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QR Codes in Social Media, Marketing, & Advertising – A Definitive Guide

by James Ball on October 4, 2010

Because you’re starting to see them everywhere…

Yes, we need to “go there”, let’s stay ahead of the curve and dive right into it, shall we? I’ll go ahead and be the first to admit that not long before this article, I only had a basic understanding about QR Codes (Wikipedia link). I hope that by providing some of the resources used in my own homework, you might take away a better understanding of QR Code itself, and perhaps more importantly, you’ll be inspired to explore the possibilities and implement QR Codes into your own marketing and advertising efforts.

>>Explore ALL of the links here today. Then we’ll all be experts!<<

For those of you in a big hurry (if you just came to get info about QR Code Readers/Generators):

  1. Generate a QR Code  or  Another QR Code Generator  and  Another Dynamic  QR Code Generator
  • Scan the QR Code above and follow the instructions (thanks in advance for subscribing to my blog!) < starting to see the possibilities?

NOTEWhen using QR Codes to drive users to a URL, using a URL shortening service like will prove useful because TRACKING AND ANALYTICS ARE IMPORTANT, and until all QR Code generators provide a means of tracking the number of scans, clicks, etc…this seems like a good solution. Interesting also is that Google’s in the business of generating QR Code that can be tracked via their shortened URL’s.

Let’s Continue:

I mentioned “ahead of the curve”, which is not entirely accurate. QR Code was created in 1994 by Denso-Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota, to track parts across the manufacturing process. QR Code has since been more widely adopted in other countries than in the United States. Standards like data matrix are already in place here, but as the smartphone market skyrockets, so will the use of QR Codes to convert users from a printed medium and/or a real life location to a digital experience.

This video covers the basics- The best and most succinct that I’ve found:

A deeper look into QR Code and the Potential/Possibilities:

  • Special landing pages for your smartphone savvy blog readers/customers/passing foot traffic
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Verifying someone’s actual presence at a venue…a sort of “check in”
  • Recruiting help and/or incentivizing an email or SMS campaign
  • Business cards, stickers, labels
  • Link to a map
  • 101 Other Uses For QR Codes

“Instant Education-Gratification“……. is a term that has been spawned by an online culture and is ripe for QR codes to own. It defines our emotional search for empowerment and feeds our craving for valuable content, instantly. The physical act of scanning a QR code is a lot like typing a keyword into a search box. It’s immediate and responsive with the user having full control. Now brands can deliver unique, valuable, unobtrusive web content to consumers through QR codes and mobile web content while tapping into the “emotional gratification” and “education” that search provides. QR codes are already the ultimate bridge between static physical media and its dynamic digital counterpart.” – Nick Ford, QR Anywhere

Whether you are the person creating the code with a specific result in mind, or you’re the end-user scanning a code and magically being taken to an interesting offer, coupon, or a video on your smartphone, you will instantly realize the dynamic and exciting bridge that’s been crossed! Have you heard about what Calvin Klein Jeans has done with QR Codes?

“I predict that soon we’ll see them on T-shirts, mugs and baseball hats.” Chris Brown,  <Her post shows some hypothetical example images.

View more presentations from David Stutts.

QR Code Strategy

“Build a code strategy into an existing campaign. Implementing a QR code means nothing in the Marketing world if you are not promoting the code itself, so it is vital to integrate the code into an existing campaign or build a campaign around it.   Also, remember that the code should not be a “tag” in your existing creative.  Don’t throw it in like you would a website address or Twitter profile.   You need to briefly explain the purpose of the code (educate) and explain why the user should scan it (offer).  Give fans/users a reason to click.” – John Dimiceli, D-Mobile Marketing

Much like texting to give to a cause has become popular, I expect the use of QR Codes for giving will take off once a large enough organization embraces it and pushes it through. Check out this great example of fundraising with QR Codes: WWF Save the Tiger Campaign in Germany.

 “On a recent trip to New York I saw stores featuring QR codes in windows. Shoppers could potentially walk by at midnight, see something that they had to have, scan the QR code and be taken to a shopping cart to buy the item.” John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing

We’ll absolutely see more QR Codes that resolve to a “buy now” page. Brooks Brothers and others are already involved:

…and on Fifth Avenue:

 QR Code Best Practices

While it may be a little soon to have anything close to an established and accepted set of best practices for the use of QR Codes just yet, the author of the quote below has gone a long way toward setting some excellent standards. Check out the link after the quote to see his thorough and well thought out list.

“Because 2D barcodes are still new to U.S. consumers, companies should seriously consider placing descriptive copy next to the code, which will help consumers learn about the codes and know how to scan them. Included in this descriptive copy should be information on how and where to download a reader app” – Roger Marquis, 2D Barcode Strategy

Don’t just assume that you might gain some traction with a campaign based solely on the novelty or the “buzz” surrounding QR Code right now. I encourage you to think down the road and execute creatively in your use of QR Codes. There is virtually no limit to the ways in which you might make excellent use of this technology to enhance your advertising and marketing efforts in order to achieve your goals.

