It’s the latest craze on Twitter: users hide cash, tweet clues about where to find it, and then leave instructions for the finders to “pay it forward.” The concept originally began around two weeks ago in California, where anonymous Twitter user @HiddenCash began tweeting hints about where to find hidden envelopes with cash around San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The anonymous donor allegedly began hiding the cash as a way to give something back to the community — and now the idea has taken root in multiple towns and cities across the U.S. The @HiddenCash account has over 470,000 followers, and numerous imitators are adding followers at a rapid rate. For example, @HiddenCashKS already has over 14,000 followers, despite starting about a week ago, and @HiddenCashChi (in Chicago) has earned over 14,600 followers in around two weeks.
The movement started around an altruistic ideal; the original @HiddenCash bio reads “an anonymous social experiment for good.”
The person behind the account initally remained anonymous “because he wants the attention to remain on the pay-it-forward activities rather than himself,” reported the The Topeka Capital-Journal. However, CBS News reported yesterday that the man behind the original @HiddenCash account has been revealed.
The account’s imitators have also chosen to remain anonymous; the woman running the account in Kansas hopes it will “brighten someone’s day” and also that the scavenger hunt will help keep kids and teens in a small town out of trouble.
Residents in the states and areas where cash is being hidden are tweeting and asking for more locations, and many are tweeting their approval of the movement. The original @HiddenCash account is announcing new locations on a regular basis, continuing to share the wealth around the U.S. and beyond.
NYC. Chicago. Houston. Vegas. Mexico City. Hitting all of these this weekend, and Europe next!
— Hidden Cash (@HiddenCash) June 10, 2014
“I guess it (the scavenger hunt) kind of restores faith in humanity,” said Ashley Brown, one of the recipients of the hidden cash. One Chicago Twitter user posted: “What a great thing you are doing.”
So what does all this mean for brands? Scavenger hunts are nothing new to social media marketing, but the nation-wide response to the hidden cash accounts shows real enthusiasm for a campaign motivated by altruism (and, of course, the allure of finding free money).
Brands could tweet about hidden products or prizes or gift certificates (rather than cash) and also leave instructions for how recipients can then ‘pay-it-forward’ to others in the community. This type of social media effort could work on a national scale, but also be really effective for the small local business that is looking to give something back to the community (and get great exposure while doing so.) One follower told Sacramento’s ABC News 10 that “It’s exciting, it’s like a game. Everybody likes that type of thing.”
Has your brand tried social media scavenger hunts in the past? How might your brand use the success of @HiddenCash to create a similar campaign that will engage consumers?