up. Will keep ya posted 🙂 All the best, Ange (p.s. you should start a blog my friend, you do love to write! 🙂

      1. Keith Coelho

        Hey Great Angie I hope and pray that you get the best opportunity, I will take your advise about starting my own blog. But if you only know what I do and I wish you were here to promote and spread the word we could also make good dosh although that is not important for me. Hey m younger brother Norman is visiting NZ end of this month and then on to China he has been in N. York in freight since then has his own company with a branch in Fl would you like to meet with him and may be introduce him to some of your clients help develop his business in China remember we take care of the family and you are part of it!. Love you darling and literally dying to meet ya and dance the night away, no I do not say this to every women promise. Big Love Keith

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