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How Ryanair became one of the most successful brands on social media

Watch the replay and read the summary of our fireside chat webinar with Ryanair's Head of Social, Michael Corcoran.

Sophie Thompson
18th October 2021

1.1 million followers on TikTok later and a brand legacy that includes the next generation of customers, Ryanair have blown up in the social media space over the last 12 months, by delivering traditional PR in a way that's entertaining and relevant.

We invited Ryanair Head of Social, Michael Corcoran for a fireside chat on their journey from budget airline to social royalty and how other brands can follow suit.

Watch the replay of the session below, or keeping scrolling for our summary:

"We’ve conditioned social media to be a dumping ground for every piece of information available to us - Ryanair want to stand out and avoid clutter"

Why brands should be using TikTok

Michael credits the brand's TikTok success to a) showing up early and experimenting with a new audience (because why wouldn't you want to open up your content to even more people?) and b) losing the corporate tone of voice they may previously have been known for, and changing it for a language that matched the audience they were pursuing on that channel.

The proof that it works? Ryanair received 31 million views on a piece of unplanned content that took minutes to create in their office! Exposure like this substantially outweigh paid media campaigns that cost a lot of money to produce, so it's definitely worth at least trying. And don't worry if you don't get it right on your first try - many a failed video came before plane face! Content is always about experimenting and finding what works for you.

Michael says that the brand is still looking at how to make TikTok measurable in terms of conversions, but the great PR they get off the back of it makes it worth their while. The brand is constantly appearing in 'best brands on social' round-ups, and their content is getting re-shared across other platforms too. It's about convincing your stakeholders that the long-term will pay off!

Michael's top TikTok tips:

  • Approach your account as a creator rather than a brand - TikTok is not the place for hard selling
  • Look beyond video views. Read comments to see how people are engaging with your brand so you can get a better idea of how they position you in their minds. Don't forget to reply to comments too to keep viewers coming back for more!
  • Don't just do what you do on other channels! When you get to a platform early enough, you're able to experiment and find your niche
  • Measurable success doesn't just have to be numbers - it can serve as great PR or be a stepping stone to other long-term business goals
  • TikTok is a creator-first platform, making creators more credible than influencers. Creators don't they do more than just sell, they build personality

Screenshot 2021-10-18 at 14.06.45

Emerging content and social platforms

While TikTok is having a huge moment, Ryanair is already looking at how they can tap into other emerging content and social platforms and there's one huge theme right now: gaming.

From platforms such as Discord to Twitch, brands have not yet really considered them as part of their social strategies. As Ryanair has a lot of flight simulators and other interactive training materials as an airline, this could be the perfect area for them to expand into. Someone outside of the company has even created a Roblox account dedicated to them that they're trying to tap into! It's this outside-of-the-box thinking that helps Ryanair reap the rewards of being an early adopter of new platforms.

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Outside of its TikTok success, Ryanair also uses short-form content on Instagram Reels, with Instagram as their second biggest channel. In order to see even better results from Instagram they soon hope to:

  • Post 15 Stories a day
  • Post 3 times a day on the feed
  • Use it as a hub for engagement
  • Make a huge leap to video-first (they're currently powered by user-generated content)

Establishing brand tone of voice

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Michael describes Ryanair's tone of voice very simply: 'self-deprecating'. We're used to seeing corporate brands speak in a language that's so far-removed from their audience that it feels intimidating. The airline wants to be part of their audience's world in order to connect with them on a deeper level.

60% of TikTok's 80 million monthly active users are aged between 16 and 24, by aligning content to appeal to them, Ryanair are securing the next generation of customers over their competitors.

As a B2C business, Ryanair naturally experience a lot of customer service-related messaging on their content (although they have a separate team to answer these queries). To avoid as much negativity as possible, they interact with users and handle these situations as they would with their other content so it blends seamlessly and help build relationships...that can even calm the angriest customers ! Ryanair operates its Twitter across two different accounts (Ryanair and Ryanair Help) so their community can be built as a positive space, and their customer queries can be handled separately.

Converting content to sales

"Social media is not just a dumping ground, it's a place to really connect with future audiences in a way that traditional marketing will never do"

Human-to-human marketing is essential - and millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than original content from brands. Although Ryanair is making its own content, their style of content is raw and non-corporate, giving it a user-generated feel. They also form relationships with their audience through comments.

That in itself doesn't drive sales, but that human connection encourages user-generated content from fans of Ryanair...which does equal sales! Michael mentioned that Gen-z have even been buying tickets for Ryanair flights just so they can film from the plane and claim they've been inside 'plane face'. That's dedication.

Particularly for the next generation of customers, due to their impact on social media, Ryanair is now the first airline platform users will think of when it comes to booking a flight, proving that it's not just about the instant impact of your content, but the lasting impression you'll leave. Given that they're a budget airline and very self-aware of that, this suits younger audiences perfectly.

Michael's key takeaways:

  • Most businesses have a target customer in mind - but don't always think about future customers. Don't forget to make content that appeals to them too!
  • If something sounds obscure or you've never seen a brand do it before...that's your opportunity to get there first
  • Even if you're the most corporate of brands, speak to your audience like human beings. It helps build relationships and creates a connection - and it puts you front-of-mind when it comes to making purchasing decisions!

Want to learn more? Read our full blog on how to define your social media audience for 2022, and download our free marketing plan template to help you get started on your journey to social success.


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