Why Facebook Graph Search Will = More Scavenger Hunts (Yay!)

treasure map facebook scavenger hunt
Here at Portent, we’ve been all abuzz conjecturing and wondering what the Facebook Graph Search roll-out will ultimately mean for clients. Facebook’s powering its graph search with the connections that take place within its platform (check-ins, likes, friends, shares, tags, and other engagement signals). Will the public take to it? Will Facebook eclipse Yelp and other review sites as the go-to for people looking for suggestions about where to go or what to buy? How jealous is Google right now?

A lot of questions for sure, but here’s what we do know. This will almost certainly increase the amount of Facebook-specific marketing requests we receive from clients. It will force us to think differently about providing new and engaging Facebook marketing tactics. This will be especially important for smaller and local businesses, who will have to engage in special promotions, special events, coupons, contests, product launches, and, OMG! SCAVENGER HUNTS!

Allow me to explain. Then watch while I work in an interview showing how the Seattle Opera gets inbound marketing (and how you can, too).

You see, one might say I have a slight affection for scavenger hunts. Or you might say that I love them more than anything except certain members of my family and my dog. I’m competitive, which I think stems from being an identical twin, but we needn’t psychoanalyze me. Scavenger hunts are a perfect outlet. I don’t mean I like to win; I mean I need to win. Like I wouldn’t actually push an old person off the sidewalk if they were lollygagging around between me and my chance of winning a scavenger hunt, but I’d consider it. And there’d be dirty looks given.

I like them so much that I’ve participated in five scavenger hunts in the past eight months—all of them put on by local businesses as part of a social media marketing campaign. Here I am doing one for Schlage Locks called Locked in a Tiny House:

Schlage Locks Scavenger Hunt Hammering Man
Schlage Locks Scavenger Hunt Hammering Man

Nevermind the dorkiness: I had to submit a picture of me mimicking the hammering man in front of the Seattle Art Museum!

I would ultimately come in 2nd place in this, just missing out on one of those giant checks in the sum of $5,000. I won a keyless entry door lock that you can operate from your smartphone instead. The perfect prize for an apartment dweller like me. Ultimately, it was a lot of fun, check it out:

Schlage Lockset
Schlage Lockset


And here I am after racing around Seattle in one put on by Icelandair to celebrate their new non-stop service to the city:

Icelandair Scavenger Hunt Winners Stash
Icelandair Scavenger Hunt Winners Stash

Second place. Again.

Guess what? I finished in 2nd place here, too, and just missed a trip to Iceland. Instead I won a sizable gift certificate, a t-shirt, and a CD compilation of Icelandic music.

In fact, I always come in second place. I’m an almost winner. I’m the Susan Lucci of the scavenger hunt scene.

The marketing side of scavenger hunts

Yet, scavenger hunts aren’t just fun for people like me to do. They’re also a great way for companies to build brand awareness and develop positive associations in the minds of the participants. Was I in the market for a new lockset? No, can’t say that I was. But when that time comes, who do you think will be the first brand that comes to mind? Schlage. In participating and enjoying their scavenger hunt, I’ve subconsciously made the connection: Schlage = locks.

Oh, and as for Icelandair? Guess where I’m going next week? Yup, leave a seat open at your table, Björk, I’m coming for a visit. I’ve always had a casual interest in seeing Iceland, but I can say with 100% confidence that if it wasn’t for the scavenger hunt, I’d probably have settled on a more typical February escape from Seattle, like Hawaii. It is this top-of-mind presence that determines whether or not a social campaign is a success. And I even still follow both brands on Facebook because, well, I find them likable.

But are they effective?

Now, just because I have a predisposition to love scavenger hunts, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an effectual tactic for businesses. In order to find out just how effective a scavenger hunt might be for a small business, I decided to do some research. I did a quick search to see if there were any taking place in Seattle. I got lucky and found that the Seattle Opera happened to be holding an online scavenger hunt the very next day. I figured I’d participate (duh), keep an eye on engagement, and perhaps reach out for comment from the organizers.

The next day I was ready to compete. I waited for instructions from their blog, and when they came the race was on. There were some really fun tasks, each step leading to the next:

  • Watch YouTube trailers for hidden annotations
  • Decode binary from the source code of previous blog posts
  • Find the original source of an image
  • Look up some of the cast members bios
Seattle Opera Scavenger Hunt YouTube Still
Seattle Opera Scavenger Hunt YouTube Still

Turns out this was pretty difficult because an understudy was filling in for this character.

Finally, the last clue instructed me to send an email to a secret address. Guess what?

Hi Rebecca,
I’m sorry to say you were so close, but we had our final winner e-mail just a minute before you. Thank you so much for playing, though, and keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter in the future for more opportunities and giveaways!

