QR Codes — Hardlinking the Mobile Web to Find You…Socially
Social Media has met the Mobile Web, and the QR (Quick Response) Code is becoming a prized tool of customer connection for marketers. It simply makes it much easier for brand followers, customers and prospects to find a business online.
The Mobile Web refers to the use of Internet-connected applications, or browser-based access to the Internet from mobile devices such as smartphones or tablet computers, connected to a wireless network. Including devices such as the Kindle, the iPhone and other smartphones, web-enabled tablets, GPS systems, video games andwireless home appliances, the growth of the Mobile Web has been exponential — and we’re still just at the beginning of this cycle.
In 2010, Morgan Stanley’s analysts reported that, based on the current rate of change and adoption, the Mobile Web will be bigger than desktop Internet use by 2015.
QR codes basically provide a means to open a URL on a mobile phone. A QR code is a 2-D matrix barcode graphical tag that consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of any kind of data (e.g., binary, alphanumeric or Kanji symbols, etc.).
The code can be scanned by a smart phone’s camera and the information transferred. If you have a phone with a camera and Internet service, you simply take a picture of the QR code and it then connects to the Mobile Web and the URL in question. Based on the type of code it is, it might connect to a wireless network, direct the viewer to a website and open a Web page in the phone’s browser, display text, make a phone call, deliver a vCard, create a calendar event, send an SMS, provide contact information, purchase tickets or much, much more.
Users can generate and print their own QR codes for others to scan and use by visiting one of several pay or free QR code-generating sites or apps. Google has a popular API to generate QR codes, and apps for scanning QR codes can be found on nearly all smartphone devices.
This act of linking from physical world objects is termed “object hyperlinking” or “hardlinking.” A traditional hyperlink establishes an electronic reference to information on a Web page. A hardlink establishes a reference link between a physical world object and a .mobi web page.
The domain name .mobi is a top-level domain (TLD) in the Domain Name System of the Internet. Its name is derived from the adjective mobile, indicating its use by mobile devices for accessing Internet resources via the Mobile Web.
QR codes storing addresses and URLs commonly appear in magazines, on signs, on buses, on business cards, or on almost any object about which users might want or need information. Though QR Codes can be used for editorial purposes, the technology has been used mainly by advertisers both for outdoor posters and billboards, and for print ads (even T-shirts).
Business uses include commercial tracking, transport ticketing, product marketing and in-store product labeling. Once a QR Code is in a cell phone, it can give the user details about a business (allowing users to search for nearby locations), give details about the person wearing the T-shirt, show a URL which the viewer can click to see a trailer for a movie, or even provide a coupon for use in a local outlet. The reason why QR Codes are more useful than standard barcodes is that they can store (and digitally present) much more data, including geo coordinates and text.
QR Codes and Social Media
QR codes are also being applied in direct, actionable methods of achieving social media marketing (SMM) goals.
For example, marketers are already creating QR codes for Facebook Places that also provide usage statistics to see how effective the code is. Announced in August 2010, Facebook Places is a feature that lets users “check in” to Facebook using a mobile device to let a user’s friends know where they are at any particular moment.
In an August 18, 2011, Social Media Examiner post titled “How to Combine QR Codes With the Power of Facebook,” author Kane Russell noted:
“The benefit of taking a viral approach to QR codes is easy to imagine: 10,000 people scanning and sharing an original ad equates to (from Facebook stats: 10K x 130 friends) 1.3 million additional pairs of eyes—and that’s before those Facebook users start sharing with their friends, and those friends with their friends, and on and on.”
Ultimately, social media marketing is about maximizing online engagements with brand followers, customers and prospects. QR codes offer the simple benefit of saving users some time and work in finding you. The QR Code, properly implemented, provides a direct approach in making that social connection.
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