Cinema marketing: social media to engage your audience

February 29, 2024
The DX Team
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Social media is one of the greatest tools in your marketing kit to engage with existing and prospective moviegoers, build a community around your cinema, and learn about your audience. 

Beyond simply informing your audience of your programme (information they can already find through your website, listings, google, etc.), your social platforms offer many more opportunities to connect with your audience:

  • Share the 360° experience of cinema going with them
  • Show off all the unique aspects of your venue, from your welcoming staff to your delicious bar menu, or quirky popcorn flavours
  • Play an active part in the cultural conversations your audiences are having
  • Make your audiences feel special by reaching them in the online spaces where they spend time, and speaking their language

All of the above tap into the emotional triggers that drive audiences to visit the cinema, and choose your big screen over their TV or other entertainment options.

Even with little to no budget for paid social media, a consistent and considered organic content plan on its own still has power to attract, engage, and build trust and loyalty from your followers. It supports the overall perception of your brand. 

When you’re a time-strapped cinema owner, or small team, we know how challenging it can be to get started with growing a genuinely engaging presence on social media to help your cinema reach new audiences (or retain existing ones). 

The below steps and examples are designed to help you get started, understand what sort of posts will resonate, and feel confident including social more regularly in your marketing activity.

1) The WHOLE cinema experience is content!

People come to social media for three main reasons:

  • To be entertained
  • To escape 
  • To learn something

By happy coincidence, these are also the main three reasons why people go to the cinema! 

Your social media is a great platform for tapping into the emotional needs and desires of your audience and sharing the ‘personality’ of your cinema. Going beyond just providing information about what films are showing, how much tickets cost, and when a new release is coming out. 

Through engaging content you can bring the experience of the cinema into people’s homes, extending the conversations about movies your audience are having with their friends, and reminding them how lovely your venue is: everything it offers that they can’t get at home in front of Netflix.

What does that mean in terms of actual content? Here are a few ideas…

  • Entertain your audience:

  • Jump on a relevant trend (film-related or not!) and make it relevant to your cinema like Cineworld Dublin 

  • Run a quiz in Instagram stories (How well do YOU know the Jurassic Park franchise?)

  • Share the behind the scenes: Places the audience don’t normally get to see like the projection room, behind the screens, setting up the popcorn machine, getting ready for a big film event, etc. - people love getting to peel back the curtain on what goes on in their favourite places!

  • Kino Rotterdam share lovely videoscapes of the daily life in their cinema

  • Share some of the history about your cinema: old photos, celebrities who visited in the past, milestones, fun facts

  • Ask questions to prompt discussion and imagination, like Vue Cinemas!
  • E.g.: You could be any character from a Wes Anderson movie for the day, who would you be? (then remind people about Asteroid City!)
  • Did she do it, or didn’t she? What do YOU think? #AnatomyofAFall

  • Provide escape:

  • Posts that tap into nostalgia, or people’s emotions are great - maybe there’s a cake in your cinema cafe that everyone loves - share a picture of it and remind them to take a sweet moment of calm in their day. 
  • Ritzy Cinema share lots of great food pictures from their cafe to entice people in
  • Ask your audience to share their favourite moments about going to the cinema.
  • Share memories from your audience members: Their first cinema visit, their first movie theatre date, worst / best movie experience. 
  • You can ask them to pop their memories in a box and pick the best ones to turn into posts!
  • Use your captions to highlight the USPs of a cinema visit: a chance to escape from the noise of day to day, a chance to experience another culture, an old fashioned romantic moment, etc.

All of the above are a great way to remind audiences why going to the cinema is great, but also lovely insight for you to plan future content around!

  • Educate your audience:
  • Is your cinema dementia-friendly? Let your audience know with a quick video explaining what a dementia-friendly screening is like.
  • Can you highlight all the green initiatives you are enacting in your venue?
  • What are five facts you bet your audience doesn't know about their favourite local cinema!

Find creative ways to show your audience how much you value their experience and your local community.

2) Work with local influencers.

