‘Heist’ hunt finds 52,000 on Facebook

Promo game for Universal pic generates big numbers

Now that nearly every film has its own Facebook page, studios are figuring out how to harness social media more effectively.

For November’s launch of “Tower Heist,” Universal Pictures offered up 1 million Facebook credits to users for the Brett Ratner-helmed action comedy as part of an online scavenger hunt dubbed “Heist It Back.” Concept tapped into the pic’s plot in which characters, played by Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, seek revenge on the Wall Street swindler who stiffed them.

Online players earned Facebook credits by uncovering “Heist” buttons hidden within Facebook pages or getting friends to join the game.

More than 52,000 Facebook users played the game during the three weeks prior to the film’s release on Nov. 4., according to Universal Pictures, which developed the game with interactive agency the Branding Farm and digital goods developer ifeelgoods.

Altogether, players performed 384,391 digital “heists,” invited 94,062 friends to participate and posted 18,617 personal stories about the game. Those posts garnered 208,000 likes and comments, propelling the game’s total Facebook impressions to 4.1 million. Overall, the promotion generated 157 million page impressions across the site.

Players earned two Facebook credits for performing a heist and three credits for referring a friend.

The game proved so popular that producers lowered the number of credits earned for posting a story to avoid depleting the promotion’s 1 million credits.

Users can redeem Facebook Credits (worth 10¢) for digital movies or other games on the website. For example, Universal rents and sells “The Big Lebowski” on Facebook and had a “Scarface” version of “Mafia Wars” on the site.

The key to the game’s success was its ability to reward players.

“What (traditional campaigns) don’t have is the viral effect where you have opportunities for people to engage and share,” said Scott Silverman, co-founder and VP of marketing at Ifeelgoods. “You’re getting 10-20 times more viral impact than you would on a standard campaign. When you look at the ability to use Facebook Credits, people are so eager to receive them that just getting 50¢ or a dollar of Facebook credits was an incentive for people to engage.”