Small Business Expert
Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.
The use of Quick Response Codes (QR Codes) continues to increase, as free apps are making it easier than ever for folks to focus on these images and see where it will take them. Last year, more than 14 million users scanned a QR code, and that number continues to rise. And interestingly enough, according to comScore, more than a quarter of folks actually scan QR codes directly from web pages. What can a small business owner or marketing professional do to make sure their efforts get noticed? Here are a few tips on how to use QR codes to market your business and engage customers.
Discounts: Companies are finding that consumers want deals, so link your code to a coupon or other incentive to reward customers for checking it out. Don’t be afraid to tie it to something like a short promotional video, at the end of which is the deal. As long as consumers get something out of it, they don’t mind a small investment of time and effort to get it.
Social Networks: It’s a no-brainer to take folks to a landing page where then quickly or easily like or follow you your brand page, but set clear expectations as to what that entails. And again, consider offering special benefits via your social media presence for those that do take the time to follow.
Tinker With The Design: Work with your art department to see if you can place images or words within the center of the QR code to help folks know what it is they’re scanning, and also to catch their attention. Get creative to encourage action.
Be Specific: When you use a QR code, make it really clear what the customer call-to-action is. If you want them to watch a video or consider a specific product, take them to a page that makes that really easy. Don’t just do a generic code that goes to your business’ home page. No one is that interested in showing up and not knowing what to do.
Use Them For Networking: Encourage an extra bit of activity for those you meet while networking by including a QR code on your business card. Or if you’re going to a trade show or another place where you’ll be meeting lots of folks, put one on your laptop bag and encourage others to scan it. It can go to a specific company page or some other link that’s personalized for you, like your LinkedIn profile. It can help make a great and lasting impression on any that scan it.
Gamification: Consider peppering codes throughout your store, website or different ad campaigns, and reward users who are able to find them all. By making QR codes a part of a larger campaign, you prolong user engagement, and hopefully provide positive associations for your brand.
Get Creative: Consider having t-shirts or even bumper stickers made with QR codes, and include cryptic clues as to their destination. The content on the other end is just as important as you’d hate to pique customer interest only to disappoint them with the destination.
Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.
In a quest to become the main destination for kids online, companies large and small create MMOs and virtual online worlds for kids. These are designed to be place where kids can play games while connecting with their friends, all while staying on one site or location for an extended period of time. Sounds a bit like social networks, no? In essence that’s what they are, just with more emphasis on graphics.
According to research firm KZero, there were nearly 1.2 billion registered users across all virtual worlds in 2011, the largest of which is kids age 10-15.
Most of these virtual worlds are free to access, just like the rest of the Internet. Getting there is as simple as typing the correct address in your web browser, and all of a sudden you’re transported to a medieval land, outer space, or even an island inspired by a fast food restaurant. Many virtual worlds aimed at older kids require a download to play, and run more like a traditional video game, but are still free to play, at least at first.
But as you and your kids will soon discover, not everything in these worlds is free.
What’s proven successful for most online worlds is to provide a “freemium” or free-to-play model. Anyone can access these games free of charge, but in order to access more areas, items and fun stuff within the virtual world, kids need to pay a monthly or even yearly subscription fee.
Major brands spend lots of money and resources to attract players to their own virtual worlds, because it provides a way for them to market themselves and expose their brand to youngsters, all while staying compliant with laws about privacy and collecting information.
Companies and major brands such as McDonald’s, Disney and General Mills provide a place online for kids to spend time, although a few have recently come under fire for their use of a “refer-a-friend” feature which many advocacy groups complained to the FTC was in violation of COPPA laws.
Many of these virtual worlds are aimed at tweens and teens. Games like Wizard 101, FreeRealms, Minecraft and Lord of the Rings Online all strive to be a place where older elementary-aged kids spend their time online, as well as their money.
Other virtual worlds are aimed squarely at younger Internet users. Club Penguin, Animal Jam, Jump Start, Starfall and even Build-A-Bear Workshop are all examples of persistent online destinations created to attract young kids, and many tout their educational benefits.
And there are others that fill in the area between the two. Little Space Heroes, Cartooon Universe, Fantage, Fusion Fall and Moshi Monsters blend elements of traditional video games with the easy access of browser based online games.
