Malco Theatres Shakes Up Its Social Media Strategy During COVID-19 Shutdown

“This unprecedented event has created an unprecedented amount of stress, which leads to an unprecedented amount of sleepless nights.” That’s Karen Melton, vice president and director of marketing at Malco Theatres—who’s used some of those sleepless nights to come up with innovative ways to bolster Malco’s social media presence, bumping up engagement and customer awareness with a series of contests, giveaways, sales initiatives, and activities. Among those: challenging moviegoers to dig through their storage boxes and and desk drawers (hey, we’re using this time to Marie Kondo anyway, right?) in search of their oldest Malco ticket stub.

In between brainstorming new social media ideas and engaging in bouts of “stress cleaning,” Melton took the time to answer Boxoffice Pro‘s questions about how Malco is keeping in touch with its customers during the shutdown.

How old was the oldest ticket that came up in this contest?

Keep in mind we are 105 years old, so we have access to very old tickets! The “winner” was a ticket from 15 years ago! 

That 15-year-old ticket—what movie was it for? How many entries did you get? 

We only had a few entries, but more views. Which is fine, as comments/entries aren’t necessary with brand management–the goal is to create ongoing awareness and drive impressions. But for the record, the winning submission was from Mean Girls, 2004!

Malco is extremely active right now on social media—how does your engagement compare to what it was before the shutdown? (Engagement for Malco-created content, that is—not the studio-provided media that you would have posted before.) 

Our engagement has tripled compared to before the shutdown, as brand management is an absolute necessity. The “downtime” has allowed our marketing department to shift gears and focus on customer engagement, building followers, and assisting with non-traditional revenue generation.

What are some of your favorite social media initiatives that Malco is doing? 

So far, there have been two initiatives that really stand out. The first being bulk popcorn sales and the second was an April Non-Fools Day gift card giveaway. The popcorn program began as a way to differentiate the restaurant at [Malco’s] Powerhouse Cinema Grill in downtown Memphis from other restaurants fighting for the same lucrative crowd. For over a week we were posting twice a day, promoting the restaurant menu, alcohol availability, etc., but still weren’t gaining traction in a crowded market. I hit on the bulk popcorn option and the manager agreed, so an attention-grabbing post was made. Sixty thousand views, seven radio stations, two TV stations, and local newspaper coverage later, we had a promotion that literally exploded within 4 hours. Social media comments gave us guidance on the next step, which was to offer curbside pickup around the greater-Memphis area. After careful consideration, we moved forward with central ordering and select pickup locations.  Once that was established, we looked at the next markets to expand and rolled out Northwest Arkansas plus Madison, Mississippi to extremely favorable results.  We continue to survey the marketplace via social media comments, etc. and are discussing the possibility of additional locations.  

The April Non-Fools Day gift card giveway came about after viewing a NSFW meme about 2020 and April Fools Day! What better way to counteract a day of unnecessary foolish pranks than to offer a $100 gift card to a fan? The post hit at 9:33am CST (which is key, as that time seems to be the “sweet spot” for weekday posts right now) and within an hour had already garnered a reach of over 28k.  By the time the contest ended 24 hours later, it had logged a reach of 300k with over four thousand entries. From an engagement standpoint, this was a grand-slam, and we could not have asked for a better outcome.

Image Courtesy of Malco Theatres

How else is Malco keeping in touch with its customers right now? Website posts/e-blasts? 

The website and app are both active with info, as well as the email contact option. One of the biggest questions asked early on was how to help local businesses, and the answer was simple–buy gift cards.  Through our website and social media pages, we immediately launched a “purchase a gift card with free shipping” initiative using the hashtag #SupportLocalBusiness. We are working hard behind-the-scenes to hit as many touchpoints as possible without overwhelming or annoying customers.  

What’s been the best social media outlet for you during this time? 

So far, Facebook has been the clear winner, but each platform reaches a different user, and it is important to gear posts toward the end-user.  Twitter has been great with cinephiles & local/regional influencers, which has allowed us to interact with hashtag games and instant conversations.  Instagram is visual, so posts tend to lean toward more simplistic announcements, etc. Facebook has almost 60k followers, so we are able to expand our reach with posts, shares, tags, etc.  One of the benefits of Facebook followers is the ability to join a special Coloring Sheet & Activity Pages group we created to offer a central location for parents to find all the great interactive pieces being shared from our distribution partners. As a parent, I found it frustrating to scroll through post after post looking for the Angry Birds or Peter Rabbit sheets, and this new additional tool has been well-received from fans looking to quickly locate family-friendly materials!