In the short span of a few years, much of what we have always known to be in paper format is being replaced with digital versions. Both in and out of the workplace, from magazines and newspapers to resumes and cover letters, print versions of many forms of reading material likely will be impossible to find in a few more years.
Will business cards take the same turn toward digital, or will they remain as the standard 2 by 3.5 inch paper card we carry with us to conferences, meetings and networking events? We’re unable to say for sure, but below are a few suggestions to help you make the most of some current digital options. At this point, the choice is still yours whether to stay traditional or turn digital – and to reflect on the value of the classic paper business card.
Simply put, your email signature is the best way to leave your coordinates with a business contact, near or far. Most of us send dozens of emails per day, and so your email signature must be clear, comprehensive and accord with your company brand guidelines.
First, does your signature look as aesthetically sharp as a traditional business card would? Ensure that the font and sizing is consistent throughout the signature (and with your company’s standard font, if there is one), with appropriate lines of emphasis bolded. Consider including a graphic logo from your company, but be wary of including too many: this could result in your emails being redirected into the recipient’s spam folder.
Equally as important, the information in your signature must be as comprehensive as a business card: assume this information is going to be saved right in the recipient’s contact directory. Even a reply signature, which is usually shortened, should include at least your title and phone number for quick reference. In your full signature, include links to your LinkedIn profile, as well as your or your company’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
Professional Networking Profiles
Though professional social media sites such as LinkedIn or Spoke have many functionalities, including a profile that can be as detailed as a resume, the opportunity to display your recommendations, or a forum to connect with other professionals – the top profile box works remarkably like a business card.
Take LinkedIn as an example. Next to your profile picture, your headline clearly displays your current title, with minimal yet noticeable nod to your previous employment and education. A small card drops down to reveal the contact information of your choosing, which could include your email address, phone number, website, and Twitter account. Your profile picture and title will appear in the “connections” section for your contacts – accounting for Rolodex-style scrolling capabilities for you and your contacts.
Business Card Mobile Apps
Instead of exchanging information by simply handing out a card, increasingly we are seeing digital cards on mobile phones – exchanged by scanning BlackBerry barcodes or emailing a vCard from an app directly to a connection’s email or contact list.
Many mobile apps allow you to upload your company business card to the app or create your own using the app’s templates. In addition, you can build and organize a database of your connections’ digital cards. The CamCard app reader for BlackBerry or Windows Phone and Business Cards for BlackBerry 10 are just two examples of a growing marketplace of digital business cards and databases.
These formats certainly make sharing information quick, easy and, when designed carefully, as aesthetically crisp as any business card. Yet what is lost when we throw away our paper cards and turn to the cloud to make connections? To exchange something tangible like a card becomes an experience, from holding the card and noticing the weight of the paper or the quality of the design. Additionally, taking an actual card provokes the recipient to stop and look at the card, rather than a passive intake of a digital contact card.
All of these actions can make the connection more memorable – one of the core reasons for exchanging cards, besides the practical purpose of sharing contact information. Will the digital exchange hold the same value? What do you think? Add your opinion in the comments below