How to Combine QR Codes With the Power of Facebook
By Kane Russell
Published August 18, 2011
Are you looking to leverage the popularity of QR (Quick Response) codes with the wide-spread adoption of Facebook?
In this article, I’ll unpack how to get your QR codes to go viral on Facebook.
I’ll start by walking you through the process and an example campaign, and conclude with an analytical discussion examining five need-to-know success factors.
Setting Up a Viral QR Code Campaign
Step #1: Generating the QR code
For the uninitiated, QR codes provide a means to open a URL on a mobile phone.
However, a closer look reveals that most QR code generators provide functionality for executing a host of mobile phone actions, including creating a calendar event, sending an SMS or providing contact information.
Like all things viral, choose a QR code type based on what you think people will want to share.
For the purposes of our example campaign, we used scan-to-SMS. Once generated, keep in mind that saving the QR code in a user-friendly format (e.g., jpeg or png) will be useful when integrating with other applications.
QR codes can execute various phone actions. Scanning the above QR code sends an SMS with message “smexaminer” to phone number 44144.
Step #2: Customizing your Facebook post
The next step is to upload your QR code to a server that can communicate with the Facebook Share API.
Something you share on Facebook contains four components (see graphic below). All of these components are fully customizable for a viral QR code campaign.
A Facebook share has four customizable components: image (1), title (2), source (3) and description (4).
Some important points to keep in mind when customizing these elements:
- Image: This is where you will put your QR code. It should be sufficiently large for people to scan easily.
- Title: This is your headline. Crucial for grabbing attention in crowded Facebook feeds.
- Source: A brand running a campaign should host the QR code on a URL that provides context for the campaign (for those scanning our example campaign, you’ll see a URL connecting to a generic “wmclientservices.com”).
- Description: A great place to provide valuable and pertinent information about your campaign.
Step #3: Taking your campaign live
Once integrated, Facebook provides you with a campaign-specific Facebook share URL.
Use a URL shortener to make it more viral-friendly (trackable and easy to share). To ensure maximum uptake, test your code with multiple QR code readers before deploying into the wild.
Speaking of uptake, here’s the flow for our example campaign (with select screenshots below):
- Users will see an ad for socialmediaexaminer.com with a QR code.
- Users then scan the QR code and send the SMS.
- They will receive two links, one to socialmediaexaminer.com and the second to share on Facebook.
- When the second link is clicked, Facebook’s share prompt automatically opens.
- Users can personalize the message and share.
- The QR code is automatically posted to users’ Facebook wall and news feed.
- Friends can scan the QR code within Facebook to share with their friends.
After the QR code is scanned and the SMS sent, this is the link delivered to share on Facebook (#3).
After the share link is clicked (or tapped), users can personalize and post to their Facebook wall (#5).
Once posted, others can scan the QR code within Facebook to share to their wall (#7).
The benefit of taking this viral approach to QR codes is easy to imagine: 10,000 people scanning and sharing the 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.
Five Need-to-Know Success Factors
Alas, if only it were that easy. Like everything in social media marketing, the process (sending a tweet, creating a Facebook page) is much easier than the actual execution (doing it well). Viral QR codes are no different.
Here are five factors that bridge the gap between success and failure:
#1: QR code reach
A commonly cited figure is that smartphone market share will reach 50% by the end of 2011. In a different light, that’s a minimum of 150 million people who won’t be able to scan a QR code through the end of 2011.
Maybe you’ve noticed, but our example campaign snuck in an alternative call to action that achieves the same result as someone scanning the QR code.
Alternative call to action included in the Facebook share.
As you can guess, this was intentional. Include an alternative call to action (SMS, for example, is accessible by 99% of phones) to considerably increases the potential of your viral QR code campaign without much additional effort.
Let’s say we were to take the above campaign live. At heart, its value proposition is, “Check out our website. It has great content we want you to share with your Facebook friends.”
Now let’s add a couple of phrases. “Check out our website for the chance to win a million dollars. It has great content we will reward you to share with your Facebook friends.”
