Background: A virtual scavenger hunt engages participants to gather “clues” from a variety of online resources, including websites and social media platforms to answer questions. Those answers lead participants along a pre-determined path to a “finish line”. Virtual scavenger hunts have been around for decades. In 1992, a UCLA professor created a hunt to encourage adults to explore web-based resources. Questions were distributed to online groups, discussion forums, and other early websites. Since that time, the majority of virtual hunts have been focused on supporting brand and product awareness campaigns. The concept also offers important opportunities for improving public health by increasing awareness, growing social media followings, and encouraging the public to share health information and resources with their online networks.
Program background: The National Eye Institute (NEI) public website and social media communities on Twitter and YouTube are designed to support the availability, dissemination, and promotion of NEI’s evidence-based health information. Traditionally, this information-sharing has taken place when NEI responds to public inquiries received by phone, email, website and social media; distributes publications and information through NEI’s Twitter handle; and hosting a regular Twitter Chat series. To optimize NEI’s Twitter presence and more fully engage NEI’s online audiences, NEI and Westat designed a virtual scavenger hunt to increase awareness of NEI and its high quality health information resources. The scavenger hunt was designed to provide participants with clues that would require them to consult NEI’s online resources to find answers.
Evaluation Methods and Results: The NEI scavenger hunt has three primary objectives: (1) ensure that participants receive important eye health information, (2) support the viral spread of that information, and (3) build visibility for and expand the reach and impact of NEI-funded research and resources. The scavenger hunt takes place during the month of June 2015. To determine the success of the scavenger hunt, Westat and NEI will track and analyze: (1) social media data analytics (e.g., retweets, mentions, favorites, link clicks, comments, and video views); (2) growth in NEI’s social media following; (3) reach of the campaign; (4) sentiment and influencers; (5) time spent engaging with NEI materials and downloads; and (6) user-generated content developed. This presentation will review the campaign and results, providing NCHCMM attendees with insights and ideas for implementation on their projects.
Conclusions: Research suggests that online scavenger hunts can be useful for raising awareness and promoting resources – and this tactic can be adapted to public health campaigns and programs. As demonstrated by the NEI example, using data to inform social media campaigns that employ creative and innovative tactics like a virtual scavenger hunt helps to ensure that the tactic is effectively implemented and aligns with project goals and communication objectives.
Implications for research and/or practice: Public health professionals are challenged with engaging audiences around important public health topics. The multi-channel scavenger hunt, as described in this presentation, can help program implementers to move beyond traditional methods of information dissemination and use emerging methods that encourage communities to engage in a dialogue around evidenced-based health information.