Using social media to make fun of a rival is a risky business. It can work well if it resonates with your followers and is genuinely funny and light-hearted, but you have to make sure that what you’ve posted doesn’t lead to the joke being turned back on you.
Making a spelling or factual error in a tweet is an obvious way for a joke to fall flat on its face, but businesses also have to consider what their own reputation is like as a company. Failing to do this left train operator Southern Rail looking foolish in 2016, when a campaign to get commuters to voice their displeasure at the RMT Union mainly resulted in people having a pop at Southern instead – something the operator should have taken into consideration given that it had received some poor publicity about late-running services and customer satisfaction around that time.
One would think that low-fares airline Ryanair might also bear this in mind. The Irish company will point to its prices and punctuality statistics as a big selling point, but it’s fair to say that some of the publicity the airline gets is not the best. Just a couple of months ago, it retained its status as the UK’s most disliked airline for short-haul journeys – an “honour” it has held onto since 2014. As recently as last October, a seemingly racist tirade from a passenger on a Ryanair plane featured heavily in the news, with the airline widely condemned for its handling of the incident.
Still, none of this stopped Ryanair using Twitter to take a shot at British Airways earlier this week, after an error caused the rival airline to land a plane at the wrong airport.
— Ryanair (@Ryanair) March 25, 2019
The tweet has received plenty of interaction, with over 1,800 retweets and 5,400 likes as of this morning, but not surprisingly, not all of the comments are of the sort that Ryanair would’ve hoped for. Twitter users were quick to wipe the smirk off the budget airline’s face, with Ryanair’s customer service and treatment of employees brought into question.
Several Twitter users also pointed out that Ryanair itself is not immune to landing mix-ups. In fact, earlier this year, a Ryanair flight to Greece ended up in Romania, and another reply drew attention to a 2006 Guardian article about a Liverpool to Derry flight that inadvertently landed at a military airbase.
The Ryanair social media team may be wishing they had reined in their mickey-taking a little, but this is all interaction that will blow over in time. What incidents like this do, however, is bring to the fore underlying issues with how companies are perceived and reported on, and it is these problems that the likes of Ryanair need to work on.