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QR Codes and the Digital Citizen Gap – three insider tips

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Digital natives and digital immigrants

Back in 2001, Marc Prensky coined the phrases “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants” with regard to education. His work drew an analogy from students who grew up with digital tools (basically those born after 1987) and their teachers who did not,  to a country’s natives and immigrants.  For a country’s natives, the local religion, language, and folkways are natural and indigenous – it’s immigrants are expected to adapt and begin to adopt the region’s customs, language, and lifestyle.

There has been much debate since Prensky coined the term as to whether age was the only factor or even a primary one when it came to being a ‘digital native.’  But whatever the actual factors are? It’s true that there is a very obvious that there’s a generation of consumers  who grew up with the convenience and power of the internet, mobile phones, and multiple information streams – and several that have to adopt and adapt as each new technology comes along.

As a life-long geek, I’ve always been in love with technology.  If there was something new and useful on the horizon? I was right there learning about it and figuring out where it did or didn’t fit in my own life.  As a digital immigrant Mom to a digital native (8 1/2 y.o.) daughter,  I started looking at things differently.  The first time I had to explain to her why we couldn’t pause the television in a hotel room in monosyllables? I realized that I needed to understand more than just “how some new tech worked for me” — I needed to find out how someone who grew up with it uses it and how that impacts her.  Along the way, I pick up a lot of information that turns out useful for marketers, business folks, and those looking for insight into tomorrow’s consumers.

If we’re going to stick with the analogy, I learned not just the language, but the slang and what it means, and not just the habits and rituals, but why they exist and what that means for future trends.  Just as someone born before (or after!) the record and radio era in music would be lost at the phrase “see you on the flip side” – there’s a whole slew of things that look and sound mysterious from the other side of the digital citizen divide that make sense when you get where the other guys come from.

Current and future digital trends in business

So then, let’s look at what’s trending or on the horizon in digital (internet, mobile, and social) when it comes to business.  But to make it useful? I’m going to give you some framework to work with.  We’ll start with a topic.  I’ll tell you what it is, why it’s interesting, and give you a good start on learning more about it.  Then I’ll give you the Digital Immigrant viewpoint, the Digital Native viewpoint, and the large business (or enterprise) takeaways and the small business takeaways. Plus a couple of insider tips.

Let’s not get too bogged down with the back-story though, instead let’s give it a whirl with a pretty solid example and you’ll see how quickly it goes!

Let’s talk about QR codes:

QR Codes – why those little squares you see everywhere are worth a deeper look. If you’ve been keeping your eyes out, you’ve probably seen these things popping up all over the place – from Heinz Ketchup Bottles to airport billboards to people’s business cards. But unless you’re the early-adopter type or it was also accompanied with a “download a QR reader here” message? You might have done the same thing most of us do when we see a barcode and thought “Yeah, that probably doesn’t concern me.”

Here’s the quick definition: The QR is short for “Quick Reader” – invented by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave in Japan (back in 1994!) they were originally designed to keep track of vehicles during manufacture, it’s allows the contents to be decoded at high speed.  Think of it like a 2-dimensional barcode, only instead of just numbers, you can send words, links, and messages.

Why it’s interesting: Done right, a QR code can get your target audience a lot of information, really quickly, on the go. You don’t have to worry about crowding a lot of information in a little space or wondering if your customer gave up trying to type a URL into her phone.  If you get innovative? You’ll also be reaching more potential customers in places they aren’t usually looking for you.

The Digital Native viewpoint: Smartphones aren’t just phones for the D.N. set. They are rolodexes, news sources, libraries, instant communication devices (text or voice), cameras, notebooks, hand-held computers and pretty much their ‘absolutely must have’ device. In their mobile lifestyle, making it fast and easy to get the information they are looking for puts you ahead of the game.

The Digital Immigrant viewpoint: After a while, keeping up with the stream of “download this app” gets to be a bit much and finding the right one to use after that can put D.I.s into app overload.  Just like their D.N. counterparts, making it fast and easy makes it more likely that you’ll get and keep their attention.  But make sure that you aren’t just putting the same information in the QR code as you did where they found it – a sure fire way to make them ignore any QR codes they see in the future!

