QR Codes, Electronic Devices,Nonprofits, and Concert Etiquette | Beth's Blog

QR Codes, Electronic Devices,Nonprofits, and Concert Etiquette

Digital Strategy

QR Codes (Quick Response) is a bar code that can be scanned by your mobile phone (with a free app) and are currently being used with print media (or t-shirt media) to point people to more information online.   The information embedded can be a URL, a link to a download, text, phone number, or SMS.

According this post by Gina Trapani, many geeks think QR codes are gimmicky, clumsy, not used well or enough, or that they’re “a solution looking for a problem.   That’s no surprise given there  are many free QR code creators online, and it  is easy to make create one without a real purpose.  I made the one above and if you scan it, it is the URL to my blog.

There  are a couple of useful business applications such as  airplane boarding passes.   Also, they’re being used in books.  For example, Jay Baer’s and Amber Nashlund’s new book, The Now Revolution, uses Microsoft’s version of QR codes called Tag technology, so readers can scan pages and get additional bonus materials on their phones.

Gina’s post suggests that  QR codes could be just a fad–unless Facebook introduces them to a mainstream audience.

Leaked screenshots indicate Facebook’s experimenting with profile or status QR code generation on fan pages, according to TechCrunch. Imagine a QR code that instantly makes the person scanning it a fan of a brand, company, or personality on Facebook without ever typing a URL.

NTEN has published a useful quick “What’s This? piece and there a number of  “Scanning for Good” posts on nonprofit technology blogs that offer tips and use cases.  Nonprofit Tech2.0 blog  offers a laundry list of possible ways to use this new technology.

Chad Norman shares a post of some interesting nonprofit examples, including one from the South Carolina Aquarium that created the Be Rare Contest, which used QR codes as the focus of a city-wide scavenger hunt.    Joe Waters shares an example used for Cause Marketing.   QR codes are popping up in school lesson plans, like this arts lesson plan.

QR codes hold potential for arts organizations.   Museums have been using them to enhance the visitor experience and have been early adopters of the technology.

While preparing for the “Leveraging Social Media Masterclass“,  I reviewed social media presences of over 260 arts organizations looking for interesting “living case studies.”   I discovered how the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is using QR codes to encourage audiences to download program books onto their mobile phones.

As SFGMC continues to “go green,” we have for the first time made our concert program available on line pre-show. With over 2,100 of you coming on Thursday (!), this will save on printing costs and reduce waste. Scan the QR code below to download the program to your mobile device, or visit http://www.sfgmc.org/media/SFGMC_Words_program.pdf to view it on line. Of course, standard print programs will still be available at Davies on Thursday.

The announcement prompted some discussion in the comments about the use of electronics during concerts.   While the norm has been to “turn off” all electronic devices,  the Gay Men’s Chorus encourages the use of electronics during their “Social Media Moments” throughout the concert.    They want audience members to post mini reviews at intermission or photos during the concert.

While there are some tactical points to keep in mind when using QR codes,  nonprofits should consider these design principles:

  • Can you use QR codes to encourage audiences to get more information online?
  • Can you embed game design or make it fun?
  • Does the use of QR codes help save your organization printing costs?

Of course, a bigger question is about strategy – how the use of this tactic enhances a campaign and whether or not your target audience has a QR reader on their mobile phone and uses it.

What are some of the best examples of QR codes for nonprofits?

23 Responses

  1. […] = "0000FF"; google_color_text = "999999"; google_color_url = "191919"; Looking to buy Electronic Component […]

  2. Nice post! I commented on the NTEN “What’s This” about QR codes, and will ask you and your community:

    What’s a low-cost or free way to track the usage of these QR codes? If we put a QR code in a newspaper ad for example, how can we get an idea of how many people scanned that code?

    I’m thinking of QR codes as a good way to track marketing efforts, but I’ve not heard too many ways as to how nonprofits are tracking their QR code responses.

    Any ideas?

  3. Brian Block says:

    It’s funny because there’s a digital divide for generations in certain communities which affect the likelyhood of QR codes being used. Speaking from organizations I’m personally involved with, I think this would be great for some Scouting events such as Scout Fair for the Rubber Sole or Pinewood Derby. Imagine QR codes being used at everyones booth to give info on meeting times for that particular Pack or to tell people the story of how a race car was developed.

    However, I’m not sure if this would work for certain communities such as some local Jewish nonprofits I know of and/or work with. A cornerstone of strong Jewish communities are the (supremely) active older generations. I’ve seen some of our leaders in Houston grab on to new technology who could get into QR codes easily while so many others who still require to get the news by mail and phone. So the low cost aspect isn’t equal to the gain of sharing of information for those who need it in this particular area all the time.

    I see QR codes getting more use later on, but for now, their use is limited to the appropriate setting, audience and occasion. Each nonprofit needs to evaluate their audience and possibly decide to save QR codes (and other tech/web advances) for later when their audience/beneficiaries/donors can take full advantage of them.

  4. Charlie Birney says:

    Here is a way I used QR codes to enhance our charity golf tournament. Working with my friend Jeff Davis of Sawmill Marketing, we used QR codes to offer every sponsor a little something extra for their contribution.

