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5 Things We Can Learn From Ryanair's Controversial Twitter Chat

Unless you didn’t go anywhere near Twitter on Monday, you would have seen a bit of an odd hashtag trending – #GrillMOL.

No, it wasn’t a bizarre cooking tip; it was in fact a Twitter Q&A with Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary.

The controversial businessman took a grilling from customers and critics alike during the Twitter chat hour, and questions ranged from the very technical to the downright ridiculous.

The cheap as chips airline joined Twitter last month and were quick to cause a stir on the social networking site with their choice of cover photo on their profile (a group of bikini-clad women that bore no relevance to the brand whatsoever).

Being well known for their controversial service, chief executive and all-round attitude to customers, it wasn’t surprising that the Twitter chat was greeted with mixed responses, as O’Leary flirted, swore and self-praised his way through the hour.

The decision to let O’Leary loose on Ryanair’s Twitter account was a huge PR risk – how would his famous arrogance and unapologetic manner come across on social media? Would it be as painful as a Ryanair flight itself?

Twitter chats are a great way to engage your audience and broaden brand awareness (our #DigiJobsHour every Thursday 3-4pm is a huge success ), but could the strategy handle Ryanair’s aggressive marketing campaign?

Well, good or bad, here are five things we can learn from Ryanair’s Twitter chat:

1) Use your own hashtag

Rule number one of Twitter chats: use your hashtag! You’ve gone through the effort of creating a hashtag for people to follow the Twitter chat, so it should go without saying that you should use it yourself for people to follow the chat!

Apparently Michael O’Leary didn’t get the memo, however. Because when a Twitter user pointed out that he hadn’t been using #GrillMOL in his tweets halfway through the chat, the CEO replied obliviously with: “Hashtag… Wha???” Obviously social media is not his expertise…


2) Answer all questions

The beauty of Twitter chats is that people get to ask questions about your company that they might not get to ask normally. If you don’t know the answer to a question, point the user in the direction of someone who can answer them.

Obviously, a huge company like Ryanair won’t be able to answer every question that comes through, so if you find yourself inundated with more queries than you can answer, just make sure you reply to a broad spectrum of questions and not just ones that make your company look good!

Don’t do a Michael O’Leary and bat away “boring techno babble” questions – not only does that alienate a large section of your audience, but it also makes you look inept that you simply can’t answer the question in the first place!

twitter best practices

3) Don’t offend your customers

Now, this point should really go without saying, but it appears companies *cough*Ryanair*cough* that want to be “controversial” to get noticed ebb on the side of offensive far too often.

Take Michael O’Leary’s response to a  woman who aired her concerns about a Ryanair Twitter chat: “Nice pic. Phwoaaarr! MOL” Not exactly appropriate…and extremely offensive!

If you think what you say could spark a backlash – don’t do it! Simple as that. Always run your responses through a mental “offence-o-meter” before hitting send – you really don’t want to be in the middle of a Twitterstorm. It’s not a nice place to be!

controversial ryanair tweet chat

4) Don’t swear

I know that free speech is important, blah blah blah, but when you’re promoting a brand, using bad language makes you appear unprofessional and just plain rude.

Now, I know that Michael O’Leary isn’t exactly known for his polite and reserved manner, but when he’s using the official Ryanair Twitter account, a little discretion wouldn’t go a miss!

ryanair twitter

tweet chat best practices

twitter tips

5) Do use Twitter chats to make announcements

One thing that Ryanair did get right during their Twitter chat was announcing a huge digital relaunch of their site.

This was cleverly sandwiched in the chat and not made glaringly obvious, but rather alluded to which sparked the interest of more than a few news outlets following the announcement.

From agreeing with a user that the Ryanair site hurts his eyes, to announcing the digital relaunch to a user who asked if he was planning on introducing mobile boarding passes, Michael O’Leary showed himself as forward-thinking and possibly restored some customers’ faith in the controversial airline!

ryanair CEO pr

As always, I’m keen to hear what you think about this. Was Ryanair’s Twitter chat a roaring success or a PR nightmare? What tips do you have on how to host a successful Twitter chat?

Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @BubbleJobs

Join The Conversation

  • Lauren Riley's picture
    Oct 24 Posted 3 years ago LaurenBubble

    Hi Ric,

    Thanks for your comment!

    There's definitely an underlying tactic behind the madness, and I agree with your analysis.

    But, I agree with Joanna in that there are better techniques to drive a similar message without the sexism and swearing. However, I can't see Mr O'Leary changing anytime soon!

    Thanks for both your comments :)

  • Joanna Gorka's picture
    Oct 24 Posted 3 years ago Joanna Gorka

    Hi Ric,

    It is not my favourite tactic either. I am definitely against being rude to your own clients.

    But there was also something good in the rest of the Tweets. I actualy felt like he is honest instead of machine behind the Tweets. I was entertained but I guess that there are better techniques to do it :)

    Great article Lauren!

  • RicDragon's picture
    Oct 23 Posted 3 years ago RicDragon

    On the other hand...

    Ryanair is the exemplar of a company that is using polarization in its branding - which means the more it offends its non-core customers, the more the core customers love the brand.  Not my favorite tactic for brand building - but we need to understand it when we see it in action.

    Great post!

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