Social media marketing for cinemas

Social media marketing is a very useful tool for introducing your venue to new audiences, or further engaging existing ones. It is also particularly useful for targeting audiences for more niche screenings and events. Big studios often come up with buzz-worthy stunts to build interest.Obviously most independent film exhibitors do not have a huge marketing budget like those allocated for Hollywood blockbusters! But you can still generate a buzz if you use social media strategically.

Social media is not like old fashioned marketing, which is about broadcasting information one-way to your audience. Social media marketing encourages direct feedback from your audience. This can sometimes be negative and as a result, can be scary for organisations that aren’t used to conversing directly with their customers. However, if we remember that social media marketing is really like good old-fashioned word of mouth, which was how information was transmitted before telephones were invented, then we realise that it may not be so “new” after all!

Before embarking on social media marketing it is important to determine why you are doing it in the first place. How does it relate to your overall marketing plan? Who are you trying to reach? What are your goals? These considerations will feed into your social media strategy. It is also a good idea to have a social media policy in place, as a guide for how social media should operate across your organisation.

The important elements of social media marketing are

  • Social listening
  • Sharing content
  • Engagement
  • Measurement

Social listening

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know what is being said about your venue on social media?
  • Do you know what conversations are happening on social media around the films that you’re screening?
  • Do you follow influencers who can guide you to the hottest topics being debated by your audience right now?
  • Are you following relevant industry hashtags? E.g. #indiefilm #cinema
  • Are you using the industry hashtag for a movie you are screening? E.g. #BoyhoodMovie
  • Have you created a hashtag for the festival you run or the special event your venue is hosting (specifying the year to help differentiate between the current event and previous ones)? E.g. #Cannes2017

Listening to users and monitoring hashtags helps you find out what your audiences wants, tells you if there is any negative sentiment about your venue that you need to deal with, and may suggest new possibilities for you to consider.

Some listening tools are HootsuiteTweetdeckGoogle Alerts and Social Mention.

Sharing content

Original content is king and both your audience and online search engines are hungry for new content. Content which is Search Engine Optimised (SEO) gets you higher up in the Search Engine Results Page (SERPS) ladder so that people are more likely to find you online.  Search Engine Optimisation of your website is the language used to describe issues that affect your website’s visibility to search engines in organic/unpaid search results. SEO is important for image search, video search, text search and local search. Optimising your site also depends on the coding of the website, using relevant search key words in your website’s text, and increasing backlinks (i.e. people linking to you) to your website.

Your media, as well as the demographics you want to target, can determine the social media ecosystem you will inhabit. Content can be:

  • Words – e-books, articles, blog posts
  • Links
  • Video – instructional, hangouts, webinars
  • Images
  • Sound – podcasts, radio shows, audiobooks
  • Giveaways – vouchers, competitions
  • Campaigns – crowdfunding, petitions

Each social media platform has its strengths. For instance Instagram and Pinterest are great for sharing videos and images.  YouTube is the de facto search engine for video and vlogging, and Google Hangouts also sit well there. Vine (connected to and owned by Twitter) is useful for very short form videos and can be useful for sharing stories as they happen. If you are embarking on podcasting, iTunesand SoundCloud are popular platforms. If you have a Tumblr, Twitter or are on Facebook you can share a variety of content. A blog is useful for offering opinions, sharing your knowledge base, and displaying any media content.

Ticket sales can be enhanced by using social media. Each platform has methods which work, and each organisation will have specific audiences that will respond to different types of promotion.

Here are some ideas for using social media to garner ticket sales and generate interest:

  • Create Pinboards of giveaways or contests which link directly to the relevant landing pages on your website.
  • Create a special hashtag that people can use to win free tickets for your screening or event. Get people to use it and select the winner at random.
  • Create a page for your event with all the relevant information, participants and a clear call to action and use social media to drive people to it.
  • Make sure people are aware of any star guests attending your event through your social media outlets. Film aficionados love to attend events where the filmmaker/lead actor is present to answer questions.
  • Keep your Facebook fans on Facebook when selling tickets by third party apps like Eventbrite.
  • Make it as painless and easy as possible to buy tickets using a mobile phone (see why here).
  • Each social media platform has its own ecosystem, so do not employ a “one size fits all” approach.


What if you have 50K Twitter followers and you constantly tweet and share content but get very few retweets or mentions? Or you have 12K Facebook followers, but very rarely get Likes or comments? This suggests you have good reach but very little engagement, and engagement is what drives social media. When your fanbase engages with you, their followers or friends see this and also become involved.

People tend to get fixated on reach and neglect engagement – here are some tips for improving yours:

  • Get the tone right and gear it to your demographic for each social media platform
  • Keep it short – seriously, there is a lot of digital noise out there so make your posts on all social media economical with limited characters.
  • Post regularly but not too much. Obviously social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter have more tolerance for more posts per hour than Facebook or YouTube (if you are live tweeting or running a campaign this will change so remember to warn your audience).
  • Ask questions – one question could be “what do you want to see more or less of?”
  • Be discoverable. All social media platforms use hashtags as a way of finding topics. Research the ones relevant to film and use them (sparingly) in your posts.
  • Use pictures. Photos have no language barriers. Research has shown that photo posts get more engagement on Twitter and Facebook. Experiment by using engaging photographs that are relevant to your audience.


Having written your Social Media Strategy you will have defined very clear goals. You are now in a position to measure some KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) such as:


  • Number of fans or followers
    If you are producing engaging content and are thinking creatively offline to increase brand awareness, this should grow each week.
  • DemographicsExamining the gender ratios will let you know if you are targeting the right genders in the percentages that work for you.
  • Location
    Where are your fans based? Do you want to attract people in China or people in London? Examining your followers’ locations will give you a good indication if you are setting the right message. Facebook Page Insights, Google Analytics and Twitter Ad Analytics are good for measuring this.


  • Traffic Data
    This measures the percentage of traffic that comes to your website from social media.
  • Engagement Organic vs Paid
    If you are paying for sponsored links or posts, compare the results you get with those that are unpaid (organic). Are you making the best use of paid posts to promote your venue? By comparing you can tweak the posts for maximum effect.
  • Like and share
    If you are posting content that your audience is excited by they will “like” or share it. If people aren’t sharing your content, try to tweak your next posts to increase your reach.
  • Comments
    Comments enable you to receive direct feedback from customers on your posts, and a chance for you to reply directly to them. If people are not responding to your questions, think creatively and change the type of questions you ask.
  • Mentions
    Is your venue being mentioned on Twitter? Are people sharing your content and giving you a H/T (Hat tip)? Mentions can be found using the Hootsuite Analytics tool.
  • Retweets
    The more RTs (Retweets) you have, the further your reach. This is an important measurement of the tone and relevance of your message to your audience. In addition be careful that your content does not appear repetitive and automated – this can kill interest as it looks like a robot writes your tweets.
  • Ticket sales
    Using Google Analytics Social Flow you see are which social media platforms are most successful at driving traffic to your website. If you have an e-commerce section on your site, you can set up measurable goals in Google Analytics to keep tabs on how you’re doing.


Whether you work at an independent cinema, film festival or community venue the principles of social media marketing are always the same. What is important is to really know who your core audience is, and what excites them.

With thanks to Campbell, a social media manager who works with creative companies and charities and as a digital, social media consultant at poWWoW.

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