Backin' Belfast


DMO Stories

In 2013, a lot was happening in social media and destinations worldwide really embraced the social sphere. This lead to a number of social media campaigns that aimed to inspire and engage consumers or in the case of Belfast to support the local businesses and get people back into Belfast. It is no surprise therefore that the campaign won the Digital Tourism Think Tank Award in the social media category due to its very engaging approach of using social media to get people back into Belfast's city centre. Destinations and tourism businesses should look at Backin' Belfast's social media and overall campaign and see what marketers can learn from Visit Belfast’s success story (DTTTAwards 2013).


Visit Belfast’s ‘Backin Belfast Campaign’ was developed to counter the impact of the flag protests on the local business community within Belfast City Centre. From January to March 2013, the campaign was used to counteract the negative publicity generated as a result of the protests.

Protests around major arterial routes connecting Belfast led to traffic disruption and delays, prompting workers to leave the city centre as early as possible after finishing work.

The main objectives of Backin’ Belfast were:

  • To drive footfall back into the city
  • To restore confidence among citizens and businesses
  • To harness and build civic pride
  • To create positive experiences and messages
  • To change the conversation

Backin' Belfast on Facebook

Negative social media conversations on Facebook and Twitter were rife, and the Backin’ Belfast campaign aimed to address this reputational damage by changing the conversation from negative to positive. The campaign encouraged businesses and residents to use the #backinbelfast hashtag on Twitter to promote a more positive conversation about getting people back into the city and supporting local businesses. The hashtag regularly trended on Twitter in the Belfast area during the campaign. Facebook and YouTube vox pops were also used along with more traditional offline media such as print, billboard ads, radio and PR which helped to support the online activity. Competitions, videos and photographs of campaign activity provided ample content for the campaign social media platforms. Celebrity endorsements from the likes of Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol), golfer Darren Clarke, actor Simon Callow and One Direction’s Zayn Malik assisted in creating a “buzz online.”

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