Where have you seen this
funny black and white square before? On a building? In a magazine?
A poster? A business card? All of the above?
If you're observant, you've probably noticed the image -- called a
QR code -- in a myriad of places throughout your everyday life. If
you haven't caught one yet, get ready. They're coming.
Quick Response (QR) codes are similar to barcodes but, because
they can hold more data, they trigger action -- like opening a
website, downloading a file, "liking" a Facebook page, following a
Twitter feed, or revealing a picture or video. And all you need is
a smartphone to start "decoding." Since almost 46 million Americans (and growing) use their
smart phone to access the internet or download information, you can
imagine the power of having a customized QR code that allows people
to quickly and easily access your content on their mobile, without
ever typing a url.
The possibilities are endless. Here are some particularly
effective examples of QR codes in action:
- Business professionals everywhere are using QR codes as digital
business cards that share LinkedIn accounts or vCards.
- Cities from San Francisc, CA to Bordeaux, France post QR codes that provide
links to information on landmarks, reviews of restaurants, and/or
directions to nearby shops or parking locations. Audio snippets and
video clips enable tourists and locals to take self-guided,
social-media-rich tours of their favorite cities.
- Eventbrite and others use QR codes for paperless concert,
conference and party registration.
- SWSX and other conferences put QR codes on badges that connect
attendees in social media networks or link to a vCard, Twitter feed
or Facebook page.
- Several magazines use QR codes that take readers directly to
the product in an online store.
- Newspapers, including The Sun in England and the
Mid-Day in India, print QR codes on its pages that
when scanned direct readers to the latest news. Some believe QR
codes may be advertising phenomenon that saves newspapers from
further financial crisis.
While most new phones are ready to read QR codes right from the
box, there are many applications available for iPhones, Androids,
BlackBerries, Nokias and most other phones. If your phone isn't
currently able to scan QR codes, a simple web search of "QR reader
for [your phone model] should do the trick.
More important than reading, how can you create a QR code for your
product, venue or brand? There are many simple online services,
including Kaywa, iCandy, Stickybits or GoQR.me. (Read more about these services here.)
Start experimenting with them now. They are efficient alternatives
to typing out URLs or other data on the tiny keyboards of mobile
phones, upon which we are increasingly dependent, and they can
easily be integrated with geo-location and other services. In the
age of social media, mobile devices and short attention spans, QR
codes are the key to turning passing viewers into active
participants. Isn't that what every brand wants?