If you've got a smartphone (and who doesn't now?), hopefully you've seen and used QR codes, like the one above, for quick and easy access to information through your phone. QR codes are just information encoded into a 2D barcode format; with a free smartphone app, your phone can scan a QR code and take you straight to a web site, add a contact's info to your phone, and much more. If you're not using QR codes to market your business, you should. Here's why...
The QR code above will take you...here. To this blog's home page on the web. Point any camera-equipped smartphone at it using a QR code scanner app, and a browser window will open and show my blog. No tedious URL to remember or type in, instant gratification in a world that *loves* instant gratification. So how can you use this to benefit your photography (or other) business?
Generating QR Codes
First things first -- you need to make QR codes before you can start using them. There are dozens of free QR code generation sites on the web, but a bit of caution is in order -- some of them will redirect to their own web site first, making the user "click through" to get to *your* site. You want one that will generate a QR code that takes people scanning it directly to your own web site.
The simplest and easiest is from (not surprisingly) Google; it's built into the Google URL Shortener web page. Head to the page (from here, you have to oh-so-primitively click on the link above), type in or paste your web site's URL (for the not so web savvy, that's the web address of your page, that starts with http://...), and it will make a "shortened" URL suitable for quick posting in a Tweet or anywhere else you don't want to type in the whole long web address. Once it's generated a shortened URL, click on the link for "Details." On the details page will be a generated QR code for the shortened link. Copy and paste the QR code image to your local computer, and you can then use it any way you like.
Some other free and non-redirecting QR code generators are:
Kaywa QR Code Generator
Using Your QR Codes
Now that you've got your QR codes generated and saved on your computer, it's time to have some fun. The most obvious use is to put one on your business card -- that goes to your business home page. I started doing this about three months ago, and I not only saw a spike in hits on the home page from mobile browsers, I got a number of comments from people telling me they liked having it there. One word of caution: don't make the code on your business card too small! What's too small? Below about 1/2-inch on a side. Some web guidelines say to keep the printed codes at least 1-inch on a side, but I've yet to have *any* phone have a problem with 1/2-inch codes. Below that, it's a bit hit or miss.
One fun thing I'm doing with QR codes this year involves my Senior Portrait clients -- high school kids, ALL of which have smartphones. I've always done a web proof portfolio for my clients, but this year I'm generating unique QR codes for their personal portfolio pages. I print the codes on their printed invoice, I include it in an e-mail I send them, and I ask them for their cell phone number and then SMS it to them as a photo. They can then scan their invoice to go to their portfolio page, show the QR code I've messaged to their cell phone to a friend (so THEY can view my client's portfolio), or lots of other fun sharing of their page. The kids love it, and having more people view my work for clients is *always* a good thing.
If you do any event photography, print out one of your QR codes for your home page or an image sales page or a PayPal payment page, and stick it up on your table at the event. People can scan the code and be taken straight to a page to pay for prints, view their photos on-line, etc.
Have another QR code made with your contact information, and carry that around with you rather than (or in addition to) business cards. People with smartphones can then add your contact information straight into their phones without typing *anything* in...marketers drool over that kind of direct infiltration of a client's contact list!
So what are you waiting for? Go make some codes, and spread 'em around. And if you're already using them in some interesting or creative ways, say so in the comments!