QR Codes: How to use them for your business

The QR code above will take a user directly to the homepage of www.BrandonGlenn.com

What are QR codes and how can they help your business? Keep reading to find out.

Quick Response codes (QR codes) and other two-dimensional codes are expected to achieve widespread use this year – and for good reason. Consumers want immediate access to what’s relevant and QR codes are being used to make that possible.

QR Codes 101

If you’re not yet familiar with QR codes, they’re similar to the barcodes used by retailers to track inventory and price products at the point of sale. The key difference between the two is the amount of data they can hold or share.

Bar codes are linear one-dimensional codes and can only hold up to 20 numerical digits, whereas QR codes are two-dimensional (2D) matrix barcodes that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information. Their ability to hold more information and their ease of use makes them practical for small businesses.

When you scan or read a QR code with your iPhone, Android or other camera-enabled Smartphone, you can link to digital content on the web; activate a number of phone functions including email, IM and SMS; and connect the mobile device to a web browser.

Any of these desired functions are easily achieved by properly creating your QR code.  It’s a simple process of entering the appropriate data into the QR code generator, described below, and it all takes just a few minutes.

The ability of QR codes to connect people with each other and to multimedia digital content is very useful for businesses and consumers alike.

The Origins of QR Codes

While QR codes are still considered a novelty here in the United States, they’ve been actively used for over a decade in Japan where they were invented.  QR is a registered trademark of Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota.  Denso Wave has elected not to exercise their patent rights of QR codes and that has encouraged their widespread use.

There are other software companies that have created 2D codes that work much like QR codes, with Microsoft being the most notable.  Microsoft developed their own proprietary software to create codes known as MS tags.  Unlike QR codes, which can be read by a number of different readers, MS tags can only be read by the Microsoft Tag Reader.

Applications for QR Codes

Sharing – There’s no limit to how, or even how much, you can share with QR codes.  While a video or landing page is easily shared, you could go further and share an entire eBook and even multiple pieces of content that share a common link.

Community – Sharing is how you build community, and one of the favorite arenas for doing this is Facebook.  You can use Likify to create a QR code that links your mobile device to a fully functioning LIKE button for your Facebook page.

This greatly simplifies the process of merging your other communities with your Facebook page – and it is all accomplished in one click.

Additionally, the accompanying signature “thumbs-up” clearly suggests the purpose of the code.

Calls to Action – After building a community, the next logical step is to mobilize them to take action.   What are you trying to accomplish?  You can alternate special offers by simply linking your QR codes to new landing pages, and you can combine then with email opt-ins to build your list.

SEO and SMO – Earlier this month I wrote an article on social graphs where I discuss how web objects such as images, music clips, and videos add valuable content to your social graph.  QR codes enhance both your search engine and social media optimization.  Now you can increase traffic to those searchable objects to further optimize them by encouraging more sharing.

Social Proof – To help build a community offline, it can be helpful to use your vibrant online communities as social proof of your influence and expertise.  As one example, you can use QR codes to link to specific blog posts that have earned an abundance of activity.

Analytics - QR codes most commonly link to urls, which is why link shortening services bit.ly and goo.gl now automatically generate a QR code for sharing your shortened links.  Using goo.gl as an example, you simply click on the “more” link after you create your shortened link, where you are taken to a page that not only gives you the QR code, but useful analytics.

MyQR.co is another site that provides analytics and the ability to customize the color of your QR codes.