I’d be willing to bet my winnings that more people will participate in the second campaign than the first due to better incentives. Though often overlooked in technology marketing, incentives shouldn’t be a surprise given that they turn up all the time.
What I think happens is that marketers mistake engagement resulting from “Wow, this is cool technology,” with engagement from people genuinely moved to action by a campaign. Social media marketing, like marketing in general (and maybe even more so), is a two-way street.
#3: QR code design
QR codes grab people’s attention due to their curious design. But assuming QR codes continue turning up in more and more places, the design’s intrigue may start losing its ability to captivate people amidst everything else bombarding them.
That’s why it’s important to make your QR codes unique. By customizing various features of your QR code, you can bring a sense of personality that will increase brand identity and engagement.
Customized QR code linking to a downloadable QR code eBook.
#4: Customer lifetime value
Customer lifetime value is simple to understand. Every marketer in the world would rather have a customer who spends $50 every day for the next two weeks than a customer who spends $100 today.
However, whether it’s due to the idea of purchasing television spots or just the word “campaign” itself, marketers have a tendency to adopt a one-off mentality when it comes to tools like QR codes.
The problem is that QR codes at heart are an interactive medium. Failing to develop lifelong, instead of one-time, customers is a missed opportunity.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to achieve this end, the most important being opting someone in to a subscription list. Two viral QR code examples:
- Using a mobile application service provider, you can enhance your scan-to-SMS campaign with an opt-in that captures the mobile phone number.
- For scan-to-URL QR codes, you can use a mobile landing page to add subscribers to a database.
QR codes are made up of three different types of data. The first—scans—accounts for the number of times a person successfully uses a QR code reader.
The second—phone operations—describes what a user does after scanning (e.g., clicks, downloads, page views). The third—user data—describes the people actually doing the scanning and phone operations (e.g., phone type used, age, gender).
I’ve seen far too many QR code campaigns that solely focus on scans. That’s great for predicting the future of your QR code campaigns, but you miss a key opportunity to gather knowledge of how and what type of people interact with your brand.
Viral QR codes, given their ability to get in front of more people, make it even more mandatory to learn as much as you can about your customers in order to inform your future marketing decisions.
To quote Henry Luce, “Business, more than any other occupation, is a continual dealing with the future.” A QR code campaign that fails to address the entirety of data available misses this point entirely.
More than anything, viral QR codes demonstrate a simple truth. Success in mobile and social marketing requires a database strategy. Not a channel strategy. The reason being that a database strategy is customer-centric, which affords significantly more value creation opportunities. Developing this mindset and working with people who share this mentality will ensure that you see maximum value from your QR code campaigns.
And as a mobile and social CRM aficionado, I’d love to hear what other ways you use to enhance QR codes with a cross-channel approach.
What do you think? Please post your thoughts or comments in the box below.
Tags: call to action, facebook qr codes, facebook share api, incentive, kane russell, mobile marketing, qr code campaign, qr code design, qr code generators, qr code marketing, qr code reader, qr code strategy, qr codes, sms campaign, viral qr code
Tag Archives: Social Media
Interesting piece, saying what I’ve what I’ve pointed out a number of times to people who go off the rails about too much time online. Frankly, we, as a species, have always been time-wasters. You can use a Franklin Planner or a journal of some sort to track how you spend you time, whether you’re wired or not. Let’s not blame the technology – it’s out use of it that matters.
As Google tries to boost its social market share with its new Google+ network — which just got some Facebook-style games designed to increase engagement — and Twitter adding new activity streams to pull users in, and Facebook trying to become the one network that rules them all, social-media fatigue seems to be an increasingly likely outcome. Some are already complaining about the number of directions they are being pulled in when it comes to social content-sharing, and cartoonist Scott Adams recently argued that all this constant stimulation is actually getting in the way of true creativity. Are we amusing ourselves to death online, and if so, what is the cure?
Facebook isn’t inherently evil but remember you need balance in life and so do your kids.
The argument has been made but not enough on the social debilitation that people tend to suffer by the over usage of social media. We are in a technologically advanced age, its okay to observe that; however, what must the cost must be?
