A look at KLM’s breastfeeding Twitter boob

A look at KLM’s breastfeeding Twitter boob

There are certain groups it’s wise for companies not to offend on social media, unless they want a storm of negative publicity. One of the groups at the very top of this list is mothers, especially those of newborn babies.

Last week, Royal Dutch Airlines (also known as KLM) made this unfortunate mistake of when replying to Twitter user @HeatherYemm when she asked for their policy on breastfeeding. KLM told her that breastfeeding was ‘permitted’, but mothers would be asked to cover themselves if someone on the plane took offence over the action.

The suggestion that mothers needed ‘permission’ to feed their babies on a KLM flight was bad enough, but the notion that someone taking offence to it would result in staff asking the mother to cover herself unleashed a D-cup-sized Twitter storm.

The Tweet from KLM stated:

This seemingly innocuous response from someone on KLM’s Twitter account soon attracted plenty of knockers, causing a huge Twitter row – one that raged on several days later. Angry passengers, mothers of newborn babies and even other airlines waded in with their titbits of information.

One response KLM received took particular offence to the idea they needed KLM’s permission to feed their baby.

Things really ballooned out of control for KLM when rival airlines saw an opportunity to share their policies on breastfeeding, and stick the proverbial knife into KLM – who, to their credit, maintained their stance and didn’t change their wording of ‘permitted’ throughout the whole affair.

Budget airline easyJet tweeted:

Some Twitter users saw the opportunity to poke fun at KLM, suggesting that anyone offended by the sight of a feeding baby could cover their eyes.

This prompted online satirist Simon Harris of Men Behaving Dadly to mock up his own ‘Breastfeeding Anti-Embarrassment Glasses’ and share them to his page. To date, the image of Simon with his eyes shielded has netted over 13,000 interactions, 2,000 comments and over 8,000 shares.

Now, you may be thinking it’s not that bad. So what if an offhand Tweet by someone at KLM has resulted in a bit of a Twitter storm, and sparked a few satirists to take the Michael? It’s not that bad. It’s not as if they’ve landed negative coverage in all of the national papers, and online news channels is it?

Well, yes, actually. The furore on Twitter was so great that it made the media outlets sit up and take notice. My favourite headline was from the BBC, who went with ‘KLM breastfeeding policy causes turbulence’. See what they did there?

Other news sources that were abreast of the story included The Guardian, Reuters, The Evening Standard, News Hub in New Zealand, Business Insider and many more besides.

All this was caused by a single, ill-advised Tweet.

The moral of this story is that Twitter is a hugely powerful tool, and can help your business grow and reach new customers and clients. It’s also a hugely powerful tool that could cause massive embarrassment to your business if you say the wrong thing, at the wrong time, to the wrong person.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.

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