Editor’s Note: The following article on QR codes was written by Jeff Loper of Campgrounds Connect. Loper is a marketing professional with more than 14 years of experience creating campaigns for some of the biggest entertainment brands in the world. In 2010 he voluntarily stepped away from the corporate world to refocus his efforts around his passions, of which camping and the outdoors are a part. Read more about this service at www.campgroundsconnect.com.

Jeff Loper

Some of you may be looking at the picture above and be thinking, “Jeff, you crazy cracker! What kind of crazy piece of art is that” Then, others of you may know exactly what they are. If you do know what they are…awesome! If you don’t know what they are and how they are used, then this post is for you.

The above two images are different examples of QR codes. When they are scanned by a QR code reader they will take you directly to CampgroundsConnect.com. Really, if you have a QR code scanner on your smartphone or tablet computer, you can scan one of the images above and it will take you directly to this website. QR codes can be a great asset to campground marketing, but first, in this post, we are going to tell you what they are, how you can scan them, and how you can create them.

What are QR codes?

QR codes are similar to barcodes. The big difference is in how much data they can hold. With the mass consumption of smartphones in the past few years, QR cods have burst onto the scene as a great marketing tool for connecting mobile users to digital content, such as your campground website, an online promotion you may be running, nearby attractions, and much more. Not only that, but they can be used to launch email and send text messages, among other things.

How do you scan QR codes?

There are multiple QR code scanners available today within the iPhone App Store and Android Marketplace. Just do a search and multiple apps will show up. My personal favorites are Bakado, RedLaser, and Microsoft Tag. Not only do they scan QR codes, but they scan barcodes. Using the camera on your smartphone, you simply hover over the QR code and the application will automatically direct you to the information stored in that QR code. Quick tip: I also find these scanners incredibly useful when comparison shopping. For example, when scanning a barcode I can instantly be told the item details as well as where I can get it for the cheapest price. Amazon also has a scanner built into their mobile app. When shopping at a retail store I often scan items to see if they are cheaper on Amazon.

How do you create QR codes?

First of all, creating QR codes is 100 percent free. You can easily do it yourself and you should never pay to have them created. Most of them simply require you to type in the URL or website address that you want to direct people to. Some of the QR code creators have other settings allowing for more customization. Some examples of QR code creators include:

Microsoft Tag: The above two QR codes were created using Microsoft Tag. Their system walks you through the steps and makes it a little more cumbersome than it needs to be, but their QR codes include several options for customization. You will also need to create an account before creating your QR code, but no big deal.

Kerem Erkan: Really easy to use QR code creator. Simply past your website into the required field and you’re done. There are also some customizations you can select if you want.

Goo.gl: Goo.gl is Googles URL shortener. Again, just paste in your website address. Your shortened URL will pop up below. Click on “details” and you will see your QR code in the upper right. Click on your QR code and it will open in a separate window so you can save it to your computer. The great thing about using Goo.gl to create your QR codes is that it tracks the number of interactions with it.

Bit.ly: Another URL shortener is Bit.ly. Paste in your URL there and your shortened URL will appear. Next to it you will see the number of clicks this URL has generated. If you’re creating a shortened URL of your web address for the first time, it may say “0 clicks.” Regardless, click on this number of clicks and a stats page will open up providing information about that shortened URL. At the top of the stats section you will see a small, blue QR code mini image/icon. Click on that and a separate window will open containing your QR code so you can save it to your computer. Like Goo.gl, Bit.ly also tracks the activity surrounding your QR code.

There you have it. An introduction to QR codes. Now, how can a campground use them? Be thinking about that. In the next post we’ll discuss seven ways in which you can use them in your campground marketing.

Technologies like QR codes are going to be increasingly necessary as the mobile landscape continues to grow and overtake the desktop/laptop computer environment. Need help creating a QR code strategy for your campground, Campgrounds Connect can help.