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Putting Bums On Seats Using Facebook: Inside Secrets From The QFT

Established over 50 years ago, Queen’s Film Theatre is Northern Ireland’s only arthouse cinema, showing a diverse range of films for a diverse audience.

In recent years they have relied heavily on their clever use of Facebook in order to drive audiences to the theatre.

Ellen Reay has been the Marketing Coordinator at Queen’s Film Theatre since 2019. She has an MA in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy from University of London, and before returning to Northern Ireland to work at QFT, she previously worked in marketing for the Barbican Centre in London, the Independent Cinema Office, and London International Festival of Theatre.

Ellen delivered a Lunchtime Learning session about how businesses can maximise their use of Facebook facilitated by the Cathedral Quarter BID (Business Improvement District).

Ellen talked about her experiences of using Facebook to promote the theatre, as well as some tips and tricks she has picked up along the way.

She said: “When I started working for QFT I inherited their social media strategy, which aimed to pinpoint the focus of our social media efforts. 

“It focused on communication, information, and collaboration, but the overarching theme was community. 

“Based on this, I shifted our focus to encouraging the community (developing the brand), informing the community (generating sales), and helping the community (offering customer service via social media).” 

Here are Ellen’s key takeaways from the session:

  1. Encouraging the Community (Developing the Brand)

Ellen explained that there was a massive spike in engagement on the QFT Facebook page when they celebrated the 50th anniversary of QFT with the QFT50 campaign. 

“This campaign gave us the freedom to talk more about our organisation and our history. We created two new campaigns on Facebook – #TBT and #WeAreQFT. #TBT, or throwback-Thursday, is not a new campaign, but it gave us an easy and recognisable way to share our history with our audience. 

“We digitised our archive of programmes and image stock, so rather than them gathering dust, we were able to share them with our followers.

“#WeAreQFT was inspired by social media accounts like ‘Humans of New York. Every week a member of the QFT community is put in the spotlight. This could be a member of staff, a regular customer, or a special guest. 

“We created a questionnaire for the feature and then share the answers in the post. These posts perform exceptionally well for us, with roughly a 60% increase in reach and 670% increase in engagement compared to other posts on our page.

“The plan is to run these campaigns for a year and then take stock, with a six-month review in between. We are looking for what commonalities there are in the posts that perform well compared with those that don’t, as well as checking if there is a clear better time for QFT to post.”

  1. Informing the Community (Generating Sales)

QFT have between two and 20 showings per week, and Ellen explained they rarely get a lead time that is longer than six weeks. 

She added: “To keep us agile and responsive, we have a weekly posting schedule and the rest of our content is directed by trends or business needs. We have a weekly marketing meeting, and currently post approximately every hour each weekday.

“Monday is ‘Monday Madness’ with £4 tickets, Tuesday is #WeAreQFT, Wednesday is the following week’s programme, Thursday is #TBT, and Friday is Fresh Film Friday where we talk about a new release. 

“We make a lot of our own content by putting our branding over film imagery, but we also share independent content such as reviews for films that can encourage debate.

“Facebook Events are really important to us. Special Screenings are added as events. Where a post about a screening might get 2,000 impressions, an event for the same screening would get around 32,000 impressions.”

  1. Helping the Community (Customer Service via Facebook)

“We have a contact number and contact page on our website, but we are finding more and more that people are turning to social media to make enquiries or ask for advice” said Ellen, adding: “We use Facebook Messenger for customer service. We communicate in an automatic reply how long it should take to receive a response, and we also use automatic replies for frequently asked questions.”

QFT’s successful use of Facebook to market their business should inspire small business owners to try new things on the platform. 

When considering your Facebook strategy Ellen said: “Think about your strategy, your brand, personalising your content, using word of mouth, and make sure to evaluate and review performance and make tweaks based on the results. 

“A lot of marketers are short on time, but this step is important. Also, while Facebook is a key component of our marketing strategy and a lot of what we do is organic, to get your brand in front of a new audience, you generally have to pay for some Facebook advertising.” 

Check out Ellen’s full Lunchtime Learning on the Cathedral Quarter website:

To see more Lunchtime Learning sessions go to: 


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Bold and Ambitious Vision for the Northern Ireland Economy

Pictured at the launch of the Minister's Economic Vision are (l-r) Steve Orr, CEO Catalyst; Kirsty McManus, Director of the Institute of Directors; Economy Minister Diane Dodds; Dr Jayne Brady MBE, Belfast Digital Innovation Commissioner; Michael Ryan, vice president and general manager of Spirit AeroSystems Belfast; and Dr Joanne Stuart OBE, CEO of Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance.

The Economy Minister has launched her ambitious economic vision which will lead to better jobs with better wages and an improvement in people’s quality of life.

