NPC 2/22/13 Feautured Presentation: Aliza Sherman, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly QR Code

Below is an edited transcript of the 2/22/13 NonProfit Commons in Second Life meeting, featuring Aliza Sherman (Cybergrrl Oh) who discussed innovative and compelling ways to use QR codes as an effective marketing tool when used thoughtfully and integrated carefully into a campaign. 
Today we have as our featured presenter web pioneer Aliza Sherman (Cybergrrl Oh) who will take us on an interactive exploration of QR codes.
Aliza Sherman is a Web pioneer with a mission to empower people through technology. She is a digital marketing strategist who has been online since 1987 and consulting clients about the Internet since 1992. She speaks around the world and writes about online, social media, and mobile marketing, as well as tech and business issues specific to women.
In 1995, Newsweek named her one of the “Top 50 People Who Matter Most on the Internet” after she founded the first woman-owned, full-service Internet company, Cybergrrl, Inc. and the first global Internet networking organization for women, Webgrrls International. 
In 2009, Fast Company named her one of the “Most Powerful Women in Technology.” 
Aliza is the author of nine books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing, and Mom, Incorporated. Her next book will be Social Media Engagement for Dummies.
When not speaking in other parts of the world, she lives and works out of Tok, Alaska.
[Cybergrrl Oh] 
Thank you everyone! So great to be back here. So on with QR codes!
My presentation today is not about hyping the latest and the greatest new fangled tool. It is about practical, sensible and manageable uses of technology to improve how we do things.
So let’s start with a definition of QR codes. QR codes are 2- dimensional bar codes or “quick response codes” that were originally developed by Toyota to manage automobile factory inventory. 
You need a QR code reader to scan QR codes. I’m on an iPhone and use Scan from and also Paperlinks from
Just as we adopted Web technology from a tool created for and used by scientists, we have adopted QR codes that were made for machine parts tracking.
So do QR codes work? Well, like any tech tool, only if you use them well. Thoughtfully and strategically. QR codes can be a way to bridge online and offline efforts, real world “hyperlinks” that can instantly transport a person to your online resources, to online actions, all tied to your goals. Not transport like going inworld necessarily, of course!
QR codes should not be random or spontaneous afterthoughts to your marketing efforts. They should be thoughtfully planned, lead you to a mobile friendly destination and enhance an overall experience. Above all, they should be easy to use.
You need the right tools in place to create, manage and track the code. You need to think through the experience for the end user.
Your QR code can lead to a website, blog, social network. Marketing collateral, signs, banners, promotional items, attire and accessories. A quick poll or subscription form. A petition to sign. A video or audio file. Even a mobile and friendly donation trigger. Although there are still challenges with mobile donations.
You can put QR codes on any flat surface you can print and I emphasize FLAT surface. The readable parts of the code need to be even for a reader to pick them up.
They aren’t perfect, and the black and white versions aren’t really that pretty. But… They don’t have to be plain. Custom QR codes created by a designer familiar with the hot spots of the code can make them more attractive.
Yes, I love these! FYI, the ones on display around here were done by Paperlinks. Colors and shapes. Custom are not free, no. But to get a QR code in B&W, yes, free.
Now on to some quick examples. So let’s looks at what works and what doesn’t. The bad ones first.
This is one on a potted plant at the grocery store. So many possibilities. I was hoping for instructions on how to care for the plant but… 
Here is where it leads. Not mobile friendly, not readable.
This is the peril of MANY QR codes. They lead to a website that isn’t optimized for a mobile device. Hard to read and navigate.

Here is a QR code on a necklace. Looks cool
Here is where it leads. Not that exciting. They are showing that you can lead to text but…boring!

Here is a poster in a mall. For Tandy Leather Factory.
Here is where it leads. Almost a good experience because there is a video that can be played. Usually you want to link to YouTube for fast video play. Second best is linking to website with video embedded.

