Don’t Be a Square: An Unconventional and Creative Way to Use Social Media for Businesses

As a business today, it’s not enough to simple have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – and it’s not even enough to update it regularly. There are tens of millions of business pages on Facebook, and every day we are confronted with countless advertisements. What would make us want to investigate the social media page of one company over another? In order to peak a user’s interest amidst the saturation of online advertising, companies must get creative.

One way in which companies generate consumer interest is through online hide-and-go-seek games. In a nutshell, companies “hide” an icon somewhere on one of their social media pages and challenge users to find it. Sometimes a company rewards the first user to find the icon with a gift card, while others enter each user who successfully finds it in a drawing for a t-shirt.


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Last year, SmartBear (a software company) launched their own version of the online Easter egg hunt. Users were encouraged to navigate the company’s website to find developer Dain Nilsson. Once they clicked on him, a Twitter box would appear, prompting the user to tweet using @SmartBear and #Dain. Everyone who tweeted was entered to win a t-shirt. The Twitter campaign proved highly successful, doubling the mentions of @SmartBear.

Scavenger hunts (such as the one launched by SmartBear) are a win-win situation for both the company and the online user. The company gains popularity, and extends their online reach. Increased reach equates to more potential clients. Clients ultimately generate revenue for the company, and the big executive is happy.

On the other hand, the user receives a free prize. The quick, fun game which required relatively little effort on the part of the user, suddenly becomes a tangible item. And let’s face it, who doesn’t like free stuff? As I like to say, “If it’s free, it’s for me!”


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This type of approach to advertising proves significantly more effective for two reasons. First and foremost, Facebook and Twitter monitor and remove posts they deem to be overly-promotional. If a post is removed, the company unnecessarily spent time on an advertisement that no one ever saw – and in the world of business, time is money.

Second, users respond more positively to an engaging and interactive activity compared to a pushy, shameless plug. I know I get annoyed every time I have to choose “Skip Ad” to advance to the site that I initially clicked on. I think we respond more favorably to the hide-and-go-seek efforts because it gives the company a personality. People like other people with whom they can form a connection. Individuals have a noticeably harder time connecting with big businesses.

As technology progresses, it will be interesting to see how businesses break the traditional mold of social media. Will businesses continue trying to engage the online user? What will that look like in 1 year? How about in 5? The possibilities are endless.



6 thoughts on “Don’t Be a Square: An Unconventional and Creative Way to Use Social Media for Businesses

  1. Hi Emily,

    I think the idea for a scavenger hunt to entice people to view a company’s website is genius. Not only is it original, but it does make the company more appealing than one that simply has an ad. Also this engages people to look through the company’s website so that they can learn more. However, I don’t think I have seen too many companies do this. Also I feel like this wouldn’t work very well for a small business. It is a great way to inform the public about your business, but if you are a small business it may be hard to offer a prize to a set of winners. I also wonder how someone can use something like this for their own professional website. Is there a way to do it so companies can explore your website?



  2. Emily,

    I often question the overall success for companies like SmartBear from one such social media stunt. Yes, they initially receive a spike in Twitter mentions, but how long does the fame really last before fizzling out? Instagram users frequently post spam contests stating that the first 1000 followers will a free product or meal, etc. but really the company is merely scheming for an increase in followers. Once the tricked followers become informed of the deception, they usually immediately unfollow the site. So, while SmartBear may have had a heightened number of mentions or followers, how high is the rention rate for those users?


  3. Hi Emily,
    You bring up a really creative way to get users involved in social media. It would be interesting to see statistics on engagement in these “hide and go seek” games. When are users more likely to participate? What level of difficulty is appropriate? This new social media engagement has a lot of opportunities, but to make it effective, these statistics are needed.


  4. I do think businesses should be using social media to creatively advertise, however some of the stuff they’re currently doing comes off as gimmicky. For instance, companies hire these people to run their social media accounts so they add their own commentary on current events. I really don’t care about the opinions of corporations and this really only works to get these corporations involved in controversy. Instead I hope companies start to repurpose how they use their social media accounts, using it to focus more on branding and advertising their products and engage other users through customer service and promoting discounts.


  5. Hi Emily,

    The scavenger hunt is something I come across everyday. I was shopping on Tobi the other day–a clothing site that actually originated from Facebook–and I received an email that said a 50% off coupon was lying somewhere on their Twitter page. I didn’t follow them on Twitter, but it forced me to visit the page. It was fairly interesting, so I followed it. I probably wouldn’t have had it not been for that coupon. So here’s my question: when are these “difficult” ways of retrieving awards going to die out in terms of social media? The older certain media outlets get, the less they can be used for such creative purposes. New and innovative ideas must resurface to replace the “scavenger hunt” of today.

    Cool post!



  6. Hi Emily,

    Its very interesting to think about the new ways that companies must use social media. We realize that companies have all forms of social media today, but that just is not enough anymore. The companies ability to engage their customers in other ways than simple Facebook posts or tweets, but giving them the same outcome.

    Companies are finding any way they can to engage customers and increase the views of their content. All companies want to increase the views of their own products, and they only way they can do that is by changing their outreach ideas.

    I think this is something that could be what our generation brings to the work field. We have used Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram our whole lives and seem basically it all. When we enter the work force i think that some companies will rely on the newest generation to think of different ways to engage in social media. We will be responsible for using what we know, what we have seen done, and what we have experience in, to do what companies need them to. Companies need that foot forward of thinking where we will be able to introduce new types of advertisements for increase in awareness of the cause.

    Great post!


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