Anti-social behavior, narcissism and other negative characteristics are the price.
Facebook usage above and beyond that of being a mere frequenter is common amongst most teens. Unfortunately, it is that same age group that is the primary social media users that suffer from the negative characteristics and other psychological disorders according to a recent study conducted by Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University.
Are you planning on preserving your digital life? Has this become an obsession because of our aging population or are we just this narcissistic – or both?
I don’t plan to live past 50. If I keep this pedal pinned to the floor, even that might be pushing it. Death is something that I ponder daily, usually between my morning blunt and Burger King breakfast run.
Yet for all my morbid musings, I’ve never thought much about my digital legacy — the only significant asset that I have. In addition to all the articles I’ve written that exist online, I’ve got more photos, profiles and social-networking accounts than the average Web junkie, and a whole lot of enemies who would flame my wall in the event of my demise. I don’t care about my body; like comedian David Cross, I’m donating my dead meat to necrophiliacs (if possible; there’s no check box for that). It’s my virtual soul that I wish to preserve.
What would happen if I logged off for good, and took my passwords to the grave? Will spambots devour my blogs even as maggots chomp my corpse?
“You’re delusional if you think everything you put on the Web is going to be there forever,” said Adele McAlear, who founded the site Death and Digital Legacy, at a recent lecture I attended at SXSW. Her statement shook me. A top social-media consultant and seasoned lecturer on these matters, McLear says the U.S. Supreme Court will inevitably have to determine how companies handle data belonging to dead users.
There’s long been an issue with real-name policies on the internet and those of us involved in human rights work over the years are painfully aware of why it’s so important to allow anonymity. The Red Elm fully supports the use of pseudonyms and hopes that G+, Facebook, and others will see the light soon.
Below is the My Name is Me “About” page. Please give the site a visit.
“My Name Is Me” is about having the freedom to be yourself online. We want people to be able to identify themselves as they wish, rather than being forced to choose names by social networking websites and other online service providers.
Websites such as Facebook and Google+ ask you to use a name that conforms to a certain standard. Though their policies vary, what they would like you to use is the name that appears on the ID in your wallet, your employer’s records, or on the letters your bank sends you. They don’t understand that many people go by other names, for a wide variety of reasons.
Some of the types of people who want to choose their own names online include:
- People at risk, including domestic abuse survivors, LGBT teens, and political dissidents.
- Celebrities who use stage names, authors who publish under pen names, or members of many other professions with similar practices.
- People around the world who have different naming practices: a single name in Indonesia, a name that mixes Chinese and Roman characters in Hong Kong, or people from many countries whose names may seem strange or “fake” to English-speakers.
- People with long-established nicknames or online identities, whose friends know them better by that than anything else.
- School teachers, health professionals, law enforcement officers, and others who don’t want their jobs to follow them into their private lives.
Choosing your own name online doesn’t mean you’re a fraud or a spammer. It just means you want people to take you at your word: you are who you say you are.
Using a name of your own choice gives you the freedom to express yourself freely; take better control of your privacy; and be judged by your actions rather than your gender, race, or religion.
Hackers can kill Diabetics with Insulin Pumps from a half mile away – Um, no. Facts vs. Journalistic Fear mongering
There’s a story making the rounds on Twitter right now. Engadget “reports” researcher sees security issue with wireless insulin pumps, hackers could cause lethal doses.
Wait till you see what researcher and diabetic Jay Radcliffe cooked up for the Black Hat Technical Security Conference. Radcliffe figures an attacker could hack an insulin pump connected to a wireless glucose monitor and deliver lethal doses of the sugar-regulating hormone.
First, a little on my background. I’ve been Type 1 diabetic for 17 years. I’ve worn an insulin pump 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for over 11 years and a continuous glucose meter non-stop for over 5 years. I also wrote one of the first portable glucoses management systems for the original PalmPilot over 10 years ago and successfully sold it to a health management company. (Archive.org link) I also interfaced it (albeit with wires) to a number of portable glucose meters, also a first.
