QR codes have finally found their way into the limelight. After being widely used for contact tracing, they have been adopted by many other industries, such as hospitality, marketing, and finance. As people get used to using them, we can see them playing a huge role in boosting community engagement too.
There is a strong chance that you have started seeing a lot more QR codes around the place. A QR code is a type of barcode that can be read easily by a digital device and it looks like a series of pixels in a square-shaped grid.
QR codes look simple, but they are capable of storing a lot of data. When people scan them, they’re able to access information online instantly. (Is it any surprise that QR stands for Quick Response?)
Why Have QR Codes Suddenly Become So Popular?
QR codes come from humble beginnings. They were created in 1994 to track information about products in supply chains but didn’t really take off in other use cases. It wasn’t until 2002, that the first mobile phones containing built-in QR readers were marketed in Japan making it possible for more companies to make use of QR codes.
However, they really gained prominence with the general public in 2020 as the world tried to slow the spread of coronavirus. QR codes were used widely to help trace exposure and contactless technology took off in other industries.
Restaurants started sharing interactive restaurant menus via QR codes rather than handing out physical menus, while stores started creating cashless and contactless payment options to protect their customer’s health. QR codes have gained popularity ever since and the number of scans quadrupled in 2022.
Can I Use QR Codes in Community Engagement Too?
The technology is incredibly flexible and convenient. While standard barcodes can only be read from top to bottom, QR codes can be read in two directions, top to bottom and right to left. This means they can hold more data and take people to almost any online resource when scanned.
Most smartphones and tablet devices also have QR code scanners built into the camera. While some older devices may require an app to read QR codes, these are readily available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Given that more people have ready access to devices that can read QR codes and technology is becoming more familiar, they are a highly valuable tool to start adding to your community engagement practice. In fact, over 6.6 billion people around the world now use smartphones and 75.8 million U.S. smartphone users scanned a QR code in 2021.
People are getting more comfortable using their smartphones to access information and we can adapt to that behavior to boost our community engagement rates.
Citizens only need to point their phone camera or scanner at your QR code, then the information that you want them to see will instantly be shown on their device screen.
If you’re thinking that not all of your citizens would be able to use a QR code, then keep in mind that they are just one more tool to add to your engagement mix to increase participation rates. You can also invite the public to participate in a variety of other ways to ensure that your approach to community engagement is inclusive.
In fact, The Norwood Payneham & St Peters Council recently included QR codes in its multichannel promotional efforts for a traffic study and received over 1,000 engagements from a local study area of only 5,000 residents.
How to Boost Your Community Engagement Rates with QR Codes
Integrating QR codes across all of your communications mediums is cost-effective and easy. You can simply generate QR codes online that direct people to varied sources of information, such as URLs, videos, audio files, images, and PDF documents. Then you can add the code to your promotional materials and provide a simple way for your community to access their engagement opportunities.
You might choose to direct people to an online engagement page to learn more about your initiative, or directly to an online survey, ideas wall, forum, or participatory budget to capture their feedback. You could even direct them to your social media channels or an email subscription form so that they can stay up to date on your projects.
1. Promotional Materials at in Person Events
If you are hosting a launch event or a community feedback session, then it’s a great idea to have printed promotional material with QR Codes present. Citizens can then scan the QR code and share their opinions, feelings, and ideas in real-time. Make sure you provide iPads for anyone without a mobile device so that everyone has an opportunity to engage with you online.
2. Street Signage
Placing QR codes on billboards and posters within your community ensures that everyone who lives, works, and travels through the local area has an opportunity to participate. Placing QR codes in community centres or in context on your development site is also a great way to spread the word.
3. Letterbox Drops
If you need to target local residents, then letterbox drops are a great way to make sure that you reach everyone. You can write an insightful and compelling message in your letter or flyer, then add a QR code to make it easy for residents to share their feedback online straight away. If you can create the path of least resistance, you’re more likely to get more responses.
How to Generate a QR Code for Community Engagement
If you want to send more visitors to your online community engagement projects easily, then you can use Social Pinpoint’s QR code generator which is built into its online survey, forum, and participatory budgeting tools. If you want to take your citizens to other resources, there are also many other QR code generators available online that you can use, we also like using QR Code Generator, especially for its ability to have dynamic codes you can update.
QR codes are a simple and cost-effective way to connect your online and offline community engagement activities, and give citizens more choice over how they participate.