Drat. Well, it certainly was entertaining and surprisingly intense. I had no idea that an online hunt would be so nerve-wracking. Furthermore, it’s been a few weeks since the hunt and I still appreciate seeing their updates in my newsfeed, so I haven’t unfriended them on Facebook. Do I like opera? Can’t say that I do, but I know where I’m going if I want to purchase tickets for a theater-loving visitor.

You can imagine that for a smaller-sized business like Seattle Opera, the considerably lower cost of running a scavenger hunt online is pretty attractive. Not to mention that the barrier to participation is incredibly low because competitors don’t have to leave the comfort of their desk chairs.

Lessons from Seattle Opera

So just how effective was the scavenger hunt for Seattle Opera? And how much preparation and planning was needed? I asked Tamara Vallejos, the Public Programs and Media Associate for Seattle Opera.

Rebecca Bridge: How much engagement did it bring you on your social media accounts?

Tamara Vallejos: I’m still putting together a report on this for our web team, but I’ve looked at numbers for at least the initial day of the hunts (there were four days total) and there were healthy spikes in traffic to our Yelp page, blog, and several pages on our website that we placed clues on.

I haven’t looked at if we gained new followers on Facebook and Twitter (the networks on which we released the first clue each day), but the objective was never to gain followers; instead, we wanted to reward our amazing fans with a fun game and prizes, as well as increase awareness of Cinderella, the rest of our season, and the various channels we operate online and the breadth of content we provide.

Bridge: Did you have any conversions (i.e. ticket buyers) related to any of those visits to your website/blog/YouTube/Facebook/Twitter accounts?

Vallejos: We actually haven’t had time to dive into our analytics for this yet!

Bridge: Who put the hunt together? How long did it take to embed the links, etc.? Which social networks drove those most engagement?

Vallejos: For the most part, that was me. We’ve done an in-person hunt the past couple seasons (where we posted clues online but people had to go to a physical location in Seattle to find their prize), but we found that a lot of people couldn’t participate because they had to be at work or with their families, and the we also had a few repeat winners, so it seemed to be the same group of people playing each time.

My hope was that a digital hunt could bring in a larger number of participants, including some new names, and based on the interactions we received via Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail.

There were a couple hour-long group brainstorming sessions with members of the PR/Marketing department to lay out the basic framework (how many days, what the prizes would be, etc.). Then I mapped out the clues. It took about three or four hours per hunt to figure out a trail of clues, as well as get all the copy written and additional content (photos, audio, etc.) prepped so that it would only take me about 5-10 minutes to set each hunt up before it went live at 10 a.m. each day.

We posted the first clue on Facebook and Twitter, and Facebook seemed to drive more traffic. Even so, our Twitter players were the more conversational group, retweeting our updates, tweeting at us for hints or advice when they were stuck on a clue, and just chatting about the hunt in general.

Bridge: How did you reach out to the community to let them know about it?

Vallejos: We put out a press release about a week before, and wrote a blog post with all the details that we shared to our Facebook and Twitter.

Bridge: I know that one goal of the Seattle Opera is to draw in younger fans. I know that you have discounted tickets for folks under 40 and things like that. Do the scavenger hunts relate to trying to reach that audience?

Vallejos: We started placing a large emphasis on our online presence beginning in about 2010, and I don’t think that was with the specific goal of attracting younger audiences. When we produce content for the web, the goal is usually to showcase the million amazing things about this art form, because there’s something for practically anybody, no matter their age. We have how-to videos for stage makeup, close-up photos of costumes with detailed information about fabrics and techniques, audio of our singers in performance, videos with rehearsal footage, Q&As on our blog with conductors, singers, lighting designers, stage directors, and so on.

The web gives us the opportunity to really tell our own story and to share with our community what makes opera so special and unique. Plus, we can highlight aspects that are often overlooked, and perhaps break down some stereotypes! I’ll say, though, that with this digital hunt, our participants seemed to skew younger—but that wasn’t necessarily a goal from the start.

Why scavenger hunts are the future

My biggest takeaway from Seattle Opera’s hunt was how exciting, engaging, and fun the brand is, not something I would have thought I would say about opera. Exploring their various social media pages allowed me to see the playful side of an art form that I thought was staid, stodgy, and, honestly, for old people.

And I suppose that’s the point. We need to find ways to make our clients stand out while aligning with their brand messages. I’m not the only one who thinks gamification is an important tool for that, y’all. After all, having a bunch of people running around a city, or posting to Facebook or Twitter, in your name, and having a great time doing it, isn’t a bad way to bring attention to your brand. And, Facebook graph search is about to make those “likes” and check-ins a lot more valuable. And who knows, with the upcoming changes, it might just be that thing that gets you more social attention than your competitors.

Considering hosting an online (or offline) scavenger hunt as a social media marketing campaign? If so, will you please invite me?!

End call to action


  1. This is a really interesting idea, and you make a great point that online scavenger hunts particularly could be an incredible tool for businesses to use. Thanks for shining a light on this!

Comments are closed.

Close search overlay