Engadget’s is a mostly reasonable headline and accurate explanation as they say he “figures an attacker could…” However, Computerworld really goes all out with the scare tactics with Black Hat: Lethal Hack and wireless attack on insulin pumps to kill people.
Like something straight out of science fiction, an attacker with a powerful antenna could be up to a half mile away from a victim yet launch a wireless hack to remotely control an insulin pump and potentially kill the victim.
The only thing that saves this initial paragraph is “potentially.” The link that is getting the most Tweets is VentureBeat’s “Excuse me while I turn off your insulin pump,” a blog post that is rife with inaccuracies (not to mention a lot of misspellings). Here’s just a few.
There’s certainly no shortage of books on social media, social technologies and online communities that are invaluable reading for brands, marketers etc. But there are some excellent books on social media that actually have nothing to do with social media.
What do I mean here? The kind of books that are in completely different industries or written before social media actually existed, that contain principles and thinking that cross over seamlessly into social media. The nature of social media is that it can be influenced by so many other factors, both as a medium and an essential component of society and human communication.
Below are 7 books that I think are invaluable reads for those working in, or interested in, social media.
A significant portion of Twitter employees — something like 13 percent — used to work at Google.
According to LinkedIn, 87 of the 641 people who say they currently work at Twitter were formerly employed by Google. (Twitter said this week that it has 600 employees, so that number’s a bit off, but probably in the general neighborhood.)
Early Google employees don’t get as much credit as those of, say, PayPal, for founding and funding a new generation of start-ups. But former Googlers seem to have made a practice of infiltrating promising new tech companies as they look for the next big thing.
At one point last year, it was noted that 200 former Googlers worked at Facebook, making up 12.5 percent of its staff at the time, including top executives like Sheryl Sandberg and many of the product people Facebook brought in through acquisitions.
Something similar seems to be happening at Twitter, though it’s still much smaller. CEO Dick Costolo was with Google after it acquired his start-up FeedBurner (but some say that means he’s not truly born-and-bred Google). Co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone (both no longer in operational roles) were also formerly at Google, though again, Williams came in through an acquisition (of his Pyra Labs, which made Blogger).
The Google influence seems especially prevalent on Twitter’s product team. Satya Patel, who is director of product management, was formerly a well-respected Googler, and nearly every Twitter product manager seems to have had some history at the Plex — save for the four who were recently let go.
I’ve been getting asked a lot about Google+, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to give my spin on the disruption I see it has caused. To be honest with you, when it first appeared a month ago, I got on, checked it out, and then realized that all of the same people I know from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the ones having the same conversations on Google+. If that’s the case, it’s a platform that I don’t need to be on. On the other hand, there is still pent-up demand for G+ invitations, with 3 of my client’s staff saying that they have asked everyone for a Google+ invite and still couldn’t get one. Clearly G+ is on its way to achieving a critical mass. Once a platform achieves a certain mass, any social media marketer needs to be on that platform. As for professionals, the verdict is out. But before I give my take, a disclaimer on lack of historical perspective in my analysis.
When I was a student in college, I had the opportunity to witness some pretty amazing historical events in China during the spring of 1989. I thought the world was changing forever, and I came back from my Junior year abroad ready to write my senior thesis on the events that I had seen. My father cautioned me against doing that. “Son, we need some historical perspective to understand what it will all mean.” He was right, as so far those events were only a blip on the historical radar.
Similarly, I had been waiting to blog about Google+ to give me just a little historical perspective and see past the buzz that it’s emergence and quick rise to 20 million users has sparked in the blogosphere. It’s hard to wait any longer given G+’s meteoric growth, yet I know that who uses the site as well as how they use it will continue to evolve. That being said I don’t care so much about the mechanics and functionality of the site (here’s a great post with some tips and tricks if you’re interested and one more with great Google+ advice) but as to what will make people use it and how it will affect social media in general. For those who have become active on it, it is clear that Google has finally gotten it right after failing with Wave and Buzz.
More importantly, Google+ will introduce significant changes in how we all utilize social media.