Social media diary 07/11/2008 - Air France-KLM

Air France-KLM launch Bluenity, the 'first' social network for the airline industry

Today Air France-KLM launch what they claim is the 'first' social network for the airline industry: Buenity. Once signed-up, members will be able to share tips on hotels, restaurants and shopping at destinations across the globe. But the real USP of the site is that is allows members to make their travel plans public - showing their flight bookings made through KLM or Air France. They can then find other members on the same flight or in the same locations when they are.

There are some obvious benefits to this - people to meet in the lounge and to travel, people to share taxis with, people to meet for dinner or business or just a way for people to share ideas with others who are similar to them. As Patrick Roux, Senior Vice President Marketing at Air France-KLM, says:

This is a response to those customers who would like to be proactive on their trip, whether they are travelling for professional or leisure purposes. From 7 November onwards, travellers and especially the 75 million customers who choose our two airlines every year, will be able, by using Bluenity, to meet before, during and after their flight

So what can we learn from this?

Whilst I'm not sure that this is the 'first' airline social network (see the launch of BA's MetroTwin), but the proposition certainly is an interesting one. When we are working with clients at FreshNetworks, building online communities for them, we spend quite some time identifying why an online community could work in this situation and what the connection between and motivation of members would be. In this case it is clear that the commonality between members is first that they are both customers (maybe regular travellers on) Air France and/or KLM, and second that they might both share a closer experience - the same destination or flight.

I would expect the team who built this site to have looked into this shared experience in quite some detail. Do people who fly want to interact in this way? How do they currently meet people and spend their time in the lounge and on the place? How much do they actually want to engage and how much of this do they want to do online.

With the launch last week of LinkedIn Applications it is now possible for your TripIt travel plans to be visible there so that people can see where you are going and so that you can find others going to the same place. It will be interesting to see if users are more likely to use this kind of service than they are to use a site like Bluenity. Airfrance-KLM do have the significant benefit of a direct link to their reservations engine which makes the whole process much simpler, but I expect this will be a good case study of whether people prefer a separate social network or a widget to help them in this goal.

Of course, at FreshNetworks we know that travel is a vibrant market for online communities and social networks. It's a sector that a lot of our clients come from and a sector where engagement with your customers and guests is critical. It should be no surprise that Air France-KLM have entered the fray. I'd expect most of the big players in this sector to be doing the same in 2009.

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Matt Rhodes

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