QR codes are those funny looking blotchy boxes like the one you see to the right of this post. QR stands for Quick QR-Code GeneratorResponse.They were originally developed in Japan as an inventory control tool and they’ve been using them for around 10 years now.

The code above is for the Social Media Coaching Center. We created it for free with Kaywa’s free QR code generator. Go try it for a phone number, a web site, a text message to whoever “reads” it or even have it send them a text message!

Take a picture of it with your phone or any one of the number of QR code readers out there and you can get more information about whatever it is, leave a comment about it, shop for it online or just record it for later. Think of them as interactive bookmarks.

Cool huh?

So, why is this social. Oh so easy to answer my friends. Think about how easy it is for you read a code like this and share it with your friends. There are rumors that Facebook will add them to your Facebook page so your friends could scan your QR code and save it for future reference. Being able to easily share information within your network, share data about a particular cause, item or location? Customers scanning a product and storing them on a QR network could bring their whole network to your door.

How are QR codes being used in the real world?

Real Estate
Savvy tech real estate agents are putting a QR code on Flyers and signs. A quick scan and you’ve got all the information on the house on your phone and you can text it to anyone you want to.

Hospitality
Scan the QR tag on the front door of many popular restaurants and then text the info to your friends complete with a map on how to get there, the hours and your favorite dish. (CitySearch is doing this now in shop windows in test cities like San Francisco).

Ticketing
Movie theatres are playing with the idea of a being able to buy your tickets by scanning the QR code. No paper.

Nonprofits
Imagine being able to donate to a nonprofit anywhere, anytime. You’re at museum and there’s a QR code next to the exhibit to tell you even more about it and donate to support the museums mission.

Cities
Lost? Imagine scanning a QR code and getting a map with your current location.

Google
Google is offering QR codes for their “Favorite Places” service.

Shopping
Scan a code and get a discount and then share it with your friends. Scan a barcode on a product and see a review of the product left by another user.

Business cards
Show your inner geek with a QR code on the back of your business card with all your contact information.

Lifestream
Blogger Robert Scoble wore a t-shirt to SXSW with a QR Code that when scanned too you to his live Twitter stream of the event. You could do the same with FriendFeed, your RSS feeds for your blog or Flickr feed, anything you can link to.

OK, I’m hooked, where do I get a reader?

There are tons of ’em. Not all work the same and some are specific to a particular type of design and layout of the code themselves (not all are square, barcodes and different shapes are also QR codes)

StickyBits

I first saw these at SXSW last year and it blew me away. Imagine sticking a post-it on anything you want and then adding data to share with anyone who finds it. Scan in a barcode on a product you purchased and leave a review for the next person who buys it. Attach a photo, music or even a downloadable PDF to any barcode.

The Kaywa Reader

How could we not like somebody who is letting us make free QR codes with their web site? In multiple languages no less? Oh…Cuz there isn’t an iPhone app yet. But if you’ve got a Motorola, Nokia, Sony or several others it will work for you.

Inigma

This is one of the best readers I’ve used. It captures the picture quickly and doesn’t lock up if it can’t see the code correctly as some readers do. They also have an option to make and download your own barcodes codes.

BeeTagg

Like several others, BeeTagg has a proprietary design but it reads other tags too. It works on most smart phones including Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Palm, Windows and Symbian. You can brand the tags with a logo, though that seems to escape the point?

Quickmark

Quickmark works on practically every phone and it reads quickly, is easy to use, and has probably the best online “how-to’s”.

Caveat!

QR codes are not secure. Don’t put your secrets in a QR code (yet).

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