Business Cards 2.0 = Efficient, Cheap, Eco-friendly

I have attended two BarCamps in the last 5 months and lots of business cards were exchanged among participants. A common trend was to see some cards littered. Perhaps, the card owners shared too many and gave some out to people who didn’t really need them. Another common thing I noticed was people asking for my Twitter ID. It got me thinking, could Twitter be the new face of business contact? I doubt. Twitter doesn’t share much. I’d rather ask for a domain name instead of a Twitter ID.

I have several business cards I have collected over the years. I have never taken a second glance at many of them. Also, I have hundreds of my own cards, printed & shipped at huge expense but the contact information on them are now out-dated. All the above-stated can only bring me to one conclusion: business cards as we have always known them could soon be on their way out. The new cards will not be cards at all but would be virtual files shared via email, the web or mobiles.

  • they exist already in various forms you might have noticed: email signatures, VCF files (vCards), hCards…
  • they are easy to maintain: no re-printing orders necessary, just edit and share
  • they cost nothing to produce: so long you can type & click
  • can be shared with unlimited number of people (thou shalt not spam)
  • can be customized to carry much more information than a conventional business card: geolocation co-ordinates, photo, anniversary dates etc

I will share how to create two forms of electronic business cards. They are very simple to implement.

Mobile phones (I’m used to Nokia mobile phones only. Exact settings might vary a bit on other phones)

Creating a New Contact on a Nokia phone
Creating a New Contact on a Nokia phone

Simply create a contact as you usually would but this time, you are entering your own contact. The following labels (fields) are available on Nokia phones: Title, First Name, Middle Name, Last Name, Suffix, Nickname, Mobile, Telephone, Email, Email, Car phone, Video call, Fax, Pager, Internet phone, SIP, Company, Department, Job Title, Web address, Postal address, Birthday, Anniversary, Notes etc. You can specify which details are for home or business.

I suggest you create two of such contacts files. One for business and the other for personal contacts. That way, you should have people reach you through the most appropriate channel and while you do that, be sure to be sharing only what is absolutely necessary.

The contact details created above can be shared via multiple means. Go to Options under the contact detail and select “Send business card”. Depending on the connectivity options on your phone, you can share via text message (SMS), via multimedia (MMS), via e-mail, via bluetooth, or via good-old infrared. The receiving phone should display the contact detail in the exact format you created it. The receiver can then add your details to the phone address book and can conveniently reach you whenever necessary. Repeat the cycle when your contact details change significantly.

Computers

vCard is the most popular format. It works fine across Windows, Macs and Linux computers and several mobile phones. vCards can be opened by most Address Book software including Nokia Communication Centre, Microsoft Office Outlook, Windows Address Book etc

Creating a vCard varies across platforms and contact software. However, the same principle stated in the mobile section above applies. Matter-of-fact, what Nokia mobile phones create & share are essentially vCard files.

Simply create a Contact containing your own record and export it as a vCard or .VCF file. You can then share it via your personal website, blog, email, or Instant Messenger.

Do you have a different opinion about my suggestions above or want to share your own ideas? Leave your comments here and now.

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Oluniyi D. Ajao is an Internet Entrepreneur and Tech Enthusiast based in South Africa. Follow him on twitter @niyyie for more tech updates.

15 Comments

  1. That’s fair and should work. There is a tiny cost associated with sending sms if you meet 25 people and want keep in touch with them (but then it might work out cheaper compared to business cards). This is not an issue if you have bluebooth.

    Other ideas
    1. Old fashioned pad – just write the name of the person (+ email address) and google if you want to stay in touch
    2. Have a simple business card with your name and website (people can use the contact form on your website)

  2. In my post, I wrote: “they cost nothing to produce”. This does not include the cost of distributing. SMS & MMS would definitely incur network charges. Bluetooth is better when the recipient is within range.

    I think I have seen an implementation of your 2nd idea before. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I share some of your sentiments, but as to whether or not business cards will go extinct? I don’t think they will.

    … Another common thing I noticed was people asking for my Twitter ID

    Quite true. I must admit I’ve seen a little of that lately, but in the end it still boils down to one thing- how often and how many. In my humble opinion, legacy business cards would be around for a long, long… long while.

    We just have to find ingenious ways of phasing the two, sort of like having the best of both worlds (if you will).

    Personally, I’ve had my business cards modified, so instead of having the regular

    T – telephone
    M – mobile
    E – email
    I – website

    I have also included my blog, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. I think that it’s safer that way until the transition is finally complete.

    All in all, I think Social Networking will continue it’s surge, just as I recently wrote in my article on Social Media and it’s relevance to business, and I think this adds some extra weight to the point I was trying to make.

    Nice post! And yea, I’m loving the theme. 🙂

    • “…business cards as we have always known them could soon be on their way out” I did not state that business cards will be on their way out. Business cards despite their short-comings still have their place for now. They can boost the ego of their owners by telling the story of how rich & sophisticated the card owner is. 🙂

  4. True. You didn’t quite say so. Same difference though but I’m sure you got my point anyway? I believe legacy biz cards will be around for the next 20-30 years at least.

    As far as boosting egos is concerned, to some extent yes, but let’s not let folks begin to think along those lines. Biz cards really are an excellent tool for brand building.

    Your business card does a lot to ensure that your brand sticks and stays on people’s lips for a long while.

    Hey! I’m beginning to sound like I’m in one of my consulting sessions. Ha ha..

    More seriously though, I’ve had this business card in my wallet for almost 6 years now, simply because each time I look at it, it makes me go like woah! That’s a solid brand.

    On a slightly different note, I’d really like to know what you think about the future of Social media/networking cum business in Africa is.

  5. Another solution will be to use a mobile phone directory like iYam.mobi.

    All the methods you’ve all described above are push methods. You update your information (VCard, business card …) and ensure most people are notified (spam ?).

    With iYam.mobi, we are proposing a pull solution. Once you update your profile, anyone can get your update profile when looking for you.

  6. Hi’ David I have just read your blog on ( Business cards 2 ) Very good article as several other articles you have posted! Your suggestion for using your mobile phone is a good one. What are your feelings about using the dot.tel domain as your business card! … Is dot tell already out dated!

    • Thanks for your kind words Paul.

      My opinion about .tel is that they are feasible for big corporations who have zillions of phone numbers only. .tel doesn’t make sense for individuals and small business. By the way, you can download the contact information on any .tel page in the form of a vcard. Also, have you viewed a .tel page on a mobile web browser before? You should. It has a special format that displays efficiently on mobile phones.

  7. When will we all stop sucking at the electronic teat? Just because something’s a (vomit) “e”-fill in the blanks, it doesn’t necessarily make it “better.” I automatically think how horrific MP3s sound compared to nearly everything that came before…

    I’m in the BUSINESS of creating said garbage, being a designer, but I find it terribly amusing really… e-books! MP3s! e-greeting cards! And apparently now, e-business cards, because if it’s got an “e” at the beginning of it, it most assuredly confirms you’re an electronic hipster and NOT some pathetic oldster trying to remain current.

    “I have several business cards I have collected over the years. I have never taken a second glance at many of them.”

    And NOW, you will have several HUNDRED e-business cards that you won’t take a second glance at. In fact, I’d say that you’re even LESS likely to retain the information or contact someone who didn’t have the energy to create a physical card.

    Too much… the Emperor’s New (Electronic) Clothes… “I’m not 40+ years old and falling behind the latest e-trend! I’m HIP! I’m HIP!”

    Whew.

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