SocialSeparating Trend from Fad with QR Codes in Social Media

Separating Trend from Fad with QR Codes in Social Media

A common challenge in the world of social media marketing is separating trends from fads. Today, I'm proclaiming "trend" regarding the use of Quick Response (QR) codes for social media.

Call me late to the party, but I believe we’re finally seeing enough evidence (change) in the U.S. to justify the consideration of time and money for QR code marketing.

For those of you relatively unfamiliar with QR codes, mobile tagging and the origin of two-dimensional barcodes, Jeff Korhan’s recent post on how QR codes can grow your business is a must read.

For those with a deeper technical understanding, I’ll acknowledge QR codes are relatively old technology — and I appreciate the emergence of near field communication (NFC) as a potential alternative to some QR code uses.

Notable Numbers, Adoption Rate & Demographic Resources

  • The recent release of Compete’s smartphone intelligence survey results from Q3 of 2010 shows that 28 percent of smartphone owners have used mobile apps to scan barcodes.
  • Mobio’s “Naked Facts” report highlights a 1,200 percent increase in mobile scans from July to December of 2010. There are consistencies here with ScanBuy’s 2010 Mobile Barcode Trend Report, but a future comparison that factors in successive (2010 and 2011) holiday campaigns might be more meaningful.
  • ScanBuy pointed to 20 million Americans already having “standard code readers” on their phones, but with the recent release of their “scan & send” feature, QR code accessibility now reaches at least 80 percent of all camera-ready phones.

How the Growing List of Uses Support Adoption

QR codes are typically formatted to deliver one of three outputs after they are scanned: a text field, contact record, or a link (any URL you define). The ability to set up and redirect people from a unique URL is, therefore, fundamental to how we’re seeing QR codes applied in social media marketing.

Aside from metrics, another key consideration is the simple, day-to-day exposure of these codes.

Take New York City’s new initiative to include QR codes on every building permit by 2013. That could translate to around 1 million printed codes, enabling New Yorkers to quickly obtain city-wide information about construction sites and buildings.

At the Denver airport, 1st Bank has made QR codes the centerpiece of a series of large advertising displays. And yes, the clever novelty factor is in full effect — with “free sudoku” likely having a short shelf life.


Aneta Hall points to many more examples, but the point is these codes are now everywhere and past the point of flash in the pan. That means more is on the way — more case studies, conversations, integration, technology, etc.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road for QR Codes in Social Media

As the noise increases in this space, there are couple paths that may help make your next step in this effort worthwhile:

  1. Consider what might apply to an existing business problem: A CMO recently told me that his company interacts with more than 1 million people per year at various events. “If we could even get a small percentage to like our Facebook page while actually at an event, it would be a big win.”Perhaps he could partially solve this problem by using a service provider such as Likify, a company focused on driving QR code scans directly to a Facebook like button by pairing a coupon or other quick incentive to ensure the transaction is tracked and completed. Note: Pingtags has a LinkedIn focus with QR codes.
  2. Build on what works: This not only applies to the specifics of your business, but also on the bigger picture of success in social media. Consider GroupM’s research on The Role of Search and Social Media in the Purchase Pathway, which cites that 48 percent of consumers combine search and social in the buying process. “Wait,” you say. “I thought we were talking QR codes.”Stay with me. In this example, the research reaffirms the significance of consumer reviews as (the social) influencing the decision process. So now we might ask how QR codes can be used to drive awareness around our reviews or testimonials.

    If we also know from this research that 64 percent of consumers are more likely to follow a brand after a purchase, consider how does the QR code strategy adapt (on products, in e-mails, etc.) to engage existing customers?

Yes, these are quick-fire examples, but hopefully they give a good sense of the approach. Strategic and research-oriented thinking will ultimately help provide greater value to QR codes. And although QR codes may continue to be applied in gimmicky manners, make no mistake: QR codes aren’t just another fad.


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