Big business: QR codes give you a fast way to connect your mobile marketing into someone’s pocket.  Instantly direct customers to your mobile content, apps, contests, or even online or retail purchase points. Embed tracking codes in your referrals and you’ll know when and where your customer started actively engaging with your brand.  Real-time interaction (the scan) can also end up in more in-depth interaction (saved links) and the ROI is highly measurable. Since the use of QR codes is free of any license (Denso Wave owns the patent rights, but has chosen not to exercise them) there’s no barrier to entry. Unlike a lot of competing technology, the QR code is clearly defined and published as an ISO standard. It works just as well on an iPhone as it does on a Blackberry, or a phone running Android or Microsoft.

Small business: It takes a few minutes to find a QR code generator, put in your information, click generate and save a picture of your own QR code. There’s no expensive outlay to make them or for your customers to use them.  As a small business, social media marketing requires dedicated time and effort and digital marketing usually requires paying someone to make a site or app for you. The creative use of QR codes can automate some of the process for you.  Adding a 1″ square code to just about any surface that takes directs your customer to information that drives sales is kind of a no-brainer.  If I told you there was a magic button that could drive sales leads to you and create new customers in places you already had spent on traditional advertising, how much would you pay for it? Now I’m telling you it’s free.  Why are you still reading this?

3 pieces of insider advice:

1) Test some different QR readers and makers. Find one you like and consistently recommend it – if your target is mainly D.I.s, you might want to put a recommendation near it like “Don’t have a reader? We suggest using ——– available in your app store.”  I downloaded 16 different QR readers to field test on my iPhone at South by Southwest last March. Only 2 survived the cut – i-nigma by 3GVision and RedLaser. For speed and functionality in low-light settings, i-nigma lives on my home screen. RedLaser has added functionality (price-comparison and product ratings) and asks me before opening a URL (pretty soon, we’ll see viruses and scams snaring the unwary – it’s an added layer of protection.) When you look for a site or app to generate your code? You might want one that doesn’t redirect through their own URL or you might like the built-in analytics of those kind.  Weigh which is better for your content.

2) Get Creative. Don’t put a QR code on your business card that has the exact same information as your business card. One or the other is useless and redundant. But a QR code linking someone to your mobile-optimized website? That means a momentary scan takes someone to your site instead of having to type the URL in while looking at the card. (Try scanning the QR code above, even though it goes to a non-optimized site? It will still surprise you how fast it gets there.) Put it on your to-go cups. Stick one in the back window of your car or on the back of your own phone. The most creative use I’ve seen lately was the 2 foot square yard sign on a house for sale that took me to a virtual tour of the house.

3) Get Interactive. Get your customers to download QR readers by having one on the back of your register that takes them to a 10% off discount they can redeem immediately.  Once they’ve downloaded a reader and seen how fast it works? You’ll be able to get them scan again for other reasons.  Direct them to your Facebook page to Like it.  Send them to your online store.  Link them to your downloadable app.  Give them more than a passive experience.

So, are you ready for this? Let’s get digital.

AGBeat columnist on digital marketing trends. Pruitt's computer obsession started back in '79 - a long time geek and early adopter, she's an ex-programmer & CIS professor, and a Social Media Devotee. Previously known on many social networks as an early-adopter by the handle of "GeekMommy" – Lucretia was on the Forbes 50 Power Moms list as a Tech Mom, she was one of the original Walmart Elevenmoms & has been dedicating herself to the field of Social Media full-time for several years now. She works with small businesses and F100 clients alike.

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37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Ed Neuhaus

    October 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Since the QR code space is confusing and littered with readers that don't work with certain codes and new QR ideas coming in the market daily like Digimarc, how do we know the triditional QR codes are where it is at? Digimarc embeds a digital watermark into photos that allow their free reader to scan the photo itself and get the multimedia content. No need for a little square in your flyer for a black and white image that others wise means nothing.. Just wondering if we should be pushing the point of the traditional QR code or something else? Henry Ford was not the first car marker but he was the ine that made it work on a large scale.

