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QR (quick response) codes are a major marketing trend. You may have noticed the ubiquitous contrasting-color squares on items as diverse as ketchup bottles, movie posters and business cards. The codes can be scanned with a smartphone to direct users to online content.

According to social news blog Mashable, more than 14 million people in the US scanned a QR code in June of 2011. Marketing trends come and go, but QR codes seem well positioned to grow in use for a couple of reasons. First, the number of smartphone users in the US currently exceeds 140 million and is expected to grow. Second, the content to which QR codes direct readers is not static, so it can be kept relevant and timely.

QR Codes and Social Media

Another factor that may add to QR codes' staying power is their compatibility with social media tools, which remain a force in corporate communications strategies. Fortune 500 companies’ use of Facebook increased in 2011 to 60 percent, a slight uptick from the 58 percent using Facebook in 2010. Of Fortune 500 companies that maintain Twitter accounts, 62 percent posted tweets within the last 30 days according to Fortune Magazine.

QR code use is also growing, and not just with large companies making direct consumer goods pitches. The trend is catching on in professional services marketing sectors and among individuals seeking to connect with customers or potential employers. While product packaging, magazine and newspaper placement account for most scanned QR codes, more than 13 percent were scanned from business cards or brochures.

Mobile Optimized Marketing

The fact that QR codes are primarily a mobile tool also contributes to their relevance for marketing and social media interaction purposes. About half of all online searches now originate on a smartphone, so it’s important for individuals and businesses to provide information in mobile-optimized form.

QR codes can be a great avenue to a mobile site. A word of caution, however: if you use a QR code, make sure the URL to which it leads is optimized for mobile viewing. QR codes convey a tech-savvy image, but that can be immediately negated if the scan leads a user to a site that isn’t optimized for mobile devices.

Incorporating QR Codes into Your Social Media Strategy

If you plan on using QR codes to enhance your social media strategy, it’s a good idea to keep it simple.

An effective approach is to provide a vCard, curated Google results and links to your social media networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. If you maintain a customer-facing blog or share video content about your business, you can also provide links to that material.

Unlike printed collateral, the information at the URL linked to your QR code can be updated, so you can provide fresh content as your focus changes.

As you think about adding QR codes to your marketing toolkit, make sure you partner with a QR code specialist who offers ease of administration as you generate and manage your QR code campaign. Assess a potential partner’s ability to maximize social network connections to help you take business networking to a higher level. With the right strategy, QR codes can be a powerful new dimension in customer communications.

Title image courtesy of Fabio Berti (Shutterstock).

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