Lessons learned from Texas A&M University Social Media Scavenger Hunt

February 9th, 2011 Karine Joly 3 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, Texas A&M University ran an integrated (mashed up?) social media campaign on campus using not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 of the most popular social media platforms, namely Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Foursquare.

When I watched the YouTube video announcing the campaign (on Patrick Powers’ blog), I was impressed by its production quality and decided to learn more about it.

Diane C. McDonald, Director of Social Media (cool job title) at Texas A&M University was kind enough to answer my questions so we can all learn from her experience planning and running this social media campaign.

Diane McDonald1) You’ve decided to use almost all the social media platforms under the sun with this campaign. Can you tell us why you took this innovative approach?

We decided to take an integrated social media approach to leverage our strong presence on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the location-based service Foursquare. We promoted the hunt on Facebook and YouTube, distributed clues on Twitter and rewarded winners for check-ins on Foursquare. We wanted to pull together our existing channels into a cohesive social media package that builds a brand. This is difficult to do.

2) What were your strategic goals for this campaign?

We launched the campaign with three primary goals. First, our business development goal was to partner with the Collegiate Licensing Company to promote corporate sponsors of our Foursquare program. Our primary sponsors included the Texas A&M MSC Bookstore and adidas, the official brand for Aggie apparel. They donated all prizes at no cost to the university.

Second, on the social media front, we wanted to integrate all of our social media platforms together and grow our Twitter and Foursquare following. Texas AM utilized its Facebook and You Tube channels to promote the hunt. Twitter was the channel of choice to play the hunt – as clues were distributed only through our channel @TAMUtalk. To win, students checked-in to the venues on Foursquare.

Our third goal was student-related. We wanted to leverage our social media to encourage the university’s nearly 50,000 students to explore their 5,200-acre campus as never before—and reward those checking into campus destinations using their smart phones. We wanted to help students use technology to make real-world connections while learning more about their campus.

3) Can you share some data about the results and the return on investment of this campaign?

The student connections and exploration of the campus were the overwhelming student rewards for participating. Several students met and became friends through the hunt. Approximately 80 students received prizes donated by adidas, the Texas A&M MSC Bookstore, which is operated by Barnes and Noble, and other campus partners.

The final clue led to the home of Texas A&M President, R. Bowen Loftin. Known for his signature bowties, Loftin greeted scavenger hunt participants and awarded bowties as prizes. Students loved using social media to have a real-world connection with the university president.

Texas A&M University stretched its already immense presence in the social media realm by 10 percent over a period of three days. The University saw a 10-percent increase in the number of followers of our Twitter feed – @TAMUtalk – to more than 8,700 followers, and grew our recently announced Foursquare program to more than 6,350 friends. This inclusion resulted in the dual success of increased revenue and school spirit as many of the adidas and Texas A&M-branded items were prizes for participants. All of the prizes were donated to the event, and with the high-volume of student participation, the campus bookstore saw a dramatic spike in customer traffic.

4) Any other lessons learned you’d like to share with the rest of the class?

We were glad that we established a Twitter hashtag #TAMUhunt at the beginning of the hunt. #TAMUhunt enabled students (plus staff, alumni, prospective students) to follow along by keeping a stream open in Twitter. One of the 223 participant tweets with the #TAMUhunt tag said, “#TAMUhunt makes me feel like Indiana Jones on campus. Let’s check-in and win! (cue theme music).” My student intern and I also found ourselves rewriting our clues to make them more challenging throughout the event as students loved the challenge. We also discovered that students soon learned that they could watch what buildings were trending on Foursquare to solve the clues.

As we move forward with social media, #TAMUhunt has helped us start conversations on campus about how to enhance our check-in experiences on Foursquare. We’re now working with our digital librarians to integrate our digital collections with our Foursquare program.

In a world with so many social media platforms that serve different purposes, we wanted to find a way to pull together our existing channels into a cohesive social media package that builds a brand.

This is difficult to do – and we pulled it off.