Why Belfast Hour Works belfast

Update 21/10/14: #belfasthour Meetup and Official Launch is on 27/10/14

I’m in love. (No, not Allen. Well, OK.) With #belfasthour. What is #belfasthour?

Belfast Hour is a Twitter Chat

It’s a chat on Twitter. Fooled you there, didn’t I? You though it was going to be something complicated and “tecchie”. It was conceived by Edwards and Company, solicitors. It has its own Twitter account, though I tend to follow the #belfasthour hashtag instead.

How Does Belfast Hour Work?

Hashtags are labels that Twitter users add to tweets. Used consistently, it helps raise awareness of something. The conversation begins (usually at a set time in the week or month) when someone else uses the same hashtag when they reply to the organisers.

To keep up to date with the hashtag, click it anywhere you see it (or search for it using the search bar at the top of the screen), which aggregates every tweet that contains the hashtag. And, basically, it mushrooms from there.

People jump into conversations. And, out again. They tweet random observations, news about what they’re doing, ask and answer questions and generally act friendly and helpful. Connections are made, introductions happen and somewhere along the line everyone learns something new and makes new business friends. What’s not to like?

What Outcomes Can I Expect?

For me, last night’s chat resulted in new Twitter followers, a few interesting conversations, chats with people I’d not talked to for a while, and free coffee for Allen. (I’m an Earl Grey devotee.) My first experience of the chat resulted in three (unexpected) leads for Technical Writing work from a French man with a very cool name living in Dublin!

If you don’t get it, that’s fine. Lurk. Or, find something else to do. It’s not for everyone.

It Works Because It’s Hyperlocal

Belfast Hour works because it’s hyperlocal. SEO people preach about how, for certain types of businesses, it helps to add your location to your online efforts. People love to know what’s happening in their area. They love to source Northern Ireland solicitors, coffee makers and cake. They love to find others who’re running a business just like they are.

And because there’s stuff happening in Belfast outside of the Thursday night chat, people (including me) use the hashtag throughout the week, to help announce other stuff or ask questions.

It Works Because It’s Friendly

From the get-go (as the Immuricans say), Edwards and Co displayed an attractive willingness to celebrate all that is good about Belfast and its micro-entrepreneurs.

Last night’s chat had an added flavour since they cleverly encouraged chattees(?) to use the hashtag #purplepower to help promote the Northern Ireland Hospice. (There was even a draw for afternoon tea at The Merchant.)

It’s positive, charitable and forward-looking. I’m up for that.

It Works Because It’s Transparent

While starting any type of venture will naturally draw people’s attention, and that can only be a good thing for any business owner interested in sales, it feels like helping connect SMEs is the simple goal of #belfasthour. People love to meet, and with a straightforward message, those who’re interested will be drawn in, and attract others organically.

There are other chats around just now. Look up #irishbizparty, #corkhour and #galwayhour, #newtownabbeyhour and #donegalhour. If there are others, or if you’d like to tell us what you thought of #belfasthour, or interesting things that arose from your participation, add them in a comment. Or, if you’d like us to join your chat and blog about it, let us know.

Image credit: EoinGardiner