Carefully Crafted on September 01

The Anatomy of a Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Launching a new website can be a major hurdle. But, once the site is live, you face another challenge: How do you drive traffic to the new site? And, more importantly, how do you get people going through the site and taking action, not just reading a homepage overview?

How about a virtual scavenger hunt, with all the answers located within the site? HIAS International did this last year. Borrowing some ideas from their virtual scavenger hunt, we orchestrated a hunt for the Nationwide Better Health Columbus Marathon (client). It exceeded our expectations, with strong participation and positive response from runners and potential marathoners. The marathon staff declared the event a huge success, and since then, I’ve received questions from other PR people about how we planned and implemented the hunt. What follows is an overview. If you’re looking for more specific details, feel free to email me.

Why a virtual scavenger hunt?

  • Drive traffic to the website.
  • Establish new connections with potential marathon runners/walkers.
  • Offer some positive reinforcement for our marathon participants  — who are in the midst of grueling training.


  • With 1,700+ highly engaged Twitter followers, we decided to use that as the platform for the scavenger hunt.
  • Prizes were donated from a couple local partners.
  • We chose to hold the event on a weekday, from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • From the Twitter account, we asked 7 questions, at the top and bottom of each hour.
  • The first person to “@ reply” the answer to the @CbusMarathon account won a prize.

Generating Interest

  • Blog post the week of the event
  • Updates on Facebook and Twitter the week prior
  • Personalized direct messages to our Twitter list of 2010 marathon participants, asking them to participate and invite their followers to join in. (This was very effective, resulting in many RTs, which helped us reach new people).
  • Article in the monthly enewsletter, which was distributed the day before the scavenger hunt.
  • Note that we didn’t post a social-media release. While this tactic may have sparked increased attention and participation, we wanted to make sure the scavenger hunt was directed at people who are or would consider participating in the Columbus Marathon.


After strategically selecting questions that would require participants to hunt through the site (one of the main goals), we scheduled the tweets to post on the hour and half-hour. We also scheduled a “reminder” tweet a few minutes prior. The rest of the engagement was live and in the moment. Each response received about 30-40 answers. After the winner was identified, we emailed that person individually to thank him/her for participating and to coordinate the prizes. We also used the down time between questions to interact with participants, which helped sustain interest throughout the event.


Going back to our original goals, web traffic was up, Twitter followers increased and our target audience spent some time diving into the new website. Plus, we were able to give some marathoners some great swag!

When your client sends you an email deeming something a “huge success,” it’s hard to think about what could be better. But, there’s always room for improvement, right? If Geben Communication did something similar for another client, I’d make two changes from the get-go. First, I’d pick a unique hashtag (e.g.,  #marathonHunt) to streamline tracking and measurement. Second, I’d ask three questions an hour and possibly cut the event length by one hour. We had a lot of active participants, but I think asking a question every 20 minutes could have helped raise the energy level even higher.

And, so there you have it! A virtual scavenger hunt “how to” guide.

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