April 15, 2012

QR codes: what is success?

In my last post, I said QR codes can work. But what is success when you're using QR codes?

At a simple level, i
t's obvious that they're at least somewhat successful: comScore reported 14 million U.S. mobile users scanned a QR code in July 2011. Usage significantly increased over the next three months, as an average 20.1 million users scanned a code per month.

The number of users who scanned a QR code, however, is just one measure -- and it doesn't reveal whether QR codes are actually successful. There are other metrics you should consider:

  • What is the bounce rate from scans? In other words, what percentage of users who arrive at your website from a QR code leave without looking at anything else?
  • What is the conversation rate from scans? If you want users to sign up or take some other action when they scan a QR code, what percentage of users actually do so?

Unfortunately, comScore doesn't provide statistics like that -- they're going to be unique to you and your strategic goals. Take the time to consider how users are interacting with your QR codes, and whether the codes are delivering what you consider to be success.

April 12, 2012

QR codes are driving me crazy

QR codes are everywhere. They can be used successfully, but I think they are chronically misused. It drives me crazy. Some marketers and advertisers insist on slapping QR codes on materials -- ranging from business cards to television ads -- because they seem to think QR codes are "cool" or "trendy", not because they have a strategic reason for using a QR code.

Before you use a QR code, I think you need to answer a few key questions:

  1. Why should users scan your code?
    When you use a QR code, you're really asking users to invest time in interacting with your brand: pulling out their smartphone, opening an app, scanning the code and waiting for your content to load. It's not a quick process. You can't rely on users' curiosity for them to engage with your QR code; you must incentivize them. Directly communicate why you want them to scan the QR code and what they'll get out of it.
  2. Could you use a URL instead?
    If you're sending users directly to your website, I think it's easier to just give them the URL. Because scanning a QR code is not a quick process, it's typically faster for me to type your URL into my smartphone's browser. Your URL also offers users flexibility -- they can choose when, and on what device, to visit your site, because they're not limited to a QR code.

    QR codes are more valuable if you're directing users to something that can't be communicated with a simple URL -- for example, an app download or specific landing page. For example, a QR code on a magazine ad could direct to a landing page targeted to readers of that magazine. Take advantage of the customizable nature of QR codes to provide value to your specific audience for each code.
  3. Is your destination optimized for mobile?
    Users obviously scan QR codes with mobile devices, so make sure you have optimized your destination for mobile devices. You may have a mobile-specific site or a responsive web design -- it just needs to work for mobile audiences.
Before using any specific tool, you should consider whether it will help you accomplish your goals. Can QR codes work? Absolutely, but you need to consider why QR codes are the right approach for you. Don't waste your time -- or your users' time -- until you can answer why QR codes should be part of your strategy.

February 7, 2012

Path and social media intimacy

On Path, a new mobile-based social media platform, you can connect with up to 150 other users. Facebook, on the other hand, lets you have up to 5,000 friends. Compared to Facebook, Path is obviously trying to create a more intimate social media experience. Path says it helps you share your life with "close friends and family." CNN says Path is described "'the anti-Facebook' for its attempts to make social networking more personal."

Here's the thing: I'm not convinced that Path is actually creating a uniquely personal experience.

First, 150 people isn't just your "close friends and family." 150 people actually encompasses all of your friends, least
according to anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dunbar, who argues you can keep friendships with only 150 people at any time. If that's true, Path only discourages you from connecting with your acquaintances -- not to actually focus on only your closet friends.

Second, Path makes your number of connections public. That doesn't encourage intimacy, instead incentivizing users to connect with more people. Two months ago, Hunter Walk superbly
Seeing high #s on my friends' posts (because they've accepted more friend requests) is subtle pressure for me to friend more people as well to establish my credibility within the ecosystem.
I also want to note that the average Facebook user has 190 friends -- so Path, which is being lauded as this personal, intimate experience compared to Facebook, set its limit just 20 percent below Facebook's average.

This isn't meant as a criticism of Path. I think the idea of a shareable journal is very intriguing, and the platform has a gorgeous UI. Again, I'm just not convinced that it's actually creating an intimate social media experience for its users.

February 2, 2012

Twitter's new brand pages

Twitter's new brand pages, which will soon be available to brands which spend at least $25,000 on Twitter advertising, won't revolutionize the Twitter experience -- but they will provide new opportunities for brands to attract followers. To help brands understand how to do so, Simple Usability has done some interesting research on the new pages.

As The Next Web reported, here are the key takeaways:

The study came away with three main conclusions. When it comes to the design, brands should pay particular attention to what the header image does, and should provide embedded media in promoted or featured tweets. When it comes to the content itself, transparency is the most important element users are looking for.