In ’10X Economy: An Economic Vision for a decade of innovation’ Minister Diane Dodds outlines the steps her Department will take to ensure Northern Ireland is positioned amongst the elite small open economies in the world.

The new vision for the economy has been endorsed by a wide range of business leaders from industry, the hospitality sector, digital, manufacturing and engineering.

Bold and Ambitious

Minister Dodds described her vision as “purposefully bold and ambitious”.

She said: “One hundred years ago, Northern Ireland was internationally renowned for its shipbuilding, rope works and linen factories. Today we are global leaders in cyber security, fintech and advanced manufacturing. We must be ready to embrace future economic trends and job opportunities for our people.

“Our economy has already been dramatically reshaped by the Covid-19 pandemic and the past year has highlighted the resilience and creativity of the business community. This new vision is centred on making Northern Ireland the most exciting place to do business and to do that I plan to focus on our strengths.

“A 10X ambition is about creating a step change in how we think about our economy. It is not a literalist term about increasing a single metric by a factor of ten; instead we are setting an ambitious pathway for fundamental change to our economy and committing to everyone feeling they are part of this transformation.”

The ’10X Economy’ identifies 10 guiding principles which underpin the vision. They include supporting a greener economy, inspiring the future generation to thrive, delivering improved outcomes for all and increasing innovation.

There will be a focus on priority clusters where NI can be a global leader and a future generation of workers will be inspired and prepared to respond flexibly to future skills requirements.

Minister Dodds added: “When our economy is thriving, Northern Ireland thrives. I have no doubt that Northern Ireland’s businesses are on the right path to recover, rebuild and rebound back stronger than ever.”

Digital Innovation

Dr Jayne Brady MBE, Belfast Digital Innovation Commissioner, said: “I am delighted to see that the role of digital innovation is recognised in the Department’s Economic Vision. We already have an extremely talented digital innovation sector and, with the right support and encouragement, it has the potential to transform our economy.”

Kirsty McManus, Director of the Institute of Directors (IOD) in Northern Ireland, said: “The IoD welcomes the publication of the Department’s Economic Vision which recognises the need to ensure Northern Ireland becomes a more enterprising region that supports new business development in any and all parts of the country. It also acknowledges the role that skills development will place in attracting businesses to invest and to take advantage of the exciting and emerging opportunities of the next decade.” 

Steve Orr, CEO Catalyst, said: “The Department’s Economic Vision sets out an ambitious – but achievable – vision centred around inclusive innovation in Northern Ireland. Focussing on sectoral clusters, such as digital tech, fintech and green tech, and funding innovation in the right way, means that Northern Ireland will be placed to compete on a global scale like never before.”

Dr Joanne Stuart OBE, CEO of Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, said: “The NI Tourism Alliance, with members spanning all sectors of the tourism economy, is pleased to offer our support to the Department’s Economic Vision. We look forward to building on our successes in attracting visitors to our world class attractions, experiences and events, and collaborating with the Department to ensure tourism plays an important role in the wider transformation agenda.”

Michael Ryan, vice president and general manager of Spirit AeroSystems Belfast, said: “I welcome the Department’s Economic Vision. It builds upon Northern Ireland’s existing strengths and rightly focuses on the core sectors and advanced technologies where Northern Ireland can excel as a global leader in the next decade and beyond. As a company renowned for innovation, we know that it is a catalyst for economic growth and prosperity and can help deliver a more sustainable future for all.” 

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Winners of £40,000 Open Data and Outreach Fund Revealed

Finance Minister, Conor Murphy meets some of the winners of the Open Data Innovation and Outreach Fund. Pictured with the Minister is L to R: Dr Orna Young, FactCheck NI, Nick Gaywood Queen’s University Belfast Analytics Masters Student and Ann Orr from Digital 54. Photo Credit: Aaron McCracken

Finance Minister Conor Murphy yesterday announced the winners of the Department of Finance’s Open Data Innovation and Outreach Fund.

Eight projects from Belfast and Newry will benefit from the £40,000 fund which encourages innovation in the reuse of data on the Open Data NI portal. New for 2021 was an additional category on using data to analyse the societal impact of Covid-19.

Congratulating the winners, Conor Murphy said: “It is great to see how the Open Data Fund has expanded to include a Covid-19 specific category and to see the innovative projects which have come forward in this category. 

“These include a real-time analytics dashboard on the vaccine roll-out, a project to tackle online disinformation about Covid as well as funding a Masters student analysing the use of Belfast Bikes before and during the pandemic.”

Mr Murphy added: “It is encouraging to see the innovation shown by the entrepreneurs, students and businesses which have applied to the Open Data Fund.

“I wish all the winners success in the year ahead and I look forward to seeing the final outcomes from their projects.”

Full details of the successful projects can be found at:

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