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.”

2. 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.”

3. 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: https://www.cathedralquarterbelfast.com/whats-on/lunchtime-learning-how-the-qft-uses-facebook-to-put-bums-on-seats/

To see more Lunchtime Learning sessions go to: https://www.cathedralquarterbelfast.com/lunchtime-learning