When Big Media Aren’t the Biggest

Recently, my local newspaper reported breathlessly on the development of a ‘local’ social network by a local web designer. The concept is that businesses will place QR codes on their marketing paraphernalia or in their stores and visitors would scan the codes to join that business in the network. It is an interesting idea, and I try to be supportive of anything that assists local business, but I’m rather sceptical about it.

We live in a unipolar world, and the superpower is Facebook. It has the user base to make it worth investing in for almost any business. That includes, of course, local business. With Facebook Places, Deals and Ads local business can optimise their presence to target and engage local users. Deals is not fully rolled-out in Australia yet, but it is getting there.

Local consumers won’t think to go looking on a standalone network for specials or exclusives, so why would business put themselves there? This point goes for Foursquare too. If you are targeting a geographically defined market, then Foursquare is still highly relevant because its Specials feature is more well-developed and deployed than Facebook’s.

This seems to be the key feature of the tool:

Mr Simpson said the potential would be that someone could walk past a cafe, see a code in the window, scan it with their phone and find they just received a voucher for a half price cup of coffee.

Google Places/Maps and Google Plus give local businesses visibility on the only search engine worth mentioning while Twitter too has solid local search ability. I can’t see the point in developing yet another tool for people to try to understand and use when all of these networks provide better existing functionality.

The developer seems to think Facebook only allows shallow engagement:

On Facebook you can have 12,000 friends, but you don’t really have 12,000 friends

This is a clever straw-man argument. It takes a statement that may or may not be true and uses that to confuse the matter. We aren’t talking about people becoming fans of Facebook pages with this tool. Instead, we’re trying to encourage customers through the door. The best way to do that is to consistently put your brand in front of them and build a positive image. Then, when they do walk past, they’ll also walk in rather than scanning the window to see what freebies they can get. If they the get a freebie by checking in, the bonus for the business is free advertising to the existing customer’s extended networks.

The use of QR codes to direct users to the appropriate website is neither new, nor innovative. Nonetheless, it demonstrates the potential of such tools for local businesses.

I wish the developer well in his efforts to give local businesses effective tools to connect with customers, but I cannot see any value in this particular approach, except for the value to his own company.

Nonetheless, I signed up just to see where it goes, and I encourage you to sign up also, if you’re interested. The website is www.qribit.com.

Developer Tony Simpson demonstrates his new tool

Developer Tony Simpson demonstrates his new tool (image by Southern Highland News)