  2. Lori Lavender Luz

    October 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    OK, you[ve convinced me that a QR code would be good on my next iteration of business cards. But I'd like to incorporate my logo into it, also, and have it widely readable. I would love to know if you do a future post on this!

    And thanks for the recommendation of i-nigma and RedLaser. Both are on my phone now. Is this like VHS vs Betamax, where not all QR readers will survive the long haul?

  3. Chrissy

    October 12, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Thanks for directing me here Lucretia.. I have a few clients that have been asking me about QR codes and I know how to use um but not how to help them with their biz.. awesome post!

  4. Barb

    October 12, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I have seen QR codes showing up in some unusual places lately but I love the idea of having it on business cards. Good idea Lori to incorporate your logo as well.

  5. Joshua Jarvis - GA Realtor

    November 8, 2011 at 8:57 am

    It must be a regional thing, as QR Codes are a colossal FAIL in Georgia. In addition, if it doesn't capture the customer's information, then it doesn't move my business forward.

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Social Media

How to spot if your SEO, PPC, social media marketing service provider is a con-artist

(BUSINESS) When hiring a professional, did you know there are actual questions you can ask to spot a con-artist? Too often, we trust our guts and go with the gregarious person, but too much is on the line to keep doing that with your business.

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In this day and age the cult of positive thinking and “the law of attraction” are still very much alive and well in the business services industry. Here are a few simple questions that you can ask prospective business service providers to help you gauge if they are the real deal or just caught up in the fad of “say yes to everything,” or “outsource everything” being populated online by countless “thought leaders” and cult gurus.

Lots of people will ask, “What’s the harm of people trying to make something of themselves?”

Well, I’m here to tell you there is a huge harm in taking risks with a client’s money and manipulating people into trusting their “expertise” when they have none.

Business owners: Due diligence is more important than ever these days.

There are whole communities of people helping to prop each-other up as experts in fields they know nothing about while outsourcing their tasks with little or no oversight into the actual work being done on your behalf.

It is nearly impossible for you to tell if this is even going on. Don’t worry. I am here to help you avoid a con-artist.

How? By showing you how to weed out the bad actors by asking really simple questions.

This set of questions is perfect for people who need to distinguish if the expert they are talking is really just an expert in bullshit with a likeable personality.

Why do these questions work? Because people who are into this kind of stuff are rarely hesitant to talk about it when you ask them direct questions. They believe that what they are doing is a good thing and so they are more open to sharing this information with you because they think by you by asking that you are also into similar things.

It is a fun little trick I picked up while learning to do consumer polling and political surveying.

The Questions:

  • Who influences you professionally?
  • Do you follow any “thought leaders” “gurus” or coaches? If so, who?
  • What “school” of thought do you ascribe to in your profession, and where do you learn what you know?
  • Are there any industry standards you do not agree with?
  • How do you apply the services you offer to your own company?
  • Can you please tell me the background of your support staff and can I see their CV’s?
  • Do you outsource or white label any of the work your company does?
  • May we audit your process before buying your services?
  • May we discuss your proposed strategies with others in your industry to ensure quality?
  • Would you be open to speaking with an independent consultant that is knowledgeable about your industry about your proposals?
  • Can you show me examples of your past successful jobs?
  • Do you have any industry accepted certifications and how many hours of study do you do in a year to keep your knowledge up-to-date and current?
  • How many clients have you had in the past?
  • How many clients do you have currently?
  • How many clients are you able to handle at one time?
  • How many other clients do you have that are in the same industry as my company?
  • How long is your onboarding process before we start getting down to actually making changes to help solve the issues my company is facing?
  • Can you explain to me the steps you will take to identify my company’s needs?
  • Have you ever taken a course in NLP or any other similar course of study?
  • Have you ever been a part of a Multi-Level Marketing company?
  • Fun. Right? Well, we aren’t done.

    It is not just enough to ask these questions… you have to pay attention to the answers, as well as the WAY they are answering questions.