Nonprofit organizations can incorporate QR codes into their marketing mix, but need to be wary of misusing or over-using them in ways that don’t lead to positive returns.
Here is a QR code for Fashion Group International Toronto. They put these up on signs at events. I love QR codes on signs at events. I always pull out my iPhone to scan them to see where they lead. This is great for tradeshows, conferences, gatherings of any kind. 9 times out of 10 they go to unfriendly sites, meaning NOT mobile.
So here is where this one leads. 
At every event, this organization uploads a PDF program of the event – a takeaway. Then they place QR codes on signs at the event. Attendees can access the slides on their mobile device. It is pretty legible and our smartphones can now read PDFs so this works.

The Big Wild conservation group in Canada put up signs around town with QR codes. I’m forgetting which Canadian town but they did this to attract attention and start people talking. They were looking to build awareness of an issue. These signs were attractive and strategically placed in downtown. 
The QR code led people to a petition they could sign. Pretty mobile friendly as far as forms go. I’ve used this tactic for clients of mine. In store signs and at event signs with QR codes that lead to an email signup.

The South Carolina Auditorium had signs and stickers with a code for a contest. The more you checked in and signed up, the more chances you had to win a year membership to the aquarium and a chance to get close to an albino alligator. 
The contest only went on for a certain amount of time. This can be risky if you use the wrong QR code generator. Because your QR code will always be coded to go to the same place. The code representing a URL remains that URL. BUT if you create the code with a tool that you can change what is behind it, you can modify content and keep the code fresh Paperlinks is a service that does that for you. After the contest, the QR code still exists but goes to the home page of a mobile friendly site for the aquarium.
I once saw a QR code on a Heinz Ketchup bottle for a contest. After the contest, scanning it led you to a note that said “Contest Over.” Boo Hiss. Totally a waste and not thought through at all.
Here are things to remember when using QR codes:
  • What are your goals? 
  • What actions do you want people to take?
  • Where will you lead them? 
  • What should their experience be?
  • And how will you measure results?
You can make QR codes for free in many many ways. 
  • A very easy way is via Whenever you make a short URL via, you can access an automatically created QR code by adding .qr at the end of the URL. I believe that is how you access it. And because you can access analytics for your, you get them for the code, too.
  • Kaywa is another
  • I like Paperlinks because you get a modular mobile site that you can modify any time. Some have costs like Paperlinks if you use their mobile sites.
There are SO many ways to create them but look for reputable companies and ones that offer more than just the code.
Oh, and if you need a reader: Scan from and also Paperlinks from Android users can use Scan as well or also Red Laser.
OK, I’ve rambled on enough about this – questions? Comments?
          Treacle (treacle.darlandes): Interesting, thanks. My first experience of what they really are.
          Dage Yven: and cods for an artists – artworks?
[Cybergrrl Oh] 
Interesting Treacle! I hope this made sense. They aren’t the most amazing thing in the world but they can be quite useful.
Any time you have something physical – like a CD or DVD or packaging – you can place a QR code on that and then lead to a website or a video or other multimedia placed online. I really like the concept of Hyperlinks in the Real World.
         Irisgrl Saphir: Wow, really explained how we can use QR to work for us…..more powerful things than I thought!
[Cybergrrl Oh] Irisgrl – they can be if you use them well.
         Irisgrl Saphir: “well” being the operative word!
         Pastor Lynne (lynne.applewhyte): This is cool. I can see how this would be more useful for my tutoring business than the tear off things on the posters.
         Beth Ghostraven: You could put up a sign in SL w/ a QR code
         Glitteractica Cookie: gr8 idea a SL sign with a QR code
[Cybergrrl Oh] I’ve seen great uses of QR codes on websites – leading straight to a company’s mobile app. And a QR code inworld has many possibilities. We all have our smartphones nearby it seems as we are on the computer.
         Brielle Coronet: so if people don’t know about how to get these codes whats a very user friendly site to recommend to download?