So what’s your take on QR Codes? If you clicked through to even half of the links in this post, I’m believing that you are now more equipped and inspired to implement QR Codes into your marketing efforts. The comments are yours, please share any thoughts or ideas that you’d like to share about QR Codes today.

@smallbiztwit October 4, 2010 at 7:43 am

Great post on a topic very close to my heart and filling my brain on a daily basis- As a marketer of consumer products this is the last inch of marketing
As such- I know that once a consumer picks up my product it is better than 50-50 on getting into the basket- if they read the back label it goes up- now if they scan it ( we are seeing bottles getting scanned after the sale up to 12 times( viral marketing) talking bottle…

We had the 1st QR scavenger hunt in Atlanta at Ecolife (atlanta's largest eco event) and the winners got QR enhanced t-shirts and we got out over 50 of them. I now have 50 bleeding edge eco conscious, smartphone enabled, sharing, social, movable bill boards walking and talking like no other piece of marketing material I have ever seen.( We will be changing the messages on these with redirects every few weeks to keep them interesting and talked about)

We are rolling out the retail piece now into over 2000 stores( we have 4 stores in Atlanta with them ) and working to educate the retailers, and consumers how to use them..
Once a person understands how their phone can scan these codes it is done- they will scan and scan for now because of the new shiny thing… Like all shiny things now is a time for QR for PR in a lot of markets and products.. but there are lessons needed to be learned.

On the tech side we have created the ability to hit the same QR code and 1st time is the message, the 2nd time where to go next in the scavenger hunt. A quiz at the end that starts with a QR code and then ending with a customized QR code for the winner that is sharable to their social graph and then starting their friends on learning about our company.

I see 3 different businesses that will get started with just these codes. There is a small but growing group of smart folks here in Atlanta that is looking to start a QR or Scanning group to share the best and new practices and I see these QR codes as a great entry tool for consultants into companies and then mobile sites needs, content marketing needs, then understand social and all the implications into the business ecosystem all from a little 2d code and new tech… Thanks for this QR piece and let's spread it wide and far.

Chris Morgan October 4, 2010 at 10:35 am

QR codes have exploded onto the marketing scene in the past several months, we are now seeing them everywhere from magazine ads to Sizzler's for a contest promotion! I think it will be interesting to watch as different industry's pick up the usage of QR codes to see what new and different applications will come from about. In real estate we are already seeing QR codes on yard signs, on property fliers and on some websites. I can't wait to see what is next. Thank you for a very well written and informative post!

JWP October 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Wow, a truly well written, proactive, positive and well articulated summary of just how exciting and explosive this technology is becoming. Thanks for taking the time and talent to share this wonderful piece with us all. This technology has finally arrived – and will only continue to gain in world wide use very quickly.

All the Best…JP

Joe Sewell October 4, 2010 at 7:53 pm

This is definitely the best "all about" style of article I've seen on QR codes. While they haven't become ubiquitous yet, they are gaining popularity in my realm of experience. I'm nobody in a business aspect who would use them just yet, but the potential to have somebody just scan in my address, for example, and get directions to my home is rather interesting, or maybe adding my contact information with a quick scan. So far I haven't quite figured out how information-dense a QR code can be, but it sounds very interesting.

reibroker October 4, 2010 at 9:45 pm

QR Code chat on Tuesday night at 9PM Eastern – and you don't even have to drive down! (Great job on this write up James! I could have used this at REBCATL last Friday when I lead the session on QR Codes.)

Roger Marquis October 6, 2010 at 9:40 pm


Re: the use of a URL shortener…yes, it offers a means of analyzing the scans, etc., but just as important, a shortened URL enables for a more simplified QR code (i.e., less modules needed), so the result is an increase in the ability for a code to be scanned correctly.

randy barnes October 9, 2010 at 9:27 pm

this is great, and I'm lovin the convo, but to be honest I dont see that very many people/co's should be spending much time thinking about QR until they get upto speed on basic social engagement and learn to use the big giant ears that are tuning into the marketplace. Still I have QR on my cards and like putting it on anything thats printed as in a year or two lot of users will be into scanning codes and the url landing page is easy to update

I just establish a page – that will always be my generic landing page for contact of whatever I chose

retail product info seems a no brainer, and the event possibilities seem very exciting. looks like the app developers have alot of work to keep them busy with QR systems and toys

SocialQRCode January 18, 2011 at 9:30 pm

nice article! I just launched
It's designed for social media and social sharing with businesses using QR Codes.

Please give it a try!

Andy Lynn March 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm

QR Codes are taking off! Every brand should take note and start planning to have their next campaign include QR Codes. Check out what we are doing at PRONTO! Mobile.. Andy Lynn

Floyd Madrazo August 22, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all of us you really realize what you’re speaking approximately! Bookmarked. Kindly also consult with my website =). We may have a hyperlink alternate arrangement between us!

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