Guest Blog: How to Create a Successful Social Scavenger Hunt

At Emory University (in Atlanta, GA) we have a sort of unofficial mascot named “Lord Dooley.” He’s the Spirit of Emory, showing up at student-run events with an entourage dressed in all black to excite the crowds and cause mischief. Every year, there’s an entire week of activities dedicated to him called Dooley’s Week.

There’s more free food than you can imagine, concerts by nationally known artists (think Girl Talk, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole) and a well-known comedian entertains the masses. Last year we had John Mulaney and we managed to book Amy Schumer years ago before she made it big. Needless to say, it’s one of the biggest weeks on campus, especially since we don’t have a football team!

Lord Dooley poses with students during Dooley's Week 2015.

Lord Dooley poses with students during Dooley’s Week 2015.

This year, I wanted our Marketing department to actually get involved with the festivities. Years past our department barely covered them, let alone ran a campaign of their own to add to the fun. Instead of doing just our typical coverage video, I opted to organize a social media scavenger hunt!

Here’s the inspiration: A local Atlanta street artist named Catlanta hides super awesome cat-shaped pieces of art around town and drops hints as to where they are on Instagram and Twitter. First to find it gets to keep it. It’s a huge sensation across the city (especially with the youngins), and I have many friends whose life goal is to find one.

Local Atlanta street artist Catlanta created "Lord Dooley" cats (DooleyCats) for an Emory University social scavenger hunt.

Local Atlanta street artist Catlanta created “Lord Dooley” cats (DooleyCats) for an Emory University social scavenger hunt.

I contacted the mastermind behind Catlanta MONTHS before Dooley’s Week to discuss possibilities. I wanted to hide 5 cats a day over 5 days on Emory’s main campus, and one cat per day on our Oxford campus. The cats were to be designed to look like Lord Dooley, so I dug up dozens of photos from which Catlanta could draw inspiration. I wanted the design to be authentically his (with an Emory twist,) so I let his imagination run wild and he came up with these masterpieces:

Now came the hard part. Where the heck on campus was I supposed to hide all these cats, and how could I do it secretly so nobody saw me? I called on my fellow Emory experts (our Social Media Council) to help me brainstorm important but not super-obvious places to hide the cats throughout the week. I needed at least 25 places for the 25 cats, more in case of unforeseen circumstances (decorations, crowds, you know.) I compiled a list of 32 options and started mapping out my evil masterplan.

Prior to Dooley’s Week, we wanted the students to get pumped up about the scavenger hunt, so we created a behind-the-scenes video called “The Making of #DooleyCat,” and wrote a story about the campaign. We shared these throughout the week preceding Dooley’s Week, and teased the cats on Instagram and Twitter. 

I set out Monday morning before coming into the office for my first #DooleyCat ‘drop’ – the stock exchange at Emory’s Goizueta Business School to ring the Opening Bell. It was snagged within 5 minutes and so the hysteria ensued. The next few days were a blur, with me running around campus all day hiding cats, and trying to do so without being seen. By Thursday of that week a few students recognized “the lady with the purse full of #DooleyCats” at one of the events. Hey, you can only make yourself so invisible! Not all of us have Invisibility Cloaks like Harry Potter (lucky). 

#DooleyCat takes in the scenic – if a bit overcast – view this morning. #DooleysWeek

A photo posted by Emory University (@emoryuniversity) on

By the end of the week, it was rare if a #DooleyCat wasn’t snatched up within a few minutes of the picture being posted. I had to revise my hiding places a bit in order to make them harder to find, but they were still found within minutes. By Friday evening I had hidden 25 cats over 5 days, walked/ran at least 6+ miles throughout the week, and only had to mediate a few arguments over rightful #DooleyCat owners.

My office knew it was a success just based on the students’ interest and comments throughout the week, whether on social or heard around campus. But the remarks that came at the end of the campaign from students and staff alike really hit home. Prior to this, our Marketing department had never done something so “fun” (my colleagues’ exact words) and we rarely got involved with student-run events on campus. This success proved how important it is to connect with and understand the students on your campus. I received numerous emails from a few who figured out my identity, asking that we continue this for years to come. It was “the best Dooley’s Week ever,” and a new tradition was born.

You definitely learn a few things planning a large-scale campaign like this. Here are some #protips on how you can conceptualize and run a flawless social media campaign on your campus!

#ProTips for a successful Social Media Scavenger Hunt:

  1. Plan well in advance. If it is local art you would like to hide, contact the artist at least 6 months prior to your campaign to ensure there is enough time for design development and fine-tuning.
  2. Talk budget early on with your team. Depending on the artist, this could be very cheap or very expensive. Our artist loves being involved with the community, so we got a great deal and were able to order more than planned. This meant more places to hide them, which required more planning as well.
  3. Have an outline (or map) of where you are going to hide your little gems. Create a rough timeline to plan when and where you will be hiding each piece of art to make your life a little easier. Because let’s face it, this isn’t the only thing you’ll have to focus on ya busy bee!
  4. There’s no “I” in team. If you can, enlist help from your coworkers and resources on campus! It takes a lot more time than you could imagine hiding this much art, and you will need extra hands on deck.
  5. Coordinate with Campus Leaders to get the word out. I manage a Social Media Council at Emory which consists of 15-20 social media experts from various departments and divisions. Involve them in your process so they, too, can build the excitement on campus.

It’s been a fun #DooleysWeek y’all…until next time! Thanks for giving #DooleyCat so many loving homes.

A photo posted by Emory University (@emoryuniversity) on

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