We've got a number of new services to let you know about and some great free tools that you should check out in this issue.
As we provide social networking services, I am often asked which is more important for a business to use, Twitter or Facebook. I like both as tools, but if you can only afford to do one, do Facebook.
Twitter is an excellent tool for sharing news and driving link traffic, but Facebook is where your customers are spending their time. However, with a new beginning level Twitter service that starts at $80 a month, we've made getting active on Twitter affordable for almost every business.
You've seen them before, the funny square images on print pages and in magazines; they're called QR codes or Quick Response codes. Scan the one to the right and it will take your mobile smartphone to our website's home page.
QR codes are not new, but they are gaining importance with more users accessing the Web with 3G and 4G technology on their smartphones. Similar to a bar code used by retailers to scan at checkout, QR codes however are two dimensional graphics that can hold thousands of characters of information. This makes them the perfect way to direct users to online content and or to perform specific activities quickly.
If you've seen funny colored graphics that look like Indian blankets, these are Microsoft's proprietary versions of QR codes and are called MS Tags. They however need a special Microsoft reader to decode and on today's mobile web may have limited use.
There are plenty of free QR code scanners and generators. I have one for my Android phone called QR Droid that works great. With any mobile QR app, you take a picture of the QR code and the app then lets you select the appropriate action based on the information embedded in the QR code. Scan ours with your smartphone's QR code reading app and you have the option to go our website home page.
Free QR Code Generators
You don't need to have a smartphone to create a QR code for your print or website use. You can use one of these free online resources.
This free generator will create a QR code using their URL to host the QR code image for a phone number, a text snippet, an SMS text message, or a URL. Once the smartphone has read the QR code your scanning app will allow you to save the information, put information into contacts, email or text message the information, depending on the type of QR code you have generated.
This QR code generator is more advanced. With 21 options to select from you can create a QR code that will send a meCard, bookmark a website, tweet on Twitter, do an Android Marketplace app search, create a vCalendar event, and create a FourSquare new vendor URL.
The list is extensive and you may want to make several variations. This QR code generator will even allow you to choose the colors for your graphic. It also allows you to save the image in a variety of formats so you can host it on your own website. Be careful on selecting colors with more complex QR codes as some scanners may have trouble reading them when the colors do not contrast strongly.
This QR code generator created by Winergy is sweet! (One of our Twitter followers sent us the link.) This QR code generator makes truly unique and beautiful codes.
You can even do a textured looking background or a code to visit your Facebook Business page. The generator allows you to select from several selections but its strength is that it makes wonderfully beautiful codes. The code to he right showcase this generator's uniqueness. Scan it and go to our Facebook Business page.
Google has even gotten into the action. Shrink a link at http://goo.gl/ then paste the link into your adress bar add .qr to the end and click go and Google creates a QR code image that you can right click and save to use. Google will even track the link clicks when you shrink your link with them.
Using QR Codes
Now that you know a little more about QR codes or Quick Response codes how can you use them? Wow, that is the exciting part and some of it is based only on your imagination. Here are a few of my suggestions.
Add a QR Code to Your Print Brochures
Add a QR code to your print brochure, you can send your user to your home page or better yet send them to a custom created landing page that has a special offer to allow you to actually measure the results of your exposure from a trade show, speaking engagement, or direct mailing.
Offer Special Coupon Codes and Promotions
Want to track mobile web visitors? As most desktop users are not using QR code scanners, you can encode special offers as a text snippet and even embed a special coupon code in a QR code that can then be used immediately by smartphone users.
Encourage Google HotPot, FourSquare, and Google Places
By embedding your QR code on your menu or guest check, restaurants and stores can encourage visitors to interact immediately with location specific places to share their favorite spots with others and encourage customers to leave service reviews.
Print a QR code on the back of your business card
With the ability to embed a vCard in your QR code, you can make it easy for smartphone users to add your contact information to their phone.
What else can you do with a QR code?
Check out our blog by doing a search in the top box for QR codes for more great tips about using QR codes as we have written extensively about using them in May.
For in-depth information about QR codes, how to use them, how they got started we recommend that you read this excellent article at the Social Media Examiner.
In the weeks to come you'll be seeing us use QR codes more frequently on our own print and online pieces. If you want to start using QR codes too and need help, just contact us so we can create a plan for you to tap into the mobile web market by using QR codes on your website too.