Confessions of a social media manager: Ryanair on the growth of video, customer service and 'cheeky Irish charm'

PRWeek's series on social media managers talks to those responsible for online customer relations at some of Britain's biggest brands and organisations. This week, low-cost carrier Ryanair...

Confessions of a social media manager: Ryanair on the growth of video, customer service and 'cheeky Irish charm'

With its no frills ethos, one might imagine Ryanair would have approached social media with some trepidation, being such an easy vehicle for customers to vent frustrations in real time. But, as the brand's social media manager highlights, it can also be a platform for a company to explain itself, deal with problems efficiently and develop a genuine personality:

Name: Michael Ryan

Job title: Social media manager

My typical day/shift involves... 

Hardship, torture, fear and a terrible heartache - and that’s before I get my morning coffee. Every day at Ryanair is completely different – it’s what makes this a great place to work. You are never bored for long.

A typical day starts with working closely with my colleagues in customer service, sales & marketing and PR to detect any of a variety of customer service issues that require escalation and immediate action.

That’s followed by supporting the release of any press releases that are published that day, across the entire European market. As we fly to 33 countries, launching new routes can take up a fair chunk of the day. We work very closely with the PR and content teams to ensure our messaging and tone is aligned.

Then it’s about planned reactive content, as well as real time marketing and news hacking. We are constantly reviewing the social landscape for opportunities of growth, customers seeking assistance, the odd Father Ted joke and waiting for the latest Take That release (they will be back!).

Which social media channels do you manage?

All the channels which Ryanair is active on - this currently includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and, if you are that way inclined, Google Plus.

Which channels work best for the brand, and why?

Facebook offers a chance for us to truly engage with our customer base across all of the EMEA and beyond. Twitter allows customers to contact our customer service team directly and in their own time as well. LinkedIn provides us a channel to streamline our PR news and direct conversation among like-minded professionals. Finally, YouTube (see below) is a growing channel, due to the increasing importance of video.

My brand guidelines/restrictions are...

Besides no fish hooking and mums are off limits, everything else is fair game. We never insult our customers but we are happy to be self-deprecating and people expect our cheeky Irish charm to shine through.

As we are a strong brand, we are expected to be confident and have an opinion on certain topical news. We keep it brutally simple and honest – they are the parameters which we operate in. And as a result, our cheeky charm prevails in the social space.

Common issues:

A recurring issue that we find is that a number of people try to push the limits in terms of the cabin baggage allowance on our Boeing 737 aircraft. It became such a popular discussion point that we made a video* about it to try a put a light-hearted spin on the issue, but still highlight the cabin bag allowance.

(*Fun fact: the man in the suit in the video is the airline's head of comms, Robin Kiely)

We have an FAQ section on the website, which customers can refer to with the common customer service queries. These pages are constantly reviewed and updated so customers can get all the latest information.

What makes a good social media manager?

Wouldn’t I like to know?

Best experience:

Being part of the continually evolving Ryanair brand, which under the Always Getting Better banner is trying to improve the experience for all European fliers.

To pick out an individual case, we assisted a customer who had missed a flight as she was helping her daughter give birth in very unusual circumstances. Purely through social customer service, we were very proactive in assisting the customer and helping her move on to next available flight.

Worst/strangest experience:

Strangest experience? Being asked if I changed my surname to work with Ryanair. I have the birth certificate to prove I didn’t.

The strangest experience happens daily when you see your content and posts reaching such a large audience and even resulting in some press coverage.

Read next: 

Confessions of a social media manager: innocent on looking after its 'drinkers', nonsense and #DogsAtPollingStations

Confessions of a social media manager: Paddy Power on acting as a news feed, Oasis, and Donald Trump's manhood

Confessions of a social media manager: Morrisons on avoiding politics, complaining lizards and 'the doughnut thing'

Confessions of a social media manager: TfL on helping passengers and 'being human'

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