    And you also have to RESEARCH the company after you get your answers to make sure they ring true.

    You cannot keep accepting people at face value, not when the risk is to your business, employees, and clients. There is little to no risk for a person who is being dishonest about their capabilities and skill sets. They will walk away with your money, ready to go find another target for a chance meeting that seems amazingly perfect.

    Do not leave your business decisions to chance encounters at networking events. Research before saying yes.

    No matter how likeable or appealing the person you are speaking with is.

    How do you research? Easy. THE INTERNET. Look at the website of the company you are considering working with.

    • Does it look professional? (do not use your website as a standard for professional unless you have had it done by a professional)
    • Can you see a list of their past clients?
    • Do they effectively tell their story as a company or are they just selling?
    • What do their social media profiles look like? Do they have many followers? Are they updated regularly?
    • Do they have any positive reviews on social sites? (Yelp, Facebook, Linkedin, etc)

    You can also do some simple things like running SEO Website Checkers on their websites. There are tons of these online for free and they will give you a pretty good indicator of if they are using best practices on their websites – you can even do this research on their clients’ websites.

    Also, if you know anything about SpyFu, you can run their website through that to see how they are doing their own online marketing (the same can be said for their clients if they are selling this service).

    Facebook also has a cool section that shows you ads that a Page is running. You can find this info connected to their business Page as well as the Pages they manage for their clients as well. None of these things automatically disqualify a potential service provider, but their answers the question of “why” things are the way there are might be very illuminating to you as a business owner.

    This may seem like a lot of work, and it can be if you do not do these things regularly and have them down to a system, but the cost of not doing these things is way too high. A con-artist is born every day, thanks to the internet.

    You have a right as a business owner considering services from a vendor to ask these questions.

    They also have the responsibility as a service provider to answer these questions in a professional manner. Sometimes the way in which they answer the questions is far more important than the actual answer.

    If all of this seems too overwhelming for you to handle, that is okay.

    • You can ask one of your staff in your company to take on this role and responsibility.
    • You can hire someone to come in and help you with these decisions (and you can ask them all the same questions as above before taking their services).
    • You can reach out to other business owners in your network to see if they have recommendations for someone who could help you with things.
    • Heck, you can even call up companies that look like they are doing as well as you want to be doing online and ask them who they are using for their services. Try successful companies in other industries as your competitor won’t likely be interested in sharing their secrets with you…

    What is important is that you are asking questions, researching, and ultimately making sure that you are doing as much as possible to ensure making the best decision for your company.

    Final thoughts:

    “But, Jay, what’s wrong with taking a risk on an up-and-comer?”

    The answer to that is NOTHING. There is nothing wrong with taking a chance on someone. Someone being green doesn’t make them a con-artist.

    The issue I am raising is in the honest portrayal of businesses and their capabilities. It is about honesty.

    I am a huge fan of working with people who are new and passionate about an industry. But I only work with people who are honest with me about who they are, what they can do, and how their processes work.

    I have worked with tons of people who are still learning on the job. It can be quite educational for a business owner as well.

    Just make sure they are being honest about everything up front. You are no obligated to give anyone a chance when it comes to your businesses success, and it’s not right that someone might manipulate you into doing so.

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TikTok is proof that regulating social media will be complicated

(SOCIAL MEDIA) The complexities surrounding social media regulation are getting even more intense, and TikTok’s drama reveals what could be in store for other networks.

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There’s no denying the meteor-like impact that TikTok has inflicted on the social media landscape. However, the video platform’s lack of compliance with some governments’ child privacy laws is creating all sorts of sticky situations—and foreshadowing potential drama for social media platforms to come.

Since TikTok’s location of origin—China — and the United States often end up at odds with each other, it’s no surprise that the video app found itself in trouble on this side of the world. The first sign of trouble arrived early this year when the app came under fire for allowing children under the age of 13 to use TikTok to its fullest extent — a decision that exposed them to potentially inappropriate content.

Ultimately, TikTok was fined $5.7M for violating the United States’ children privacy laws.

