QR Codes are Far From Dead

Photo via Kara Allyson on Flickr

Everyone talks about how ugly, useless, and unpopular QR Codes are–especially for a nonprofit. But that flies in the face of some recent research that shows they are being scanned more than ever.

According to a recent Mediapost article, Scanlife, the most popular QR Code platform, increased its user base to 6 million in Q2 2013. On average, a user scanned a code three times a month, showing an increase of 22% over the year-ago period. About 4 million people were new to scanning and snapped for the first time in the quarter. Remarkably, 25 percent of scans came from adults ages 35-44.

These numbers are solid, but the impressive news was the increase in tablet scanning–up 1,300 percent since last year. I’m going out on a limb here, but based on other things I’ve read I suspect that most people are using tablets in their homes to scan QR Codes found in print publications. (Feel free to disagree in the comments below!)

This all points to a potential opportunity for nonprofits to engage supporters with QR Codes. I’ve written about this before, but here’s a refresher.

Use QR Codes to Thank Supporters

A donor gives you money, and you mail them a thank you. They get the thank you at home and read it–with maybe a stack of other thank yous from other nonprofits they support. They toss the letter, and head to the couch to watch TV and play around with their tablet. End of story. But if you include a QR Code on the letter with an explanation that it links to a personal video thank you from someone they helped, maybe your letter ends up on the couch with the tablet. Soon after your donor feels like they just got a real, personal thank you.

Here are more details on how to use a QR Code to deliver a personal thank you to a donor.

Use QR Codes to Deepen Engagement With Your Newsletter

Print newsletters are still popular with many nonprofits, and with the donors that receive them. But that doesn’t mean your print newsletter can’t benefit from a digital component. Some nonprofits put a QR Code on a newsletter so readers can open and read it on their mobile device. It’s not a terrible idea, but what about using the QR Code for a more in-depth profile on a story in your newsletter. Say that you work for a museum, and you’ve announced a new acquisition. Use the QR Code to link readers to an up-close viewing of the new artifact, or to take them behind the scenes of the restoration process.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: use QR Codes to give people something they can’t get from whatever it’s on. For example, a QR Code on a direct mail piece can link people to your walk registration page. Use the QR Code to deliver something different that makes engagement easier or takes it deeper, or both.

I’m sure you can find other ways to use QR Codes in effective ways. But while we are on the subject, Margie Clayman wrote a useful post on eight ways not to use QR Codes.