Andreas Weigend, social/mobile technology expert and friend of Zazzle, recently created an interesting experiment with the Social Data Lab and a class at Stanford University on geolocation and social media. Even though it’s summer, check out his guest blog about how his students used Zazzle shirts creatively for this project!
The Social Data Revolution: Engineering Virality
In a class on Social Data, Stanford students learned the value of geolocation, particularly its role in visualizing trends and identifying patterns. Each student was given a unique QR code linked to a justnear.me website that he or she designed to promote a personal cause. The students were then asked to spread their campaign by any means necessary to get the greatest number of QR scans and “check-ins” across a diverse range of geolocations.
Zazzle Shirts as a Launch Pad
In addition to typical marketing campaigns such as posting flyers and social networking, the students also decided to take a more creative approach. They used Zazzle, an online platform for creating custom products, to design “Social Data Revolution” t-shirts. Each student’s t-shirt had the same design, but displayed their own unique QR bar code on the front and back. Armed with their Zazzle t-shirts, the students took to the streets and spread their campaigns through what turned out to be one of the most powerful marketing techniques available — natural human curiosity. All around the Stanford campus and throughout Palo Alto, students could be found donning their black SDR shirts, inevitably followed by a trail of curious onlookers wondering what these shirts meant.
Once each student received their shirt, it was up to them to design an incentive system to promote usage and engagement with the code. An offline incentive and viral campaign was the goal for the original hook; the second part of the assignment involved creating an engaging site that would promote online virality. In this two-part system the students examined the best structures to translate offline incentive systems into online participation.
For the first part of the assignment, students took a wide range of approaches. Some guerrilla tactics were utilized such as posting images of the code around campus with various strategies of engagement. Some students promoted a philanthropic cause (Charity Water) or the latest startup craze (Venmo mobile banking). Others offered food in exchange for scans (a free sandwich for one measly QR scan ain’t bad!) Still others left ambiguous puzzles or questions designed to intrigue the viewers into scanning. Flyers with QR codes were found all over campus in the engineering buildings, design school, law school, near ATMs and drinking fountains, in restaurants and cafes, posted in libraries and media rooms… bottom line is flyers were placed anywhere and everywhere that participants thought they might be able to draw an active audience.
Online strategies were even more creative with one student cashing in on his Facebook birthday wishes by replying to every individual post with a request for a QR scan. Another participant tugged on her friends’ heartstrings by sending out pictures of her newborn baby… with a QR code attached of course. More lighthearted approaches involved the promise of funny YouTube videos and a campaign devised to feed off the Stanford – Berkeley rivalry.
While designing the original incentive, students were asked to examine the limitations of their strategies and the implications in a geotagging context. For example, if the codes were posted around campus or promoted solely through Zazzle t-shirts, then that student would likely only get codes close to the Stanford area. If the code was blasted on Facebook, however, there might be a greater chance of getting scans from around the world. Another barrier the students faced is that not everyone recognizes QR codes or has an app downloaded to scan the code and check-in.
The unique QR code for each student was linked to a new application, www.justnear.me, developed by Rio Akasaka. The application lets you track the locations where individual scans are made. The check-in platform requests Facebook data to verify unique users when gleaning data. All the scans can then be inputted into a Google map and visualized geographically.
On each QR landing page, users can leave messages, creating a space for discourse on the specific sites.
Once the users reached the landing page, students were encouraged to develop engaging online material that promoted virality. For one student this meant making a donation to one of four charities, chosen based on user votes. This created an incentive for users to check-in, post a comment and send the link on to their own social networks. Another philanthropic approach was to volunteer one additional hour of community service for every ten scans. A startup company promised a $1 credit to your account for every additional friend you brought to their site. Other sites led the users to games or funny videos so there would be intrinsic motivation to share. Prizes were given to students with original content, dynamic user engagement, and high visitor count.
From grand scheme projects to small-scale needs, QR codes combined with Zazzle’s ability to put a unique design on almost anything, promises a universe of possibilities!