Business & Finance Advertising & sales & Marketing

Social Media And QR Codes – What You Need To Know Now

The advertising world is changing rapidly with new ways of connecting companies with customers, providing new opportunities. Many are asking if they should get involved and, if so, what are the main considerations before taking the leap.  Let's take a look at two of the most talked about technologies currently – social media and QR codes.

Social Media

Social media includes popular social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and several hundred others. It is an increasingly effective way for a company to have its brand communicate directly with its customers.  As Ben Grossman, founder of BiGMarK was quoted as saying, "New marketing is about the relationships, not the medium." We all have relationships with brands, whether we want to or not. We may love the brand, feel indifferent towards the brand, or hate the brand. Like any relationship, it may evolve and change over time. The power of social media can now help control and steer that relationship.

Brands like Old Spice and Starbucks have found ways to control that relationship.  Take, for example, the powerful effect from the Old Spice campaign ads that increased sales by over 100% and created over 1.4 billion brand impressions. Not all companies have the resources to invest millions of dollars in a campaign like that, but the power of social media is that no matter what the size of your company, whether your revenue is $100,000 or $5,000,000,000 a year, it can boost your visibility and develop a relationship with consumers that is powerful.

There are the three things you should consider before diving into social media:
  1. How will it fit in with your overall marketing strategy?  Don't let social media be an after-thought in your marketing.  According to a survey released in June 2010 conducted by Digital Brand Expressions, only 41% of the companies that use social media say those efforts are part of a strategic game plan. As with any new method of engaging with your customers, you must decide how much of your strategy it should encompass and where it fits. Most of the companies out there are using it for marketing, public relations and sales. Decide how much of your marketing mix social media will have before you start putting out advertising with Facebook and Twitter logos.
  2. How will you manage and sustain it? This is one of the biggest questions of all. A lot of companies see the value of social media, but don't want to invest personnel or capital into it. Social media may not be right for every company, but for those companies that it is right for, it is a long-term investment. A company shouldn't set up Facebook and Twitter profiles and then stop engaging with their customers. It takes consistent work and effort. It doesn't mean that you have to invest large amount of resources into social media if you don't want to, but realize that your customers may have a lower perception of your business, if you try social media and don't stick with it.
  3. What are your goals and how will you track them? Many companies want to see an increase in return on investment (ROI) when they invest in social media. I recently spoke with a social media expert who works at a major advertising firm in Raleigh, NC.  He made an excellent point when he asked me why clients hold social media to a different standard than other marketing efforts. If you are not tracking ROI on your other marketing methods, then it is unfair to hold social media to a higher standard.  With the recent recession, more and more clients are interested in measuring results. Limited resources require us to use them wisely. Whether it's brand impressions, ROI, sales or conversions depends on the company and its objectives. It is important to have clear and measurable goals for your social media campaign. And since social media is a trackable activity, make sure that you use social media tracking programs to measure your results.

QR Codes

This is another cutting edge advertising method that is in its infancy stage. In fact, so much so, that a lot of people don't know what it is. A QR code is "Quick Response" code. It is much like a bar code but can store much more information.  

In order to use a QR code, you need two things – a Smartphone with a camera and a QR reader application on the Smartphone. In order to use it, you simply take a picture of the QR code with your Smartphone, and then your Smartphone will send you to the URL or give you access to the information that is on the QR code.

There have been many times when we have all passed by a billboard or a sign and meant to write the URL or phone number down. Now, with a simple click on the Smartphone, you will be able to gather the information you need and access it later when it's more convenient.

The implications of a QR code are vast. They can be used as business cards, as targeted messages or discounts, and even some airlines have started using them for boarding passes. QR codes have actually been around awhile but a lot people are predicting that 2011 will be the year when it becomes mainstream.

So, how do you know if it's right for your company? Here are three things to consider before diving into QR codes:
  1. Are your customers going to be engaged enough to use it? If your customer base is techno-savvy and/or early adopters, they may be more likely to engage with your QR code.  For others, it will take time or there will have to be a strong incentive in order to start using it.  Contests and free incentives are a great way to engage your customers. Do as much research as possible to make sure your investment into QR codes is going to pay off.
  2. What added value does this provide your customers that they didn't have before? For an industry like the airline industry, this provides travelers with added value and convenience.  Printers are not always available to print out boarding passes, but a QR code would provide the traveler with a different way to get on their flight. For a smaller company, a QR code could be used to provide your customer with a discount or help them easily get to your store.
  3. What do you hope to gain by offering QR codes to your customers? There should be something for you, as well. Will this help with your customer acquisition and/or retention? Will this help you learn more about your customer or help you add names to your mailing list? As I discussed with social media, make sure that you have clear and measurable goals. And speaking of measureable, that can be one of the challenges with QR codes. The tracking tools are currently very limited, so you need to use personalized URLs or some other tracking method to measure your goals.

So, what's the point? Social media and QR codes are, without a doubt, the wave of the future. As Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus said "Innovation needs to be part of your culture. Consumers are transforming faster than we are, and if we don't catch up, we're in trouble." Make sure that you are innovative but, at the same time, make sure you take the right precautions before moving forward.

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