    Stated simply, all of the sponsors who bought Tee signs were encouraged to have QR codes on the signs. These signs are at every tee box and they have an ad for a janitorial company or some other vendor. In this case, all the signs had QR codes which led back to a website or a promotion for that vendor. The really great part is that we could give the vendor, who had to pay $300 for a worthless sign in the first place, a really cool sign that a lot more people looked at – and they could even take it home and keep using it.

    Even though most of them did not create specials for the event but just used the code as a portal to their home website, the important part for us is that we could offer something new, which gave them direct communication to our guests. They all like that, even if they were unaware of what QR codes were in the first place.

    As a totally passing comment, I told my eleven year old twins about QR codes, and now…. we see them everywhere!

  5. Rob says:

    @ Craig – I’d think the easiest tracking solution would be to simply create a unique, nonpublic URL/subdomain that was linked through the QR code used in your campaign. That way, all traffic to that address can be presumed to originate from the QR.

  6. Braz says:

    Just a quick response, reflecting some of what I’ve been thinking about with QR codes…

    The easiest/lowest cost way to track usage of QR codes isn’t in finding a way to track the code itself, but rather with the usage of the thing the QR code resolves to.

    Put the trackable uniqueness in the URL for example, and track uptake in requests for a specific URL. There are lots of ways to do that, but probably the easiest and lowest cost is to tie the QR code to a URL shortener that provides analytics to a specific shortened URL, and then generate multiple short URLs by audience or usage for the QR codes.

    That way, you can have multiple QR codes for the same final destination URL, but each QR code/shortened URL combination is unqiuely tracked.

    Add in a custom domain name and a tool like bit.ly Pro, and you have a ton of custom analytics for QR codes.

    Hope this helps at least generate some discussions, and perhaps even solve a problem.

  7. Hugh Wallace gives a really interesting insight in to the QR-corner experiment held at the last #BeGoodBeSocial http://tumshie.posterous.com/our-qr-code-experiment-going-mobile-on-a-shoe

  8. […] = "0000FF"; google_color_text = "999999"; google_color_url = "191919"; Looking to buy Electronic Parts […]

  9. […] = "0000FF"; google_color_text = "999999"; google_color_url = "191919"; Looking to buy Codes Background […]

  10. hey beth,

    for our signature art event, the queens art express, we use qr codes on our subway print materials so that commuters can access a deal and an art event while riding the train. viewers are brought to our app which serves as a virtual tour and deal list.

    queens art express

  11. JD Lasica says:

    There will likely be a few good use cases, like the one hoong yee lee mentions, but it’s hard to see QR codes going mainstream in the near future. After all, isn’t it easier to provide a link than to provide a QR code that makes me scan it with a mobile device … just to get a url?

  12. Acciónatura says:

    Here in Spain our organisation has implemented QR codes on interpretation signs, so the visitors of natural spaces can have a reading, a video or extended information! Each sign has its own QR code.

    But we also put the general URL… just in case 😉

  13. Beth says:

    Wow, great conversation about this … I’m torn.

    I’m always excited when a technology comes along to play with and look at possibilities. But, like JD – I wonder whether it is shiney object syndrome and good to have some skepticism.

    Time will tell … remember in 2007 when people were saying “Twitter – isn’t that where people talk about what their cat ate for breakfast?”

  14. Jon Hearty says:

    Great post, Beth. QR codes are a great example of new media and how NPOs are still figuring out the most effective way to utilize it. While it may seem weird at the beginning, this technology will very likely go mainstream as it already has in Japan. Non-profits that decide to embrace, rather than fight, this phenomenon will certainly be rewarded for their early adoption and open themselves to the large demographic of generation-Y donors.

  15. Jon Hearty says:

    Unfortunately I have not seen many non-profits utilizing QR codes, but I am intrigued by how they work in museums. I look forward to checking it out!

  16. Great blog Beth.

    I’ve been obsessing about QR Codes for quite a while now. I really think they are a great way of bringing alive other channels, specifically print and direct mail. I blogged about it here http://bit.ly/hikkSB and it includes a great example of how Reporters Without Frontiers used codes in their press advertising.

    Be interesting to see how their use develops over the next few months.

  17. Beth says:

    I asked Jim if it this experiment was worth it .. Something you need to do after any experiment …

    he responded:

    A. Definitely. Here’s why:

    1. It revealed to us a demand that we hoped was there, but now we know is there (Relevance)
    2. It aligns us more visibly with Green values (Values)
    3. It extends our reach to those who were not able to attend and strengthens regard and affinity with them (Audience Dev)
    4. It will allow us to reduce our reliance upon printed matter – saving trees and $$ (Values/Economics)
    5. It increases our appeal to advertisers (Economics)
    6. It is a vindication of experimentation, builds internal buy-in and paves the way for more experiments (Strategic)

  18. Thanks Beth, we are definitely looking to expand our use of QR codes as a result and pass along those experiences to others.

  19. Beth says:

    Teddy: What the final number of downloads – percentage of total concert attenders? What will you do next?

  20. […] session included “Living Case Studies,” from people in the audience. For example, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus shared how they were using a new mobile technology, QR Codes, to go green and save on printing […]