Recent trends show that micro influencers, those with very small but highly engaged audiences, are often more valuable to brands than those with millions of followers that are largely unengaged or that never convert.

A great cinema influencer could be:

  • Someone in your local community who is a genuine regular patron, loves films, and is familiar with your brand - but who also has an engaged following on social media that you can leverage.

Work with them to create content that is genuine, appeals to their highly engaged audience, and reflects your target customer.

  • An influencer from a different industry who has an audience you want to reach - for example 18-35 year old gamers, or 30-50 professional women. 

Give them a clear brief, and agree to a partnership that benefits both of you, but remember to allow them the freedom to make the kind of content that will work for their audience, based on their expertise.

Working with influencers is a great way to reach new people, and form longer term, mutually beneficial relationships in your community. 

This example from Leeds Bucket List, a local Leeds TikTok account shows a trip to Everyman cinema, which currently has 970,000 views!

3) Create opportunities for UGC

UGC (User Generated Content), is content the audience creates about your cinema that is unprompted, and not paid for (it is ‘earned’).

This is the most powerful and trusted form of content because it is genuine, isn’t perceived as biased, and reflects your real audience.

The more chances you give your audience to create UGC, the better. Remember the Barbie pop-up packaging box that appeared in cinemas during #Barbenheimer encouraging everyone to take their picture in it and share it online? Classic UGC campaign!

How can you implement this in your own cinema?

  • Create an instagrammable corner in your venue which encourages people to take selfies there. Maybe it’s an actor cut out, or a backdrop, or even a cosplay character you hire for the day!
  • Host a day for your most loyal cinema goers. Invite them to a special screening, with drinks, nibbles, a red carpet - an excuse to celebrate them but also encourage snapping and sharing (think of the #FOMO your other cinema goers will get!)
  • Have a film review box or pin board in your lobby and encourage visitors to leave their reviews and thoughts. Share the best ones on social media!

4) Get your teams involved

Chances are, if you have younger members on your team they are well-versed in using social media, creating content and are (possibly) more aware of the latest trends and cultural conversations happening online.

Giving them trust and authority to create content for your channels, and allowing them the freedom to be creative (of course with consideration for your brand tone of voice, etc.) can really help take your social media to another level. 

Whether it’s a half hour to brainstorm ideas together during a weekly operations meeting, or blocking a regular content creation period during quieter times, having a fixed system in place for your team to focus on quality content, and giving it the same attention as your other marketing activity, will have a noticeable impact in your audience engagement and growth.

If you are operating a chain of cinemas, with a central brand channel and individual cinema channels, consider making content creation a bit of a challenge between sites to gamify it. 

Picturehouse Group, and Cineworld have this process in place, curating content from the individual cinemas on their main feed and providing a shared content ideas bank for all the cinema teams to get inspiration from. 

5) Avoid the hard sell…

Pushy sales messages, clickbait tactics, and endless “BOOK NOW” calls to action  simply don’t work. If you think of the content you engage with, that makes you want to follow a brand or creator, or share with your friends, it is never the hard-sell promotional messages. 

Gen-Z especially feel highly skeptical of advertising and pushy promotions, much preferring entertaining, authentic, relatable, and fun content that speaks to them like their friends and peers, not like a corporate brochure or promotional flyer. This Gen-Z preference is causing a wider shift in how brands communicate online. 

A good rule of thumb is to use your social media primarily for entertainment, engagement (see above), and information (programme of the week, events, new releases, etc), rather than as your sales conversion tool. 

Keep the hard-sell posts to a minimum - perhaps prioritising them around big premieres, or special events where you want your most loyal fans to pre-book, etc. and where you can, make the sales posts fun! 

Creating engaging social media content takes a bit of time, especially as a busy cinema operator. But a few simple tactics can help you have more fun, connect better with your cinema community, and boost your overall marketing:

  • Focus on one channel rather than many
  • Involve your team to collaborate on ideas and share the workload
  • Don’t overthink it too much, social content is about fun, not polished perfection
  • Check out our free cinema marketing guide: Film Forward which is packed with practical tips on how you can streamline your marketing including social media! 

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