My basic tips on using QR codes

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1.  Don’t use QR codes in emails.

How are QR codes used?  Basically people take a picture of them with their phone, which then takes them to the URL or opens the information or whatever … all of which happens on a computer.

Where do most people read emails?  On a computer screen (or smartphone screen or tablet screen).  It appears that these two would make sense together, right?  The QR codes gives them something on a computer, and they are reading the email on the computer.

Here’s the problem!

The computer which they are already reading the email on already has capability to let them make one click with a mouse or finger to open any link or save any information that might be contained within a QR code.  So you’re asking them to do another step, when you could have asked them to only do one.  This doesn’t make you look very efficient or effective.

Problem #2 … they have to use their smartphone to take a picture of the QR code.  If they’re reading your email on the computer, they have to pick up their phone, point it at the computer, have it scan the QR code, and then open whatever was in the QR code on their phone.  (And yes this can work in the rare instance when one person wants to save something from your email into their phone, but in that case they can almost always just forward the email to their phone, still requiring fewer steps).

If they’re reading your email on their smartphone – which is increasingly common! – they have to somehow contort their phone so that the camera is facing the screen to use the camera to scan the picture of the code that is showing on their screen.  While the other one might make sense 1 out of every 500 times, this one never does.

Drop the QR codes out of your emails.  Only use them on printed things.

2.  Don’t print a QR code that contains information that will need to change regularly.

But wait, did I just tell you to print them?  Yes I did.  However, once you make a QR code, the information in the code never changes.  If I scan it today and it gives me a URL, if I scan it in 6 months or a year it will only give me the same URL – even if that URL is for some reason never in existence!

If I format a QR code to contain my contact information, and I move, or change employers, or get a new phone number or email, and the information in the QR code that I’ve printed somewhere still has the old information, that won’t be helpful to the person scanning the code.

3.  If you print a QR code to point to a website that will change regularly, keep the page URL static.

Here I go contradicting myself again … in #2 I say don’t use it for changing information, but now I tell you how to use it for changing information.  Just like a woman!

If you’re going to point a QR code to a website, have it only be at one static page, the contents of which you can change and update regularly.  For example, you might use www.me.com/QRcode.  This also works if you are using a QR code for specials or deals – such as scan this code to see the monthly sales.  As long as the QR code points to one static page that never changes, you can change the information on that page as often as you want.

And example for a real estate agent would be to have one QR code on all yard signs, that takes the viewer to one web page that always has all of your current listings.  They can quickly find the one listing they are standing at, and within just a couple of clicks find out information about the property, and your contact information.

4.  If using a QR code for your contact information, consider using a service.

My favorite is http://qrmobilize.com/.  This allows me to set up a mobile-friendly profile of whatever contact information I choose.  The QR code which it generates is for a static profile page … so I can go in and update my contact information as often as I need to, but my QR code will never need to change.

And did I mention that it’s free?

5. Beware the free services!

Not all QR code generators are equal.  Some of the free version actually embed advertising information into the code that they generate for you.  So you could end up with a competitor’s information embedded into your QR code!  I personally like http://www.qrstuff.com/ .  Free, easy to use, and they never embed advertisements.  (Although you still can’t control if someone’s QR code READER embeds advertising.)

6.  Investigate only the paid services that make sense to you.

Sometimes paid services make sense; but the best ones aren’t cheap.

An example for realtors, consider a subscription to a service that considers the geographic location of person scanning the QR code, which will then pull up all of your listings that are where the person is standing.  You could use this ONE QR code on all of your yard signs, and when the person scans the QR code, it will pull up only the property they are at.  Remember, this level of technology doesn’t come free.

These are the basic practices that you want to keep in mind.  Happy QRing!

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