Tuesday, March 15, 2011

3 Steps, 4 Ideas, and 18 Tips for Using QR Codes to Promote Your Work

So, you have a fantastic web site, fabulous books, and an informative blog. Wouldn't it be great if you could take these things with you everywhere you go and just hand them to people like a business card or brochure?

I'm going to tell you how you can do exactly that. And I'm going to tell you why you should.

2011 is going to be the year of the QR code, you watch and see. "QR" stands for Quick Response, and the code is a two dimension image, kind of like a bar scan. Only different. Pretty soon they are going to be everywhere. And they are perfect for getting the word out on your app or ebook.

They've been around for a decade in Japan, (where they were invented) but they're just starting to edge into the American tech way of life. The cool factor is through the roof on these things. I am beyond excited about this stuff! If you still don't get what they are, check out this graphic explanation by the tech-savvy, comic-creating Daring Librarian. And if you still don't get it - and don't worry, it took me awhile too - keep reading.


What are the steps to start using QR codes?

Step 1: Decide what you want to promote. Your ebook? App? Book? Site?
Step 2: Create a code.  Because today is the day that my - drum roll please - brand spanking new web site debuts, I created this code using the free online service Kaywa:

and I created this one to my Facebook
page, using Kerem, which uses color:

Step 3: Your target audience, having downloaded a free scan app such as Qrafter (which I believe was created by Kerem), scans code (aka points at the code via the app in his or her device) to reach the destination you have chosen through your code. 

Ideas for destinations:

Idea #1: Information

Say you wrote a book called Elephants in the Wild. Your QR code could lead a person to a video showing elephants in the wild. Or to a downloadable activity sheet you created on your site for teachers.

Idea #2: Promotion

Scan this and you'll be taken to a private link to a sneak preview of a video that will not be released until April 1, rated PG of course!

Idea #3: Connection

Imagine you're on a plane, winging your way to someplace fabulous. If you're anything like me, you will have the good fortune of being seated right next to a teacher who will be thrilled when you hand her your card with a QR code on it that leads straight to your "Freebies for Teachers" page on your web site.

Idea #4: Excitement

Do you have a backlisted book you want to give a little lovin' to? Create a scavenger hunt for your readers in which they follow the clues provided with consecutive QR codes you've created - the winner gets a free signed copy!

Where can you use QR codes?
  • Temporary tattoos to give out at ABC conferences (that is, ALA, BEA, NCTE, etc)
  • Stickers
  • Business cards
  • On a tee shirt
  • Magnets
  • Name tag
  • Printed in your book
  • On your brochures
  • On your site
  • In your email signature
What is the call to action?
  • Buy your book
  • Take a survey
  • Join your mailing list
  • Direct people to your fan page
  • Watch your book trailer
  • Get to your site
  • Win a contest
  • Learn more about your book's subject
Jeff Korhan (soon to be a guest on the Brain Burps About Books podcast) wrote a fantastic explanation of QR codes in this great article. I also love this listing of articles on using QR codes in education.


  1. I didn’t quite get how these worked at first, but you know how great it is to be online and be able to click on a link to go read an article or explore a web site? QR codes allow you to put a “link” on a business card, brochure, or whatever.

    Just a couple of days ago we received a postcard in the mail from our local art museum, and it had a QR code on it, so they are indeed becoming popular. It's nice to know what those funny little squares are...thanks for the post, Katie!

  2. LOVE this Katie. I've seen these like at an airport, etc. COOL! Okay, you know what you need a temporary tattoo that people can scan -- I love the t-shirt idea too. But it would be so fun to say "Scan my tattoo" for X! I want to do it!

  3. Fascinating! I just saw one on a billboard a few days ago. My designer-in-training stepkid has been talking about these for more than a year but I -- bad stepmom -- haven't paid much attention about how I might be able to use them. This explains a lot!

    -- Laura

  4. I'd love for people to let me know ways they end up using QR Codes and if find them useful! Thanks for the comments everyone!

  5. Hey! Thanks for using my comic! I'm gonna have to snag some of your great suggestions, too!
    ~Gwyneth Jones
    the daring librarian

  6. Hello,

    we believe that QR codes will make the connection between offline and online worlds easier. That’s why we created our QR code generator with social features – YouScan.me - http://www.youscan.me. You can add all your info like Facebook profile or fan page, twitter, youtube, etc. and connect with others.


  7. Here is a good article with several ideas for teachers about using QR codes in the classroom:
    Cool Cat Teacher

  8. And this article by David Hopkins shows how to minimize the size of the QR code graphic plus includes several ideas for using them with students: QR Codes: In the Classroom

    “...how about the publishers using them in their printed versions to link to publisher-generated and user-generated content?”