#Belfasthour, our initiative to develop links and communication among entrepreneurs and small businesses via twitter, has become an online phenomenon.

We wanted to set aside a specific time of the week where local businesses could network with each other, away from the busy office and the crowded diaries. So from the comfort of your home you can simply come online and say ‘hi - this is who I am, this is what my business offers, is there anyone I can connect with?’

By using the hashtag #BelfastHour all the tweets are brought together. 

#Belfasthour has been running since June 2014 and on an average Thursday 550 businesses engage during the hour, with a reach of  around 1.2million and an impact of around 8.5 milliion.

#BelfastHour has now spawned other dedicated ‘hours’ for Newry, Fermanagh and elsewhere. We are delighted with that because it means the model is a successful one. 

There is no cost to come on board #BelfastHour, no barriers to entry. People are just networking, having fun and doing business – often right before your eyes. 

Each week a specific business or organization is featured and invariably trends on Twitter – on occasions beating even #Gameofthrones !

As well as promoting goods and services provided by local businesses, #BelfastHour also helps raise awareness of a number of community and charitable organisations. Following a recent promotion Bowel Cancer UK saw a sharp rise in rise in their online and social media activity with their hashtag #stopbowelcancer trending on the evening they were featured on #Belfasthour.

People are often surprised to discover that #Belfasthour is run by a firm of solicitors and that we are not a PR company, but we ourselves are a Belfast-based business and we noticed that there was no forum for entrepreneurs or businesses to connect online in Norther Ireland. So #BelfastHour is the perfect way for Belfast SMEs to practice their social media skills and encourage online networking and connecting.

One new company, Click Energy NI, gave us the following feedback:

” I just thought I’d drop you a line to thank you for our participation on last Thursday’s Belfasthour. We are delighted with the response and are extra happy with the fact that we trended on Twitter and also for a good part of the next day. This has been an important introduction for our company ClickEnergy NI on social media where we are going to focus a lot on customer service provision.”

So at 9pm on Thursday, here’s what to do - search for the #Belfasthour hashtag in the search box and click ‘all’ Tweets. Feel free to watch so you can see what is going on…..then ...jump in and tweet about your business, using the hashtag #Belfasthour and the hashtag for that week’s featured business.

Compose a Tweet telling people what you do, or if you are new, say so. Most people are very welcoming to a newcomer so expect a lot of new notifications. Joining in chats is a great way to connect with new people in your industry and of course new potential customers and allies. 

Etiquette: 

Always follow or Retweet others you think are interesting to your own followers or just to help them out - if you do this for them, they most likely will spread the word about your business too.

 #Belfasthour is ALL about assisting one another and spreading positivity amongst the business community, so get involved, spread the word and see you on Thursday on Twitter at 9pm! 

Follow us @EdwardsandCo_ for updates and @BelfasthourNI for news too.