The lawsuit did bear a positive update for TikTok: an age verification step. As of the update, children under the age of 13 can’t use the app, and anyone looking to create a profile needs to verify their age before joining. While it’s a step in the right direction, one can’t help but wonder why age verification wasn’t included in the first place.

It’s this ridiculous level of oversight that makes TikTok’s influence so dangerous. On one hand, you could feasibly argue that the app’s freedom—however brief—allowed it to proliferate far beyond its technical and geographical limitations, thus turning it into one of the hottest video apps to come about since Vine’s untimely demise.

That said, the exploitation of children—whether willingly or otherwise—is no legacy on which to build a social media platform (or anything else, if that’s not a clear line in the sand for you).

Unfortunately, future app developers may look only at TikTok’s success without questioning its methodology.

It’s worth noting that the United States isn’t the only country attempting to combat TikTok’s rampant, unregulated growth. India has also called for TikTok to increase moderation of their content in order to cut down on fake news as well as the “risky and criminal content” that gave TikTok its controversial reputation.

Hopefully, these regulations will serve as a reminder to future social media start-up endeavors that no wildfire can burn forever, but only time will tell the full extent of TikTok’s impact on the landscape.

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How to quickly make your LinkedIn profile stand out from the masses

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Most of us have a love/hate relationship with LinkedIn, but no matter your feelings, you should be the one who stands out in a crowd – here’s how.

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Your LinkedIn is your brand. That’s it. Whether you are job hunting (or people are hunting you), or are showing off your business, insight, acumen, or simply networking; your profile on LinkedIn needs to stay appealing and not drive potential headhunters, bosses, clients, or networking groups bananas.

Let’s start with a three part list of what you MUST do, what you SHOULD do, and what you COULD do.

Here’s what you MUST DO (as in, do it now).

  1. Get a #GREAT LinkedIn photo. Nothing sells you like the right profile picture. No selfies. No mountain biking. Get a professional headshot. Don’t lie about your age. Wear what you wear when you’re on the job. Smile. People are visual.
  2. Simplify your profile. Cut the buzzwords. Cut out excess skills that don’t add to your vision or that don’t represent the kind of job you want. (i.e. most of us can use Outlook but few of us need to mention that skill because we don’t support Outlook). Focus on the skills that are important.
  3. Keep it current. Your LinkedIn should reflect your career and current responsibilities. Update the description. Add new projects. Change your groups as you change in your career and move towards new levels. Indicate when you receive a promotion.
  4. Extra, Extra! Headlines. Don’t use something lame for your headline. How would you want to catch a headhunter to look at you if you could only say 10 words? Make it standout. There are thousands of managers – but only one you.
  5. Custom URL. Just do it. Pick your own URL. It’s FREEEEEEE.
  6. Get the app. Make LinkedIn a part of your mobile life and check it more often than you do Snapchat.

Here’s what you SHOULD DO (Set aside some time at Starbucks and go do this in the next month).

  1. Tell your story. Your summary should bring to live the content of your career. Don’t leave that section blank. Spend some time crafting a cool story. Run it by your professional mentor. Send it to your English major friends.
  2. Connect. Add colleagues. Add partners from other organizations. Use connections to broaden your network. Synch your profile with your address book. Add people after a conference.
  3. Endorse your connections. Identify people you’ve worked with and give them the endorsements – which can get them to come endorse you!
  4. Ask for recommendations. Ask a colleague, partner, or manager to write you a recommendation to help advertise your skills.
  5. Add a nice cover photo. Again, visual people. Some more on that here.

Here’s what you COULD DO (If you’re feeling dedicated, what you can do to give yourself an extra edge.)

  1. Share your media. Upload presentations, videos, speeches, or projects that you can share. (Don’t violate company policy though!).
  2. Publish original content. LinkedIn has a vibrant publishing feature and sharing your original work (or content you’ve published elsewhere) is a great way to share your voice.
  3. Post status updates. Share your reactions. Share articles. Repost from influencers. Be active and keep your feed vibrant.

That’s a quick list to get started. So go start your LinkedIn makeover (and I’ll go do the same). Let’s get connected!

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