Are Business Cards Still Relevant in the Social Internet Age?

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Are old-school business cards obsolete?

With Facebook’s timeline service slowly sliding into place and being adopted even by those reluctant to get on board, social media has revealed its true colours. Services that were once about communication and of being a convenient storehouse for the contents of your phonebook or rollerdex now want to become a kind of interactive family photo album. You now have the ability to input every last place you’ve lived, add in significant life events and photos from your youth.

In Facebook’s best case scenario (and the best case scenario of their advertisers and shareholders too) every last piece of information about you will be available in one place. Thankfully, only the terminally inept will think that mixing this private account with their professional persona will be appropriate. But then, services like LinkedIn have, from the beginning, aimed to provide a similar ‘timeline’ – just specifically of your employment history over a comprehensive album of drunken mishaps.

Whilst people often hide away their private profiles from Google and even from non-friends on Facebook, the majority of users on LinkedIn and its competitors do as much as they can to be findable by potential employers online. As such, any prospective hire will be checked by employers – it’s sensible and routine. Businesses to Business arrangements are often subject to the same check ups, and these profile aren’t just ‘waiting around’ to be discovered either. Through twitter and through good old fashioned websites (and optimised search), both brands and individuals are entering the right people’s consciousness like never before.

But what is the place of more traditional forms of promotion in this world? If your LinkedIn profile contains more information, is more up to the minute and is regularly in contact with your clients, is it worth spending money on quality leaflet printing? Will a business card really enter your clients’ consciousness any more? Consider these points:

  • Not everyone is on LinkedIn. And yes, not everyone is still online – whilst you shouldn’t be obliged to cater for this stubborn group of luddites forever, there’s still many years of doing so ahead of you;
  • The two forms don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Providing the url to your profile (perhaps even with a call to action, such as “for more information, check out [link]”) should be a standard;
  • To go one step beyond, consider printing your card with a QR code printed on it, allowing contacts with a smartphone to scan the code and be quickly provided with your profile or a more general hub-page;
  • Just because the internet gets your into the hands of everybody, doesn’t mean that people are obliged to regard that information. In contexts where you hand business cards out, your audience is obliged via etiquette to hold onto your card;
  • Business cards allow for a repeat audience. Years later your card may turn up in someone’s drawer just as they’re looking for someone with your abilities. Nobody will look through their twitter stream for you;
  • Business cards are still a status symbol. They assure people that you are serious;
  • As people increasingly look towards online methods, merely having a business card sets you apart;
  • A well designed business card can tell someone all they need to know about you economically. Many Social media services leave little room for proving how creative you are, for instance.

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