Using Scavenger Hunts to Learn

I recently led a two day bootcamp on social media basics for communications leaders from a number of AARP state offices. I love getting the chance to help build onto the foundations of communication skills and hone the skills behind. My biggest challenge with all-day training is finding opportunities to get up and move. I think I found the best formula yet: A social media treasure hunt.

Near the end of my career as a journalism professor, I watched a team of former Missouri School of Journalism doctoral alumni team up to challenge their journalism students with a week-long social media scavenger hunt. Students were challenged to find all kinds of interesting things across campus. The class with the most findings would win.

I decided to tweak that idea and fit it into an hour or so in the middle of my first day of training. Here’s how I did it:

At the beginning of the day, I and a couple of other co-trainers met with each attendee to make sure they had installed, signed in and connected multiple iPhone applications to social media sites. iPhones are a standard tool used by most AARP communications professionals and I wanted to make sure we were all using the same tools together. I recommended a long list, but I focused in on:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • Magisto
  • Vine
  • Foursquare

Once we had everything set up, I and additional trainers in the room talked on the basics of personal and professional use of Twitter and Facebook. We were also fortunate to also have a chance for Facebook representatives to share some of their insight with the attendees through a webinar/conference call. With a good lunch and open conversation about different ways to use two of the most used social media tools, I set the group up for the scavenger hunt challenge. I handed out a two-page sheet with a list of tools I wanted them to use and a list of point-based challenges. They had one hour to complete the challenge.

I offered participants the chance to win prizes for the most points. I also offered a “Wild Card” option where a person could earn an extra 10 points for doing something different and possibly outside the app list I shared. The result can be found on many different social media platforms by just searching #AARPhunt. I especially enjoy seeing the #AARPhunt Twitter stream because people who didn’t attend jumped in, engaged with attendees and even offered additional challenges or tried out technology on their own that was mentioned during the hunt. You can see a full collection of the hunt on this Storify collection.

In the end, I think adding a scavenger hunt to the bootcamp made it a real hands-on experience. Instead of opening each app and walking the room through how to use it, we just used it. Jumping in and trying new tools are one of the fastest ways to understand how they work.


  1. Krista

    This is a really cool idea. Thank you for sharing! I will be doing some social media training with my company soon, and I am filing this idea away for that!

  2. Sara

    I was one of the participants, and it was a complete hands on, engaging, and fun way to learn new tips. I enjoyed it thoroughly and hope to go on more hunts!

  3. Andrew

    How creative. I love the idea. What feedback did you hear from the participants? And what about after the conference, have you seen an uptick of social media usage by the crowd?

  4. Hi, Andrew. I am seeing more use and there’s also just an extra buzz by people who attended and didn’t attend the event. I have a lot more requests to hold this bootcamp at other locations. And I really think the way I put it together makes the day and a half training portable.

  5. I just wanted to add that if you are thinking about doing a social media scavenger hunt to not be intimidated and go for it. You’ll be surprised at how easily engaged people are and how fun it can be. Your blog post takes the social media scavenger hunt to a new level bringing in the education aspect which I think is brilliant. Embracing social media to educate… sounds like the future and I’m OK with that. I did a related blog post about a very well executed social media scavenger hunt that others may find insightful about the process:

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