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For as long as anyone can remember, low-cost carrier Ryanair has stood firm on its anti social media stance, with controversial CEO Michael O’Leary vocal in his disdain for all things social.

But just a few days ago everything changed, with the introduction of a whole digital strategy for Ryanair, beginning with its first ever Tweet. “#Ryanair has joined Twitter! Follow our official account for the latest Ryanair news and special offers. PS There’s no charge for following us.”

Tongue-in-cheek

Concluding the first tweet with that witty touch, poking fun at itself hints at Ryanair’s Twitter persona to come. A tongue-in-cheek approach will potentially form part of the digital strategy as the airline is famed for its blatantly unpopular decisions (such as planning to charge £1 for use of toilets on board, to selling lottery tickets in duty free).

The second tweet also continued the cheeky tone, commenting “#Ryanair carries over 80m passengers a year so we can’t write back on Twitter. Contact us here (link to website)” The Twitter account’s appearance continues the traditionally trashy Ryanair style, with a background image showing women in posing in bikinis while a Ryanair plane flies overhead.

No more lunatics

An article on Tnooz points out this is a huge turnaround for Ryanair, as the airline has always shunned social media engagement, with O’Leary once referring to bloggers as ‘lunatics’. The carrier will also remove the reCaptcha feature on its website for individual passengers from November although a statement says it will remain in place for ‘high volume bookers, screen-scrapers, travel agents etc.’.

More changes are afoot as Ryanair takes the plunge into the world of tech and social. From the beginning of October Ryanair is making its mobile app free of charge when it was previously €3 for downloads for the app, available since March this year.

Rival comparisons

Ryanair also plans to redesign its booking flow with a launch date in December and introduce a passenger registration/retention service next summer reducing the time it takes to complete bookings. Speaking earlier this week at the World Low Cost Airlines Congress, O’Leary said his company’s website compares unfavourably to that of main rival easyJet‘s.

According to some reports he also hinted the carrier was prepared to sell via travel agents although today’s announcement makes no mention of travel agents other than retaining the reCaptcha security feature. As the airline announced only this month that profit may fall short of predictions, this could explain its more conciliatory overtones, which may go some way to increasing business.

New focus on digital

In his official statement, O’Leary said: “Our primary focus this winter will be to significantly invest in, and improve, the Ryanair.com website, our mobile platform and our interaction with passengers using social media. “This winter will also see a rolling programme of development to improve the Ryanair.com website, make it easier for passengers to navigate, quicker for them to locate our all-inclusive price quotes, identify availability of our lower fare promotions and book Ryanair’s great fares for themselves and their families.

These improvements will be accompanied by a new digital marketing strategy which will see Ryanair switch a significant proportion of its marketing budget from old to new media, with a particular focus on mobile and social media platforms.”

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