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Social Media Belfast 2017 – Key Lessons and Insights


The forth annual Social Media Belfast Conference featured speakers from Ryanair, Pinterest, Tourism Ireland and Tayto who provided unique insights, strategic advice and case studies on successful social media campaigns. In the following blog I’ve reviewed some of the key insights and stories from the seminar with part two following in the next post.

Social Media Hall main

How Media Trends Should Impact on Your Marketing: Paul McGarrity

The latest research again shows the absolute dominance of Facebook compared to other social media networks.

For most organisations and businesses – If they want to be successful on social media, then they have to get Facebook right. That’s because 65% of people in Northern Ireland use Facebook – so it’s THE network for reaching the general public.

And not only is Facebook the leading social media network by users, it’s also the leader network for  engagement – with the average user dedicating 800 minutes per month to it.  That means that the  average Facebook user is spending about 30 minutes a day on Facebook. Snapchat and Instagram also experience high rates of daily usage with comparatively low rates for Linkedin and Twitter.


Social Media Network usage


SM usage

Two other important points to note on the change on social media network usage:

  1. Note the huge increase in Instagram users – now at 400 million worldwide
  2. And the stagnation of Twitter users – they are really struggling to find new users

So what do the figures mean for allocating media budgets?

The big picture is that marketing budgets continue to move towards digital advertising. The IAB’s and PwC’s latest ‘Internet Advertising Revenue’ Report shows:

  • Mobile will be the fastest-growing advertising channel and buoy spending on each of the digital formats
  • Digital video ad spending is rising faster than search and display.
  • Huge increase in social media advertising spending
  • stagnation of traditional advertising channels like TV, magazines, and newspapers

(Source: IAB and PWC Internet advertising revenue report 2017)

There’s no doubt that the advancement and diversification of media has a huge impact on consumer habits – in a world of multiple screens and a bombardment of content online. And this new world presents a scenario where marketers have to battle for consumer attention. In that world, it makes a lot of sense to be active and spend money in the spaces where the attention is. And the really big hitters in the digital media space are Google and Facebook’s networks (which includes Instagram).


The Evolution of Social Customer Service – Michael Ryan

It’s no surprise that social media channels are now used extensively by customers to make complaints, give positive feedback and make enquiries about products and services. For brands, organisations and small businesses, real-time social media means they have to react quickly and carefully to customer complaints.

Michael Ryan, Social Media Manager at Ryanair provided a unique insight into how they use social media for customer relations.

Social media now plays a key part in the revised marketing proposition by Ryanair that’s helping the brand to improve the overall customer service experience – covering key stages from website visitor experience through to booking and flight experience.

A quick review of Ryanair’s Twitter content shows how they have found a place for the ‘old Ryanair’ voice on social media – a mix of the fun and sometimes deliberately provocative comments,  that were once the main basis for their print advertising.



In addition to using social media as a marketing, advertising and PR tool, Ryanair use it strongly for customer service. Michael explained that Ryanair has invested very heavily in social media customer service with ten dedicated staff helping to answer over 500K queries via social per year.



For Ryanair, the core areas of their social customer service approach are:

  • A proactive approach to queries and complaints
  • Providing self-help content where possible
  • Engaging with customers when they least expect it.


 Jumping Into Northern Ireland, Game of Thrones Territory – Ciaran Doherty

The revival and impressive growth of Northern Ireland tourism in the past decade continues provide great news headlines from Belfast to Boston.  Ciaran Doherty, Digital Campaigns Manager at Tourism Ireland delved into the strategies, stories and tactics that underpinned their highly effective social media campaigns.

Ciaran explained how engagement marketing lay at the heart of their digital campaigns, quoting their campaign mission statement – “Winning people’s attention through activity that talks to their interests, that brings the Ireland brand to life, and that encourages them to interact with it and with each other.”

Some of the world’s smartest brands have been able to capitalise on cultural and societal trends – from TV shows to fashion movements – to market their brand.

Game of Thrones is one of the world’s most revered TV shows boasting a loyal and sometimes fanatical following across the globe. Tourism Ireland has been able to skillfully promote Northern Ireland’s role in hosting and supporting several key filming locations to the Game of Thrones audiences worldwide.


Tourism Ireland GOT main

Tourism Ireland has invested in the development of cool and smart creative and ensured a very substantial and relevant marketing reach via a mix of paid and organic social media promotion including promoted Tweets and Facebook Advertising.

The results were highly impressive including:

  • €5 Million earned media value from a €200,000 investment
  • Visitors to NI grew by 11% during the period
  • Visitors to GoT experiences grew ten-fold

For the Series Five marketing campaign, Tourism Ireland made great use of smart online and social media PR to promote the connection including a series of stunts, live in Northern Ireland blurring the lines between the real world and that of Game of Thrones captured as stills and video distributed across Facebook and Twitter over a 12-week period.