After a PR Gaffe, Should Ryanair Eschew Social Media?

Richard Stacy Owner/Partner, Stacy Consulting

Posted on January 31st 2013

After a PR Gaffe, Should Ryanair Eschew Social Media?

FireShot Screen Capture #127 - 'Ryanair's new comms chief to eschew social media I PR & public relations news I PRWeek' - www_prweek_com_uk_bulletin_prweekukdaily_article_1168936_ryanairs-new-comms-chief-eschew-sociaPR Week in the UK is running this story about the decision of Robin Kiely,  Ryanair’s new head of communication, to dismiss the value of social media engagement. Is he right to do this? 

Absolutely, in my opinion. Ryanair is an organisation that has been hugely successful despite a studious disregard for customer service. I am fond of contrasting the corporate stories of Ryanair and easyJet. The story of the later is “you only pay for what you want” and the story of the former is “you only get what you pay for." In this respect, Ryanair is being absolutely true to it corporate story.

Kiely is quoted in the article thus:

‘A Facebook account would not be helpful to us, as we would have so many people looking for a response.’

He called the social network a ‘two-way tool’ and said maintaining a dedicated account would probably mean ‘hiring two more people just to sit on Facebook all day’.

‘If customers want to get in touch, the methods are there,’ he added, referring to the brand’s customer care line.

Spot on. A dedicated Facebook account would mean hiring two people just to sit on Facebook all day. For most organisations this would be a productive use of two people’s time because: a) it would demonstrate that the organisation takes its customers seriously and, b) it would provide the organsiation with valuable intelligence about what its customers want. But Ryanair is not ‘most organisations.’ It is the exception which proves the rule when it comes to customer service.

In many ways this approach to social media is less insulting, and less ineffective, than the approach of many organisations who simply outsource the management of their Facebook presence to an agency. At least Kiely recognises that you need to put dedicated people onto managing Facebook, and better to promote the customer care line upfront, rather than respond to Facebook enquiries with a standard “Thanks for you question, please call our customer care line on this number” response.

Co-incidentally, Rynair was discussed in the SMTLive webinar on ‘Marketing and Customer Service’ organised by Social Media Today on Tuesday – i.e. before Kiely’s statement. You can download the audio here. It was a good session (as have been all the recent SMT webinars in recent weeks – I recommend you sign-up). I think it was  either Frank Eliason (he of former @ComcastCares fame) or Carol Borghesi who made the point that effective customer service is all about being “true to who you are.” And that, or course, is exactly is what Ryanair is doing.

(But I would still always prefer to fly easyJet – provided, of course, that they can get me where I want to go, when I want to go there, from an airport I want to fly from, at a competitive price. And therein lies the rub.) 


Richard Stacy

Owner/Partner, Stacy Consulting

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Elias Hamed
Posted on February 1st 2013 at 9:42AM

Hi Richard,

I really would like to understand this fever for the social media tool.

If you don't need engagement (because of your category: who is interested in talking around brand salt or mermelade) or it is not your main brand barrier (some brand just need awareness to sell) why use social media?

Most FMCG brands (a low feel and think category) actually don't need social media. When they used it the result is 3000 likes and 100 people talking about it. Social media now is more saturated than traditional media.

And even for very feel brand like Coke, I have just been looking to the coke facebook page: no interaction or conversation. people posting LONELY their comments and not coming back.

Social media works for people who have a passion in something: in this case they are interested in having a conversation with brands. 

A mermelade brand having a point of view on society topics in social media won't help to sell. You buy a a mermelade brand because it is natural without added sugar etc... but not because the brand promote human rights...this mermelade brand will look nice but consumers won't buy it.

I am not complaining about your article in particular but just trying to understand why this fever for social media?



Posted on February 1st 2013 at 3:42PM


The best, and probably only, reason a brand should use social media is to understand its customers or consumers.  This does not mean trying to target their customers through social media or maximise 'engagement' - although this is how most brands, including Cocal Cola, are trying to use it. 

Every brand will have at least some people who either have a passion for it, or want to talk to it (often to register a complaint or comment).  These will only ever be a very small number of people at any given time - but a brand can create a very great deal of value by listening, and responding, to these people in the right way.

Very few brands have worked out how to do this yet - which is why you are correct to identify that much of what the likes of Coca Cola is doing is a waste of time.