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How Northern Ireland's small firms are using Facebook to boost trading

By John Mulgrew

Published 16/10/2015

Cristina Reisen at EnterConf
Cristina Reisen at EnterConf
CultureTECH festival turns heat up at Millennium Forum in Derry this year
ICONS conference at the Titanic Exhibition Centre featured Nichola Roberts from Girls Aloud
Andrew Weld-Moore and Ryan Owens at Digital DNA

An increasing number of small businesses in Northern Ireland are using Facebook to expand, one of the social network's senior bosses has said.

Andrew Weld-Moore said around two million businesses across the globe, including many small firms, have used the social platform to advertise and grow.

The global marketing solutions manager at Facebook, who was speaking at the Digital DNA conference in Belfast, said advertising was a "major part" of its business.

Andrew Weld-Moore told the Belfast Telegraph it was "essentially how it makes money".

"We are seeing more and more examples across the UK and Ireland, using Facebook.

"One example, a smaller business in Banbridge, called Total Hockey, started in a small premises and recently expanded into a large facility.

"They used Facebook to drive sales. Based on the results so far, they have dropped local advertising.

"In terms of stats, Facebook drives 68% of their web traffic, 27% of their business is online."

But he wasn't able to comment on Facebook's tax situation, after it hit the headlines across the globe for paying just £4,327 in corporation tax for its UK operations in 2014 - less than the average income tax paid by its employees.

Mr Weld-Moore praised Belfast and Dublin's own tech scenes, and wants a bigger push on growing the industry.

"I think one of the things I like about it, there seems to be a real focus in technology and the sciences," he said.

Mr Weld-Moore said there should be more of a "focus" on Belfast as a hub to "demonstrate the talent" here. Digital DNA saw hundreds descend on Titanic Belfast yesterday - the latest major tech festival to take place here this year.

Last month, start-ups, established firms and musicians such as Public Enemy frontman Chuck D arrived for Icons, while earlier this summer Web Summit spin-offs MoneyConf and EnterConf also took place at T13 in the Titanic Quarter. Londonderry's CultureTECH also took place last month. Another Digital DNA speaker, Castlewellan man and Google employee Ryan Owens, who works in advertising for small and medium firms, said: "All the businesses are trying to get their front foot in the landscape.

"We work with a lot of small businesses, agencies, in Belfast. We have been speaking to them about their investment with Google and how they partner with Google."

He said firms here could aim to grown as big as Google, which started as a project at Stanford University.

Meanwhile, Aaron Rosland, who is counsellor at the Canadian High Commission in London, said aerospace giant Bombardier - which is based in Canada but employs some 5,500 staff in Northern Ireland - was a "great example of the great connection Canada has with the UK, and an example of a company which has done some interesting innovation work". However, he was unable to comment on growing concerns over the future of Bombardier's long-delayed and valuable CSeries passenger jets.

Bombardier is under pressure to secure big sales for the ambitious single-aisle jet programme, of which the wings are made in Belfast under a £520m project that's the biggest-ever inward investment in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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