Over the last few years, we’ve highlighted some of the brands that have been leading the way in leveraging social media to create thriving communities, provide customer service, and establish widespread awareness through innovative marketing initiatives. As the field continues to evolve, businesses are forced to adapt and take risks. While this can be challenging for some, other brands, like KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, aren’t afraid to leap.

One of the largest airlines in the world, KLM has once again shown customers that it’s not afraid to take risks with its social media strategy. The company this week announced that in addition to arranging special services, travelers can now make a payment through Facebook and Twitter. While customers could make seat reservations or arrange extra baggage through social media, previously payment had taken place over the phone.

With this new method, contact with customers takes place exclusively through Twitter or Facebook. The airline believes that this will enable it to provide an even better, more convenient service. Although some travelers might disagree, KLM customers have apparently asked for this ability for some time. “Customers have regularly indicated that they would like to pay online through our social media channels,” wrote the company in a press release.

How It Works

Once flight details have been arranged, KLM will send a link to a customer in a private message either on Facebook or Twitter. That person can then select their preferred method of payment and complete the transaction. The social media agent at the airline will then receive a message saying that the payment has been received and the customer will receive a confirmation of the payment.

According to the company, it has 130 social media agents who answer around 35,000 queries on Facebook and Twitter every week.

Response Time

We’ve talked previously about the importance of response time in social media, and KLM has gone to elaborate lengths to show its customers that online customer service is no joke. The company recently launched a live response time display for its Twitter account and Facebook Page. By doing so, KLM shows that it lives up to its promise to respond to queries and requests within one hour.

What’s even more fascinating is the amount of work the brand is willing to put into this. Neither Twitter nor Facebook support this type of live wait time feature, so KLM is updating its cover photo every five minutes with a new estimated “hold time” as part of the background on Twitter. On Facebook, the company has created a Response Time tab.

A 2012 study found that more than 75 percent of airlines invest more than 90 man-hours per month on social media. That figure shouldn’t come as much of a shock considering traveler expectations and how easy social media makes it to share feedback when those expectations aren’t met. With most customers expecting an almost immediate reply, it’s no wonder KLM devotes so much time to social media.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

Facebook has been around for 10 years, but social media marketing is still new in many ways. While updating your cover photo every five minutes might not make sense for your business, you can still learn from KLM’s no-fear approach to social innovation and experimentation. The company is known for taking risks, and though not all of those risks result in a win, sometimes making mistakes is just as important as succeeding.

Getting its start in social media in 2009, KLM has highlighted parts of its social marketing initiatives on its Facebook Page under the tab titled “Our Social Journey.” There you’ll find more information about what worked, what didn’t, and what KLM took away from those experiments.

[Via: AllFacebook, Image credit: abdallahh, Kevin Utting, Salim Fadhley, Nicki Varkevisser]