With over 450 businesses taking part in this initiative every week, Belfast hour is a Twitter-based forum, on which businesses and individuals are free to discuss whatever they want for an hour every Thursday between 9-10pm. This could be anything from pitching for business or sharing good news stories, to promoting other businesses or general networking.

To view any activity that is occurring on the forum, the user simply uses the hashtag ‘#belfasthour’, which will lead them to discussions between people involved. Once the user then posts a message and uses the hashtag, all other interested parties can view that message. Over four and a half million timelines have been hit to date, which is the potential number of times somebody could have seen the hashtag #Belfasthour with a reach of over 1 million (this is the number of unique users that could have seen the hashtag).

“The forum acts as a modern-day chat-room and has seen lively activity since it began in early June – there is business being done right before your eyes.

“It’s the perfect way for Belfast SMEs to practice their social media skills and encourage online networking and connecting. It had come to our attention that there was no forum for entrepreneurs or businesses to connect online in the main Belfast area. Being a small business owner can be an isolating place and it is essential to have support of like-minded people in your network.

“Social media is such an important method of getting your message across to customers, and Twitter is the most popular with the demographic of 35 – 55 year olds. It allows for key connections to be made and opens up opportunities for many small businesses and entrepreneurs that don’t have time to go to events or conferences, to network and get valuable insight into how similar enterprises are doing.

“Occasionally a prize will be given away, enabling the business that sponsors it to promote what it does and get entries for its competition which can then be used as business leads.”

Welcoming the initiative, Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail and Trade Association (NIIRTA) said: “Edwards & Co has demonstrated an innovative approach to stimulating the local SME market by introducing Belfast hour.

“The initiative is very exciting for entrepreneurs, independent traders and SMEs in Belfast and is a chance for many to receive much needed support and to make contacts which can hopefully benefit their business. With the economy on the rise, a platform like this can make a very positive impact on the way business is done in Northern Ireland as a whole.”

#tensquare trended no1 on twitter last Thursday as a result of being the featured company on #Belfasthour.

Any interested company or individual can find out more by following Belfast hour at @BelfastHourNI on Twitter, or use the hashtag #Belfasthour to get involved every Thursday 9-10pm. Chat soon!