7 Ways to Whip Up Viral Value Through QR Codes: #6 Connect Through Social Networks (Part 1 of 2)


The critical challenge of using QR codes is to provide solid value in the mobile context of use.  This series of 7 articles helps answer how to provide value for you, your company and your brand through creative use of a QR code. (If you are wondering what in world is a QR code and why you should care about it, you may want to start with 3 Secrets for a Successful QR Code Campaign.)

As of the date of this writing, many companies have been implementing their social mobile engagement strategy by putting printed Facebook and Twitter “buttons” on everything from print advertising to packaging.

Here is example from the chocolate bar wrapper we discussed in the previous article:

And here is another example of the same “buttons” on a high-end spa advertisement in a wellness journal.

These “buttons” are supposed to drive engagement with the product or ad via social media on their mobile device, in context, e.g. while looking at the ad or opening a wrapper. Does this strategy work? Or would something else, like a QR code, be more appropriate in this situation?

Personally, I’d like to propose the following 6 Reasons Printed Buttons Must Die:

1. Printed buttons are amateurish.

It’s quite accepted by now that every company worthy of its name has a presence on major social networks like Facebook and Twitter.  Adding this fact to a product packaging merely makes your company look like an amateur in social networking space: “Of course you are on Facebook. Isn’t everyone? Did they just get on there or something? And, does this mean you guys aren’t also on Google Plus/whatever (insert your favorite social network name here)?”

2. Printed buttons require extra work and are error prone.

Let’s say that for some unfathomable reason, I really do want to follow Simply Lite chocolate company on Twitter. Really. Forget the why for a second, let’s concentrate on the how. The first thing I have to do is type in a query. Typing on mobile phone is work. But even if I do this work, as you can see, I have plenty of results to confuse my next step:

Which one should I pick? How about simplylite? As it happens, simplylite, is not the droid I am looking for. But instead a rather single-minded young lady:

Other top picks include simplylites and simplylite1. The right choice happens to be behind door #4: the unfortunately named SimplyLiteChocthe last search result!

By using the “buttons”, the company forces customers to guess the Twitter handle and type it in. The company further risks losing the possible connection through any Twitter handle that is the least bit unintuitive as it is easily lost in the over-abundance of information.

3. Printed buttons deliver no value.

Not only is engaging with the company through these “buttons” is difficult, there is simply no value to the customer holding the chocolate bar to engage with the company’s Twitter feed.

Frankly, I find the simplylite young lady considerably more engaging. As it turns out, numbers support my conclusion: SimplyLite company’s social media strategy has yielded a whooping 26 followers (Wow!) under the SimplyLiteChoc Twitter handle:

While 36 people (or about 50% more) are following the simplylite lady. In the words of Dr. Phil: “Simply Lite, how is that strategy working for ya?”. Not very well, obviously.

4. Printed buttons are fake.

These printed “buttons” look modern, hip and digital. The “button” design borrowed from the iPhone App Store and Android Market implies that they are clickable. They are not.

It is as though the company is trying to play a game of pretend, much like my 6-year-old building a spaceship control panel from an old cardboard box, stickers and tape:

Note that she used tree leaves for take-off and landing buttons, proving that in the future green technology is really going to be huge… But I digress. For 6-year-olds, pretend is a fantastic game to play. If you are a company, however, the game of pretend simply does not work. Unless maybe if you are Disney, in which case, go right ahead.

For companies seeking to engage with their customers in social media, the hip printed digital “buttons” send the wrong message. They are not pretend. They are fake.

5. Printed buttons are not scalable.

What happens when your company expands past a 2 social networks? How does the fake printed “button” strategy “scale”? Here is an example from a recent print ad from Williams Sonoma with 4 different printed “buttons”:

When will this “mobile social engagement strategy” run out of print space? When they add Flickr, Tumblr, Gowalla, Google Plus? Obviously, this kind of growth is unsustainable.

6. Printed button logos don’t mean a thing.

Although Facebook, Twitter and YouTube enjoy almost universal recognition, at least among the 10,000 elite super-geeks of the San Francisco Bay Area’s High-Tech community, I have not the foggiest idea what obscure social network the fake button #4 is supposed to connect me to:

Maybe if push this “button” really hard and make the modem beeping noise with my lips: “beeeep… chk….click…beeeeep…chk chk… pop…beeeep….” Nope, that didn’t work. Sorry Williams Sonoma. I guess it’s broken.

There is a better way to help your customers engage with your print ad or product packaging using social media: a well-constructed QR code campaign. And I will give you the secrets of social media engagement through QR code in the exciting conclusion of this article (coming up in 2 weeks). Don’t miss a thing! Sign up below if you are not part of my Tablet & Mobile Design Secrets newsletter.

Greg Nudelman

P.S. Like what you are reading? Go VIP.

4 UX Books (opens in a new window)
Join 6,000+ subscribers getting exclusive content, Q&As, book giveaways, and more. No spam. Just design that works.