AU MA Social Media

A class blog about social media.

Are QR Codes Part of the Social Media Mix?

Posted by lazdinsa on May 20, 2011

Hi Cohort,

Hope you’re all staying dry in this bizarre weather pattern. There’s something unsettling about getting rained on while the sun is shining. Anyway…I didn’t come here today to blog about the weather! haha

I wanted to share a blog that I’m drafting for work (please don’t share outside of this group). It’s about QR codes, and how they’re starting to permeate the healthcare space. After writing it, it got me thinking. Are QR codes part of social media? By applying the “Groundswell Technology Test,” QR Codes meets a few of the criteria. They enable people to connect/share info in new ways, they’re effortless to sign up for (just snap a picture of one with your phone), and they’re an open platform — anyone can make one. That said, there isn’t an actual “social network” surrounding QR codes. Rather, QR codes are more like a tool that can link people to social networks and information. In other words, they’re more like a bridge than a destination. Anyway, I hope this gets the hamster wheel spinning. Below is the article I’m working on. Enjoy!

QR Codes in Healthcare (Part 1)

Just last year, if you were to mention QR codes to the average consumer, they probably would have given you a puzzled look. Today that’s changing. A 2011 study found that 65 percent of smartphone users have seen a QR code before. Of that group, more than 50 percent have used/scanned a QR code. As companies continue adopting the technology into their campaigns, the number of people who will see and use QR codes is set to rise – sharply.

In case you’re still catching up, QR codes or “Quick Response” codes, work similar to a barcode that you’d find on most products. Any smartphone user who
comes across one can scan it with their phone’s camera, unlocking the data embedded within the code. The embedded information can be anything, from a message to a coupon to a link to a website. The technology first appeared in Japan; now it’s here in America, most prevalently in promotions (posters, magazines, T-shirts, etc.) for consumer goods.

However, QR codes are no longer limited to the realm of soft drinks and tennis shoes. Today, they are showing up in the world of healthcare, providing unique opportunities for companies and government organizations to interact with the public.

This past March, Medica, a health insurance provider with more than 1.6 million enrolled members, launched an advertising campaign in Minneapolis, MN, that featured QR codes displayed prominently on metro billboards, bus shelters and skyway signs.  People who snapped a picture of these QR codes using their smartphone were directed to a streamlined health insurance application, where they could get a quick price quote for a Medica health plan. This use of QR codes has allowed the healthcare provider to connect with prospective customers in a unique and meaningful way, empowering them to make faster, more informed decisions about their health.

In government, a great example of how agencies are using QR codes to share public health information can be found at The website, which is a  collaborative government effort led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), aims to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and boost testing rates across America. In promoting the site, HHS has included QR codes in a variety of promotional materials (brochures, posters, etc.), linking to HIV/AIDS information from the website. One example that stands out is HHS’ use of a QR code that takes users to the website’s interactive map of HIV/AIDS service providers nationwide. By linking to this feature via QR codes, users can locate testing centers, counselors and health centers in their neighborhood. This unique application demonstrates the potential that QR codes have to make a real impact on people’s health, by providing them with the tools to become more proactive about preventative care and treatment.

While some may argue that QR codes are a fad that will soon pass, one cannot deny the potential impact of this technology, and how it is already reshaping the interactions that people have in healthcare. Specifically, by increasing the number and quality of interactions that people have with healthcare companies and public health organizations. Where is the future heading for QR codes in healthcare? We’ll cover that topic in Part 2 of this blog series.


One Response to “Are QR Codes Part of the Social Media Mix?”

  1. JC said

    Well, as the definition of socila media (and marketing and technology) continues to evolve there seems to be a common element in social media-the abilty to “socialize/interact” with others. I would venture in saying that for now, QR codes are more in the realm of new technology vs. social media. Its similar to an app on iphone or the android; perhaps like the current music finder app or even similar to Sony’s latest SMartAR technology:


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