There are even virtual worlds for families, like Ohanarama, which allow for family and friends scattered around the globe to connect and play games with each other asynchronously.
The concept of online virtual worlds makes a lot of sense from the perspective of developers, and the proposition can be appealing for parents. Instead of setting kids free in the seemingly wild, wild, west of the Internet, virtual worlds allow kids to spend large chunks of time in one safe environment, where they can find games, activities and chances to interact with others. And that piece of mind is even worth a few bucks a month for some parents.
There are a number of reasons why kids love spending time in these worlds, from feeling like they’re having their own space to being able to interact with friends in a new environment. And here’s where we start to get to some of the potential danger areas.
One of the key features of these virtual worlds is that they allow some sort of contact with others, even if it’s just by comparing scores. But most virtual worlds do include the option for chat with others, and it’s here that the proposition of virtual worlds can start to get dicey for many. While many include some form of moderated or restricted chat, nearly all provide some way to access (with parental permission) chatting with strangers.
We’ll take a closer look at how these virtual worlds manage these types of safety issues, as well as look at some of the other dangers and concerns of virtual networks, in the next part of our series.
Technology is sometimes blamed for the perceived degradation of youth. Doubtlessly you’ve heard at least one person complain about how “kids today” can move their thumbs like wildfire to send texts, but can’t read or write an essay that contains anything resembling proper sentence structure. While illiteracy is a problem that should be taken very seriously, tech is not immediately to blame for the issue. In fact, there are several ways in which technology is improving education.
Interestingly, the positive link between learning and technology goes way beyond replacing textbooks from the Cold War with tablets that contain up-to-the-minute information. Thanks to modern apps and programs, kids can assist in educating their peers, and even video games can get them moving around the gym. Here are five ways the best technology tools and gadgets are making education better.
“Lesson unbundling” – “Just like iTunes unbundled songs so you don’t have to buy a whole album just to get to that one great song, technology allows us to unbundle lessons from giant textbooks,” says Amy Murin of the Keeping Pace With K-12 Online Learning Blog. Lesson unbundling, according to Murin, allows teachers to form “lesson playlists” that are customized to each child’s learning needs. If a student needs to spend more time in yesterday’s lesson, for instance, he or she can hang back a little and take time to absorb it instead of being shackled to the textbook and forced to move ahead with the rest of the class.
Social networking connects students – Facebook and Twitter are good ways for kids to get in touch with each other and talk about homework and assignments. Needless to say, parents should keep a keen eye on their child’s social media habits to make sure these conversations are being conducted safely (and don’t veer off topic!). Blogging is also a great way to help kids practice and publish their writing, online galleries let young artists get helpful criticism on their work, and building a website might wake up the talents of a future coder.
Students can take an active role in teaching by editing sources like Wikipedia – Wikipedia, the world’s first open-source encyclopedia, is a storehouse of knowledge that anyone can edit. Not only can kids acquire information from Wikipedia, but they can also add their own facts and figures. Moreover, learning how to properly research via Wikipedia (and properly edit it) are lesson plans all on their own. For better or worse, there’s no avoiding the fact that school kids gravitate towards Wikipedia to get their information, so it’s extremely important that they learn how to use it responsibly.
Students can literally look up the answer to any question in seconds – Wikipedia isn’t the only source of information out there on the Internet, though. National Geographic’s website tells kids what they need to know about the world and its cultures. Animal Planet is brimming with information about insects and animals (including humans and our weird ways!). And if a child has a question about space, NASA has the answer. Old childhood favorites like, “Why is the sky blue?” can receive a well-researched, well-sourced answer in the blink of an eye.
Dance Dance Revolution is making physical education more fun – Video games are an important part of technological advancement, and they’re more than just pastimes. In 2007, schools began using the dancing/fitness game Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) to get kids to move around. Kids enjoy games in general, and moving along to DDR’s energetic graphics and music is typically more popular than getting whacked with dodgeballs for an hour.
For more information on how tech benefits education, read:
Benefits of Media for Children and Teens at RaisingChildren
Benefits of Online Social Networking at ParentFurther
Can Video Games Make Kids Smarter? at Education.com