How to create the right content for social media and a case study on Ryanair’s social media marketing

Every morning after you wake up, the first thing you do is reach for your phone. The moment you turn the screen on, you have hundreds of social media notifications –  your friend has tagged you in a photo on Instagram, your favorite artist just dropped a new album on Youtube, your friend is celebrating 10 years of friendship on Facebook and your crush just sent you a snap on Snapchat. Interesting isn’t it? Well, imagine being a company that wants to create and publish content on social media. Having so many choices makes it difficult to really understand which social media pages should target to reach the right audience.

social media marketing and content marketing strategies
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The number of social media channels is increasing every day, and some platforms such as TikTok grow out to be big players in a very short time. Creating content for users on different channels can be tiresome, and if done without any research, the efforts can cost companies a lot of money. In this blog, we talk in-depth about social media marketing, what kind of content works best for different channels, and what companies can do to get the right content to the right users. We also take a look at a case study of Ryanair and how it has rapidly grown its popularity on TikTok, which is very unorthodox for an airline. This blog is an excerpt from the latest episode of our podcast series – “The Connect Mór Podcast” with our guest Lauren Retig – formerly of RyanAir and now with Honey+Buzz agency in Dublin, Ireland.

The conversation went like this....

Lauren –  I know especially with Facebook for a business, it’s very hard to make traction with organic marketing because they just put you lower down the ranks based on just posting organic stuff. When I started working with Ryanair, I thought organic was the best thing ever because we didn’t have to do much in paid advertising, you just put up a post and you get thousands and thousands of likes and I was like this is grand, organic is amazing. Then, I joined Bord Gàis and we did organic marketing and I think it might have been a couple of weeks before I even got one like on my posts and I was like what am I doing wrong, what’s wrong – Bord Gàis has a lot of followers. So you know, I see it now myself that it is different for different clients. I wouldn’t be banking nowadays much on organic stuff to grow your brand awareness unless it’s really popular.

So in the case of Ryanair, we focused heavily on organic by doing what we call user-generated content. We would use a lot of hashtags such as Ryanair passenger stories and I think it’s probably still being used today. So the basic reasoning behind this is that everyone is happy going on holidays, everyone is happy getting on a plane the majority of the time. Plus, social media is only getting bigger every day and mostly everyone has a smartphone these days and people like taking pictures, they like telling others as to where they’re going. So at Ryanair, we kind of relished that and we would decide to jump on a trend and ask passengers to tag us in their story, and then what we started doing was, we would feature our passengers on the social pages every morning. We would put out a good morning post and we’d use a passenger’s picture as opposed to going and taking our picture or a stock image. Also featured something like a newspaper article about Ryanair or sometimes we would use actual people’s footage and I think they work well on social media. People prefer seeing other people’s experiences or people’s journeys. But in general, I think you need to kind of have an equal mix to have a breakthrough. With Ryanair, it kind of has an advantage because you have feelings associated with traveling as it is such a highly happy thing. Just posting organic content would be different for a bank, as it isn’t going to do good because you know nobody follows a bank for their interesting posts.

TJ –  This past week at Connect Mór, we’ve been doing it as a part of our efforts on creating some educational content. We’ve been trying to understand how engagement differs for different players, let’s say in the sports clothing brand chains in Ireland or supermarket chains. So we started to plot charts and understand data on engagement rates. What we got to know is that if you have a high number of followers, that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a higher engagement rate. There has been a negative correlation in the data. So we have had brands who have had like 200,000 followers on Instagram and the other brand has only 14,000 but the engagement rate of the latter is much more than the former. 

Lauren –  You know there are some brands out there that will buy followers and you can see it straight away when stuff doesn’t perform well for them. I think the content that you use and how you use it really kind of impacts this as well. Earlier, I did a digital marketing course and I learned all this stuff about buyer personas and I was like, oh this is interesting and in essence, it goes back to understanding who is your target audience. No point in speaking to 70 years olds on Instagram as more likely they’re not going to be there. You know you need to pick the right platform.

