I often include a section in my nonprofit technology trainings about "up and coming" technology trends for nonprofits and one year ago, both of these tools were included, but about 6 months ago I stopped including them. From what I've been reading, I think nonprofits don't need to put effort into these tools anymore.
QR Codes, those little boxes that look vaguely like barcodes have been appearing on everything from restaurant menus to bus stop ads and even on Mercedes cars. As I mentioned to a colleague last year, in my experience, if a technology is too difficult for your grandmother to understand, it is not something that is going to catch on with a wide audience. So far the data I see has supported this.
QR codes have seen very low levels of uptake from consumers (estimates range from 3 – 12% of folks having used a qr code once, repeat numbers are even lower). As this article from Invoke describes, the issues are that they create a barrier instead of a simplified user experience and the effort outweighs the benefits. Personally, I deleted the QR code scanner from my smartphone months ago and have not missed it once. If you followed the link to the story about QR codes in Mercedes cars above, you saw they reported that even that application would be obsolete in a few years.
Recently this image on the right went around on Facebook, which sums up my feelings.
I used to be a regular Foursquare user, checking into places via my smartphone, earning badges and seeing where other folks in my network had been. Ever since Facebook added their own check-in feature, however, I have not used Foursquare. Even when I did, I struggled to see much widespread application for nonprofits. It made some sense for nonprofits with a physical location, like a museum or store, but beyond that it was just another channel to maintain added to the many other communication channels nonprofits are tasked with maintaining today.
A Business Insider article from January reports on PrivCo saying Foursqaure will fail buy the end of 2013.
Where to Focus
So while I don’t have anything against Foursquare or QR codes, as I see their usage flat or declining I strongly urge nonprofits to put their limited resources into tools and technologies that are proven to have an impact and staying power. Most nonprofits would do better putting resources into improving their content, website and email communications along with select social media channels. Thinking about your nonprofit's strategy for mobile devices is a much more solid investment for those interested in the leading edge.