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QR Code Best Practices for Gov 2.0

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In recent weeks, many of our government clients have been asking if they should incorporate QR codes into their educational materials. This is great news as QR codes can be an excellent tool for connect citizens to government services and educational information while they are on the go.  However, as with all new communication vehicles it is important to take a few things into consideration before deciding if QR codes are right for your agency. 

Until recently, there was a low awareness of QR codes in the US, but has changed in recent months with nearly two thirds of adults having seen one of these codes and one third having used them.  Big brands like Macy’s, Sephora and many others are integrating QR codes into their advertising, catalogs and retail experiences and are using their advertising cache to educate Americans about what these codes are and how to use them.  This opens the door for other organizations like the government to capitalize on this awareness and start using QR codes.

The first question a government organization should ask themselves before launching a QR code intiative is, “Is my target audience using QR codes and smartphones?”.  According to  eMarketer statistics, the demographic profile of these QR code users is more educated and higher income than the general population.  However, if minority populations are the target audience, QR codes may be a great options since minorities are much more likely than whites to own a smartphone capable of scanning and reading the codes.

If you feel that you have an audience fit, then here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

DO ensure that you have a QR code content strategy.  For best results, QR codes should link to an action-oriented or otherwise compelling content experience.  This could be anything from signing up for SMS reminders to get your flu shot, to emailing your congressperson, to “Liking” your awareness campaign’s Page on Facebook or watching a celebrity PSA.  Look for interesting actions to link people to and clearly state what the code will do when scanned.  DON’T link to your homepage with no clear call to action.  People won’t be sure what they should do a quickly leave the site.

DO place QR codes in places where they are easily visible.  Posters, billboards, outdoor advertising, PSAs, covers of brochures, health fair exhibits, the wall in public facing offices are all good candidates.  DON’T place the code on page 6 of brochure.  You’ll reduce the number of people who see it and use it.

DO optimize your website or any landing page your QR code links to for mobile devices.  If your content is hard to read or interact with from a 3 inch screen, people will leave without taking your desired action.  DON’T expect people to find one link among many.  Ensure your landing page is clear about what you’d like your QR code user to do.

DO consider accessibility issues for low income and technology late- adopters.  Think about integrating an SMS component to your campaign so those without access to smart phones can assess your content as well.

DO Test! Test! Test!  Make sure that your code works with iPhones, Andriods, Blackberrys and all other smartphone devices.  DON’T use just one scanning program either.  Test it with multiple scanning apps like RedLaser or Scan Life.

DO put instructions on how to use the code right next to the code itself.  Awareness is growing, but not everyone knows about QR codes yet. However, DON’T over-explain, if it seems complicated people won’t do it.

DO track your analytics and measure your results so you know which calls-to-action and placement locations are resonating with your audience.  DON’T be discouraged by low numbers at first.  QR code adoption can take time.

Have you seen any good examples of QR code usage by a government agency recently?  If so, I’d love to hear them.  Share in the comments below or scan the QR code above to share with me on Twitter.

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