Brendan – So Lauren, we have so many social media channels in today’s time. As you mentioned earlier, when you had started there weren’t many social media channels but now there are so many of them such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and others. So what do you think? How difficult is it for companies to recognize which is the right channel for them and which strategy they should use to reach their target audience?

Lauren –  Yeah, I think that this thought process needs to be internal and in the company itself. You need to identify who is buying your product or who is using your service. It cannot be like that if someone asks you who’s your target audience and you are like Ummm anyone who doesn’t know about us. Well, my 60-year-old uncle doesn’t know about you but he’s not going to use your product you know, so it is really about refining that and using the statistics and information out there. For example, in the case of Facebook, the demographics for Facebook are much older and for TikTok, it is more likely that if I am a teenager or a young adult, I am likely going to be on TikTok. There is no point putting a nice perfume out on TikTok for an older person. It’s kind of diving into the background of these social media channels, who all are on these, and then making content and creative that suits those platforms to perform well. Some companies think that oh we need to be on everything and I need to be here and I need to be there, but you don’t have to be, so it’s about going back and identifying who your audience is.

TJ  –  Yeah, for example, if you have blog articles and you want to share them on social media so I’ll say Instagram wouldn’t be one of the best platforms to share your blog articles because users on that platform are not there to read long texts, rather Facebook or LinkedIn would be the pages where you should think of sharing your blog articles and thinking okay that’s going to reach the right kind of people and they’re going to be reading that article.

James –  Yeah, if you think in terms of Twitter threads like obviously Twitter is allegedly a platform for short-form content but you see some Twitter threads going viral or sometimes depending on the trending topics, about how interesting content is and that’s kind of a long-form post which is not suited to twitter as such but because the content is very interesting or it’s very engaging you can kind of shoehorn it into certain platforms even though it wouldn’t be native to the platform.

TJ –  The whole domain of content creation is changing, for example, we take the example of Ryanair, Lauren has previously worked with Ryanair, and Ryanair’s TikTok as we all know is interesting and engaging. It’s quite unprecedented for an airline company to step into a platform like TikTok. So we just want to know what was the mindset going through the people, for example, the managerial heads said we need to step away from, you know, the orthodox channels and go into TikTok.

Lauren –  Yeah, so Ryanair has always been that kind of company that doesn’t follow everyone else and they do their own thing. When I joined, Ryanair was headed by one of the funniest guys, like he was professionally serious and everything but had a really good personality. The big thing for Ryanair at the time was that we’re not that serious, yeah obviously although safety and everything like that was renowned, and it was strong but it was like let’s have a bit of fun with this. Everyone’s going on the holidays so they’re all happy and giddy so why can’t we be happy and giddy as a brand too. So we always created funny things and even before I joined they were very much like Paddy Power, going around making those bold statements and kind of going “hmm let’s see what happens here”. 

When I was there we were doing funny stuff, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, we did like Ryanair news. Later on, what happened was that there was an issue with the pilots and Ryanair had to cancel a load of flights, then it was like we’re back to serious and we can’t take the piss out of ourselves, we can’t be mimicking something that you know a lot of people have lost their money on. So it was a bit of a shift and I think only recently though the funny side of Ryanair has been able to come back out and they’ve kind of honed in on the fact of keeping up with the trends. You know what I mean, they could have gone out on Facebook and done funny videos on Facebook but realistically there are not that many people using Facebook for that sort of stuff anymore, so they really of asked where can we make a name for ourselves again and make ourselves funny and at the time everyone was using TikTok.  But you would think why would an airline be on TikTok, so they have to go down a different avenue and what they’ve done is strong and you know they’re using the TikTok platform for what it is, using the trends, using the pair of hashtags and getting the right content. On TikTok, people are not trying to sell you anything, you know what I mean, as the TikTok motto is that don’t make ads make TikToks. Ryanair could have easily gone on and done ads to say get your €9.99 flight to Lanzarote, but they didn’t because they wanted to be better at this.

The domain of social media is vast and so are the opportunities. It is vital for companies to efficiently plan their content marketing strategies to make the most of their social media efforts.

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