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Success Stories: Real-Life Treasure Hunt Wins Enviable Social Media Engagement for Members Choice CU

October 1, 2020
  • Greg McFarlin shows off the winning treasure.

  • Participants share their experiences on social media.

Success Stories

Real-Life Treasure Hunt Wins Enviable Social Media Engagement for Members Choice CU 

By Donna Adinolfe

Background: It’s a question so many of us struggle with: how to achieve real engagement on social media, from members who are genuinely interested?

One Kentucky credit union has clearly cracked the code.

While not a hotspot for COVID-19, Kentucky was on lockdown from March through June, when the state began Phase 1 of reopening. Not only was the community feeling the emotional effects from the pandemic, it was also feeling the economic effects of the closing of an area steel mill and a major hospital shutting its doors.

“People in our community felt lonely, and families were doing what they could to pass the time,” said Tiffany Black, Business Development/Marketing Manager at Members Choice Credit Union, Ashland, KY. “I had the treasure hunt idea in my idea book for the past year, waiting on the perfect moment to put it into play. I think this was the right time.”

After seeing the success of a social media Art Scavenger Hunt in their area, Black said, “I decided it was time to turn it up a notch and give our community something else to search for: $1,000!”

In addition to giving members something fun to do while learning about their community, the goals of the treasure hunt included increasing followers on Facebook and Instagram and increasing engagement on post/website clicks, brand awareness and community giveback.

What they did: Black recruited her brother, Travis Barker, to help come up with clues and find the perfect hiding spot in the area.

“I was the only person at the credit union who knew where the treasure was located,” she said, adding, “we dug into the Ashland Area history and really made this a learning experience for our community.”

The small plastic Treasure Hunt piggy bank containing a laminated certificate was hidden in a park in Boyd County, Kentucky.  It was covered loosely by leaves under a platform. The contest was open to people of all ages, and the lucky hunter who found it would win $1,000.

All the clues were scheduled using Social Sprout and were linked back to the credit union’s website. Clues were posted 3-4 times weekly on Facebook with bonus clues appearing on Instagram throughout the month of June.

“Photo clues really give it away, so you have to be strategic with what you post,” Black said. “I did not announce what day clues were posted. This kept hunters checking our pages daily.”

The clues were intentionally vague so the treasure wasn’t discovered after just 3-4 posts, she added.

Members Choice serves mainly five counties in eastern Kentucky, and Black said she chose to make it known the treasure was only in one county.

Two days before the treasure hunt began, Black issued a press release outlining the rules, such as no destroying property, and legal terms of the hunt.

Hunters were urged to post photos and videos of their search plus engage with other participants to discuss strategy.


The $1,000 check was presented to Greg McFarlin, who was the first participant to decipher the last clue and upload his selfie to the credit union’s Facebook page with the hashtag #weCUhunt #MCCUHometownHunt2020.

“The treasure hunt was a great success,” Black said. “We were able to bring individuals and families together for lifelong memories during a time when separation is key. The hunt is just a small part of our philanthropic activities, as well as financial literacy, which reflects the interest of our membership and the communities we serve.”

The actual results exceeded the credit union’s original goals for this promotion, Black said.

Two press releases were published to local newspapers, and Black appeared on “My Town TV” twice for a Live Q&A session.

“The morning of the second Live Q&A, the treasure was found about four hours prior to going online,” she said. “The show changed its concept, but we had more than 1,000 followers join in to ask questions about clues, and to find out exactly where the treasure was hidden.”

  • Partnering with the local TV Station (online platform only) videos produced 10,000 impressions and were viewed 5,000 times.
  • Post-Performance for MCCU’s top 4 posts May 13-June 24 on Instagram collectively gained 3,000 impressions.
  • Post-Performance for MCCU top 4 posts May 13-June 24 on Facebook produced 22,035 impressions.
  • Members Choice Facebook impressions saw a 122% increase due to the Hometown Hunt. Instagram saw a 266% increase.
  • Instagram followers doubled during this time
  • Website page for the hunt had 1,270 hits from May 13-June 24

Note: Impressions = “the total number of times the information/post was seen.

“Our CEO loved it, and our employees enjoyed figuring out the clues so much, I created a hunt just for our staff on a Saturday in July,” Black said, adding the prize was a $1,000 Dell Laptop.

She created a Facebook group for the one-day event so employees’ families also could be involved. Clues were posted every 45 minutes from 1-7 p.m. The treasure was found around 8:30 p.m.

Besides the time spent to create the event, the only cost involved was that of the prizes, Black said. She adds that, “it is time consuming, but I really enjoyed it, and fun stuff like this isn’t work!”

Key Lessons Learned

  • Interactive, community-involved activities are a great way to grow your social media presence and engagement.
  • Marketing and hosting social media events can provide lifelong memories for individuals and families, and, in turn, people will remember your brand fondly.
  • Word of mouth is alive and well. “We became the topic of conversation at the dinner table, and during lunch in workplaces,” Black said. “Giving people that experience puts our name on the list if they ever need a financial institution.”

Looking to do something similar at your credit union? Here’s a few tips from Tiffany:

  • Post your clues to the platform where you have the most followers, then drive them to the platform with the least amount of followers.
  • A bigger, better prize, like $1,000, creates a bigger drive for members and non-members to participate.
  • Give yourself 3-4 weeks to plan. Do your research of area history and lore. Engage others if you need help with formulating clues. After the prize is hidden, check on the location daily.
  • Announce the treasure hunt or event in advance so people can plan for it.
  • Partner with a local media outlet to get the word out. Build up the treasure hunt 2-3 weeks before the event begins to create excitement and engagement prior to the event.
  • Be sure your employees are aware of the program ahead of time so they can start generating buzz.
  • Make sure your treasure is handicapped accessible or note any challenges in the disclosure and rules.