QR codes - those strange symbols that use the cell phone to link the offline and online worlds - are are going mainstream in the U.S. for even more reasons than previously discussed on Hypebot. So, now is the time to get involved. Here are some basic resources for creating and mobilizing QR codes with an emphasis on d.i.y. music marketing.
Before you can create and distribute your own QR code, it's important to understand what they are. Marketing with QR codes is an excellent introductory slideshow overview. Basically, QR codes are a specific form of bar code that are scannable by mobile phones with barcode readers. The most prevalent use in music marketing seems to be for linking to mobile content but the code can also contain readable information. For example, Mobile-Barcodes.com has a handy QR code generator that can create not only links to content but also readable messages, phone numbers, SMS message/phone number combos or email contact forms. (The QR code at the top of this article link back to Hypebot.com. Try it.) Now you can take Mike Jones' "call my direct line" approach into the world of QR codes!
Though QR codes currently have the most buzz across industries, there are a variety of alternatives. Keep in mind that what you learn using QR codes should be directly applicable to other forms of barcodes as the environment changes.
The Stratocast #1 -- Banksy-Style Guerrilla Buzz-Building
Since linking to mobile content is a key use of QR codes, as our hapless street marketer illustrates in the video above, many mobile app creation services also now include QR code creation as a basic service. If you're planning a new mobile app, be sure to check to see if QR codes are a feature and if they include analytics so you can follow their use and judge success.
If your service doesn't offer QR code creation, there are a growing number of services that can create a link to content accessible via the mobile web. 2d code, a key resource for keeping up with developments related to QR codes, has a list of QR code creators to get you started.
One quick way to create a QR code with basic analytics is to create a bitly code linking to your mobile app or mobile accessible content. It's incredibly simply. You just shorten a link, go to the Info Page for that link and there's your QR code and basic analytics.
ShareSquare is a service that focuses on mobilizing content with QR code creation and analytics as a key feature rather than an add-on. Music is a big focus for ShareSquare and they are likely to continue developing musician friendly diy services with a focus on best practices integrated into the service. For example, they include geo-location analytics which can be invaluable in accessing one's campaign.
ShareSquare also offers Like Lock, i.e. forcing folks to Like your Facebook page, or even two pages, in order to access content. Keep in mind that if you're an up and coming act, Like Lock is not necessarily a good idea. But once people are looking forward to what you have to offer, Like Lock can be a way to beef up your Facebook numbers while sharing content or deals. It can also be a reality check on public interest.
One service that focuses on Like Lock is Likify which is in public beta. Another that takes a broader focus on social media is Social QR Code. Given that folks are increasingly discovering new bands and related content via social networks, finding ways to tie established services into new services is definitely a smart move.
For your intended audience to make the connection, they're going to have to have a QR or barcode reader on their phone and there are a number of alternatives. However, as the above comic Stratocast video illustrates, not everyone with cellphones necessarily has such software installed. Yes, more and more people know what's up but, if you're an early adopter, you may need to help educate your audience about barcode readers. Since tech companies love being associated with musicians, consider identifying a barcode reader you find effective and contact the company to see if there are any marketing or cross-promotion possibilities.
If you're having trouble thinking of effective ways to use QR codes in music promotions, keep in mind that QR codes can be a part of whatever you're already doing, whether printing on a t-shirt or sending folks to your latest content. Here are a couple of lists that might help you wrap your head around the concept or come up with new ideas to stay ahead of the curve:
- 50 creative uses for QR codes
- 101 Uses For Quick Response (QR) Codes: Creating Audience Engagement With The Next Killer US App
Keep in mind that QR codes and related readable 2d graphics are likely to become a standard feature of our environment though, in the long run, something other than QR codes may become the standard. But once you get a handle on QR codes, you should be able to keep up with developments and stay ahead of the curve. For more on the growing use and awareness of QR codes in music marketing, please check out my previous post, QR Codes Move Into Music's Mainstream.