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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: 



Northern Ireland Construction Company Named Winner of Prestigious Responsible Business Award

Kieran Harding, Managing Director, Business in the Community NI, Ian Henry, Director, Henry Brothers Ltd and Jennifer Cruickshank, HR Manager, Henry Brothers Ltd)

Henry Brothers Ltd has been named NI Responsible Company of the Year at Business in the Community’s 2021 Responsible Business Awards.

A panel of independent judges awarded Henry Brothers with this prestigious top award for demonstrating the implementation of a wide range of successful corporate responsibility initiatives that strategically address key issues and challenges in a way that creates value for both society and the business.

Winners in all eleven responsible business categories were announced at a hybrid Awards event, hosted in-studio by TV and weather presenter and journalist Barra Best and broadcast live across Business in the Community’s digital platforms.

Northern Ireland’s leading responsible companies were recognised for outstanding contributions to their people, the planet and the places where they operate, with categories that cover all themes in responsible business, including wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, environment, community, digital innovation, and more.

The Awards, organised by responsible business network Business in the Community, take place annually and in 2021 the event was run in partnership with JP Corry, SPAR and Department for Communities, and in association with Ulster Business and U105.

The eleven 2021 winners were:

  • Age-Friendly Business Award, sponsored by Age-Friendly Network – Bank of Ireland
  • Diversity and Inclusion Award, sponsored by Belfast Harbour – AMS
  • Education Partnership Award, sponsored by Allen & Overy – Heron Bros. Ltd
  • Environmental Leadership Award, sponsored by Heron Bros – Danske Bank
  • Innovation in Employability Award, sponsored by George Best Belfast City Airport – Translink
  • Investing in Your Community Award, sponsored by Arthur Cox – PwC
  • Responsible Digital Innovation Award, sponsored by Allstate NI – Sentireal Ltd
  • One-to-Watch Award, sponsored by Ciena – Dowds Group
  • Responsible Product / Service Award, sponsored by Translink – Huhtamaki
  • Wellbeing at Work Award, sponsored by Larne Port – Northern Ireland Water

Kieran Harding, Managing Director, Business in the Community says: “Congratulations to each of the winning organisations for leading the way in responsible business. This year has been really challenging for a lot of businesses and people in Northern Ireland, so I want to thank our winning, highly commended, and shortlisted organisations for continuing to make responsible business action a priority.

“The judging process of the Awards is robust, and the standard of entries was phenomenally high this year. All winners demonstrated true leadership in the area of responsible business and their entries are sure to inspire others in their own responsible business journey.”  

Online attendees of the event enjoyed a community digital showcase highlighting positive stories of business action for the benefit of communities during the past year.  Entertainment pieces included a performance of uplifting original song ‘Calendar’ by Northern Ireland singer Daisie Conway, and a specially commissioned poem ‘Defining Hope’ screened at the event was written and performed by Belfast-based poet Niamh McNally.

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Par Equity Seeks to Double Northern Ireland Funding to £20m

Pictured (l-r) are Andrew Noble, partner at Par Equity and Ronnie Geddis, Par Equity’s regional chairman for Northern Ireland.

Edinburgh-based venture capital firm has already invested £10m in the region

Par Equity, an Edinburgh-based specialist in high-growth early-stage tech businesses, is increasing its support for cutting-edge companies in Northern Ireland to £20 million after a string of successful transactions.

Established in 2008, Par Equity has built a strong reputation for backing young, innovative companies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England’s northeast and supporting them with its growing team of expert advisors.

The company, which has already invested £10 million in a range of successful early-stage companies including Datactics, Cumulus, Plotbox and TriVirum, said the additional funds would help ambitious local firms to develop new technologies and expand into new markets, unlock other forms of funding along the way.

Andrew Noble, partner at Par Equity, said:

“We’re hands-on investors at Par Equity and, together with our network of industry experts, we’re providing that much-needed business advice as well as the financial support.  We’ve identified, and heavily backed, some excellent companies in Northern Ireland and we’re excited about unearthing new opportunities in the region over the next two or three years.”

Par Equity’s first major funding success in Northern Ireland was Belfast-based digital imaging analysis and software company PathXL in 2012. Since then, it has provided essential finance, direct support and management advice to some of the region’s most successful new companies.

In April 2021, Par Equity invested further in Trivirum, Plotbox and Datactics, leading investments rounds of up to £3.5 million. This included a £2 million investment round into data management specialist Datactics following on from its initial investment into the company in 2019. The Datactics investment round, which was supported by other existing investors, Kernel Capital and Clarendon, will see the company grow to beyond 50 employees and into profitability.

In addition to these three investments, Par Equity also provided a £1.1m bridging round in Belfast start-up Cumulus Neuroscience last year, leveraging a further £6 million of investment from the UK’s Dementia Discovery Fund.

The funds are being used to help Cumulus develop a new, industry-leading integrated physiological and biomarker platform that provides clinical trial data and AI-powered insights to accelerate the development of therapies for Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders.

Cumulus Neuroscience’s CEO, Ronan Cunningham, said:

“Great ideas can be the foundation of a great business, but without the necessary funding, the potential for growth will always be capped. We’re delighted that after just a few short years, we’ve secured the finance we need to accelerate our technology to market and address exciting new growth opportunities on the global stage.

Funding through Par Equity, the Dementia Discovery Fund, and other partners are helping us to scale-up quickly and establish ourselves as a market leader in our space.”

As one of the larger investors in Northern Ireland, Par Equity believes it can help fill a gap in the market and provide the scale of funding fast growth companies need to get to the next level, but which is not currently available through local financing options. In 2020, Par Equity appointed Ronnie Geddis as the chair of its investor network in Northern Ireland deepening its activity in the region.

“Like Scotland, we know that Northern Ireland businesses don’t always get their fair share of venture capital funding in the UK and that business often struggle to get that next level of funding they need to really scale up their operations,” said Ronnie Geddis.

As someone who has invested and been in receipt of investment in Northern Ireland, there is a clear role for Par Equity to bring its scale and expertise to Northern Ireland to help some of our most exciting businesses achieve the global success they deserve,” added Ronnie.

Par Equity has invested in more than 60 companies since it launched in 2008. Collectively, those companies have raised £266 million from investors.

Earlier this year, it secured three major awards at the UK Business Angel Investment Awards 2021, including Angel Group of the Year, Scale-up Team of the Year and Exit of the Year.

A panel of 37 judges reviewed the hundreds of nominations received across the 12 categories to select the leaders and trail blazers from the UK’s investment ecosystem.

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