         Glitteractica Cookie: Are they difficult to create? Sorry i had to step away from my screen, so may have missed you talking about this. Did you already include a link of your fave sites?
         Irisgrl Saphir: gotta trust the QR maker site, though
[Cybergrrl Oh] 
Glitter – not at all! You just go to a site that generates them and type in the content. QR codes can be text or even a phone number you can then call instantly. Even Google has a QR code generator.
Here are my fave sites: Paperlinks yes, and just starting to use You do want to make sure you use a reputable company. 
For the colored codes, some free generators let you pic colors. For the designed codes, you need a graphic designer who really really knows their stuff. You can mess up a code. There are hot spots on a QR code that cannot be messed with or the code is inactive.
         Irisgrl Saphir: This opens new worlds!
         Grizzla (grizzla.pixelmaid): Sorry – did you answer this already – what mobile apps will let a person “read” the code?
[Cybergrrl Oh] Yes here are some scanners to use. I’m on an iPhone and use Scan from and also Paperlinks from Android users can use Scan as well or also Red Laser.
         Glitteractica Cookie: There are many QRcode scan reader apps for free on the iphone
[Cybergrrl Oh] Many indeed. But not all work very well.
Eric Rice: The first stage of the QR Code driveway
         Rhiannon Chatnoir: the most ‘out of the box’ use of a QRcode, is from another web/media pioneer and once SL’er .. Eric Rice (Spin Martin in SL) who used paving stones to createa QR code of his driveway so that it could be seen from Google Maps
[Cybergrrl Oh] Rhiannon – that is so cool! I’ve seen QR codes on cookies! Some even have lights on them so you can light up the code to read better
         Beth Ghostraven: I guess you’d print them on the icing like a photo
         Brielle Coronet: ooo i like that
         Dage Yven: Is it new epoch for speed of an informations?
[Cybergrrl Oh] 
My client Wine Sisterhood just came out with a QR code scanner – should be in app store this week or next. It works really well and is free. They have QR codes on all of their wine labels and they all lead to Paperlink sites. And their campaigns lead to wufoo forms to sign up for things. Mobile friendly is the key!
And please scan some of the codes you see around. The codes you see are by Paperlinks.
         Rhiannon Chatnoir: if we think on the ideas of storytelling.. you could use it as an innovative way to direct someone in a physical location to the next step of a online/digital story or game even
[Cybergrrl Oh] Definitely great to integrate into a story, a process, an exploration
         CarmenLittleFawn: yes it is
         Brielle Coronet: do you know if survey monkey has this capability?
         Rhiannon Chatnoir: Brielle, not built into Survey Monkey, but you could use something like paperlinks and have it point to a survey
[Cybergrrl Oh] If the survey or quick poll is mobile friendly, just take the URL and put into any good QR code generator. Paperlinks is if you need a more robust mobile site.
         Glitteractica Cookie: I just read that Cybergrrl Oh started the first woman owned internet company! Go CyberGrrl!! We are in the company of royalty. You are too young for this all to be true, not that we don’t believe you, but you look too young!
[Cybergrrl Oh] haha – yes, that is true. thank you!
         Rhiannon Chatnoir: yes and published your first Internet focused book in the mid 90s… 96/7?
[Cybergrrl Oh] yes, Cybergrrl: A Woman’s Guide to the World Wide Web. I was on the Internet back in 1987. I was on the Internet women women made up 10% of the Internet population.
         Irisgrl Saphir: Off to meet with Commission Chair; taking business card with our Facebook Page QR code on it to demo. Thanks!
         Glitteractica Cookie: Bye Cybergrrl, great info.. really interesting
[Cybergrrl Oh] Thanks Glitter
         Glitteractica Cookie: thanks to YOU!
         Serene Jewell: Thanks for the info, Aliza. Gave me some good ideas for using QR codes at events.
         Brielle Coronet: terrific presentation! i learned a lot
         Treacle (treacle.darlandes): Yes thank you Cybergrrl
         Irisgrl Saphir: Applauding wildly!
         Buffy Beale: thanks for coming Cyber, you’re a great role model for women in tech
         Coughran Mayo: Thank you!
         Serene Jewell: Great to see you again, Cybergrrl.
         Gentle Heron: Thanks Cybergrrl. Very interesting information.
         Chayenn: great
         CarmenLittleFawn: much appreciated 🙂
[Cybergrrl Oh] You can email me any time with questions at Really grateful for this opportunity to share with all of you. Thank you! 

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Written by: Rhiannon Chatnoir