Facebook + QR Codes = A Good Idea?

Take a picture of it.  Go ahead.  Before you do, though, you’ll need a QR code reader application on your smartphone.  Here are some suggestions:

  • iPhone:  I-Nigma
  • Android:  Google Zxing Readxer or BeeTagg
  • Blackberry:  I-Nigma or BeeTagg
  • Windows Mobile:  BeeTagg
  • Nokia:  I-Nigma

This allows you to “read” the code – you need this to use it.  And I’ve already “written” the code by inputting my URL into a simple QR code generator (don’t worry about that, it’s just a minor detail). 

So, now that you can actually use it, let me tell you what it is.  It’s a QR (Quick Response) code.  Just like the name implies, it’s used to take you to an online destination “quickly” from your phone.  People – mainly marketers – use them for various things, most notably on print pieces to drive consumers online from the actual print piece.  You can also receive SMS texts and coupons through this code, if it is set up right and if your reader application accepts those forms of data.  There are many other uses, from self-promotion to personal information (business card-like) to rich multimedia content delivery.  They’re really big in Japan/SE Asia, in large part due to the absence of a QWERTY keyboard.  They haven’t really caught on in the U.S.  But it’s a good concept, right?  Take a picture, automatically find more information – all through the snap of a little black and white code.

So now that you know what they are (and how to use them) – and I’m sure someone else might be able to explain it better than me, certainly someone who has a much larger audience – let’s say someone like Facebook, the most popular site in the U.S. – let’s actually do something with them.

First, did you take a photo of mine yet, through your QR code reader application?  If so, you found my Twitter account.  If not, I’ll make it even easier on you – click here.  That was probably much easier than taking out your phone, downloading an application, taking a photo of the code and seeing a mobile version of my Twitter account.  It’s a 4-5 step process vs. 1.  Not really conducive for a good experience in this scenario, snapping this code on a digital screen like a computer, especially when you have a keyboard right in front of you.

But let’s consider this – the power of QR codes really lies in being able to merge the real-world with the digital world.  So, let’s talk through that scenario and leverage it for its strength – out in the real world.  Let’s say you want to print stickers, or a T-shirt, or even a bumper sticker (yes, I heard bumper sticker?!?) with your own personal QR code so when people see you out and about, they can snap a picture of your code and be taken online to your own personal Twitter account.  Or Facebook account.  Even see your FB status.  If you’re still in, here’s what you need to do.

For stickers, make sure that you have the most appropriately sized stickers/labels.  I’ve found Avery 8395 to be the best because of their size (QR codes are square).  They’re a little expensive, though – in fact, all blank labels/stickers are more expensive than you would expect.

You’ll also need to make sure you can format them appropriately – how many rows across, how many columns down?  The Avery stickers are 2 across, 4 down for a total of 8 stickers per sheet.  But, here’s the rub – you can either go through the process of formatting them yourself (which is not an envious task) or buy a software solution that automatically formats them.  This can be had for $20-$40.

Now, make your own stickers.  Rinse and repeat if you want to do T-shirts or bumper stickers.  Or anything else.  Keep in mind the formatting and the actual object you want to print them on.

Whew.  It’s a lot.  But at least now, the world knows who I am wherever they turn.  And as a consumer, all I have to do is wade through all of the black  & white QR codes in the real world to find information on the people/brands that I’m interested in. 

On 2nd thought, the browser on my phone is really good and pretty darn quick.

And to all the brands out there – I’ve done this before.  I can hook you up.  And we don’t have to wait on FB!

Look – all lightness aside – in terms of raising awareness for this technology, Facebook’s endorsement and accessibility should help immensely (if this is all true).  In terms of actual application and effectiveness, I fear that it could easily cloud realistic, positive use.  This technology can really be effective and provide a lot of value to the brand and to the consumer, if used correctly.  As soon as it becomes an enterprise novelty, though, they might die.  I hope this is not the outcome.

What are your thoughts?

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