Business Card Etiquette, Part 2: Virtual Cards

Smartphones and QR-code readers enable users to instantly exchange contact info. Photo credit: scrs.co

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about creating business cards that stand out from the crowd. But perhaps best way to do that is by having no card at all; an article in last week’s Sunday Styles section of The New York Times discussed the pitfalls of traditional business cards. The piece quoted Gina Trapani, founder of Lifehacker, as saying business cards are close to extinct among the tech-savvy. “I see people exchange Twitter handles, I see people scan each other’s badges,” she told the Times. “But I definitely don’t see people handing out cards anymore.”

So, want to save a tree and go virtual? Use one of these three websites to get started.

1. Hashable.com >> This social networking app allows users to “check in” with people to track meetings and calls; exchange business cards by typing in a person’s email address or Twitter handle; and make easy intros by using the hashtag #intro. Other features include sharing digital calendars, scanning in QR codes, and exchanging contacts by holding phones together (think osmosis).
Make it real: Hashable, Inc. is located at 6th Avenue and 36th Street in NYC. The website encourages users to “stop by and #sayhi” if they’re in the neighborhood.
Follow them: @hashable



2. Cardcloud.com >> Use this app from any phone with Internet connection to share business info with other Cardcloud users (or send via email to non-users). Add notes to a card to spur your memory, or tags to index a person and rate their importance. The “cloud” backs up each card, and integrates smoothly with Twitter and Facebook.
Make it real: Not sure where you met someone? Cardcloud stores and displays the geolocation of where you exchanged a business card.
Follow them: @getcardcloud

This About.me profile boasts just two sentences: one about a background in design, the other about an addiction to beet chips.

3. About.me >> Build a personal profile page that points users to your content from around the web, much like a central hub to build your online identity. Your personal splash page is heavy on visuals: limit your bio to a few sentences summarizing your current projects. Icons link to your content on various platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, WordPress, Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube, Formspring, and Instagram. To name a few.
Make it real: Sign up and get a free pack of About.me business cards. (Seems a bit ironic, no?)
Follow them: @aboutdotme

LAUNCHING SOON: Look out for Vizualize.me, which promises to “visualize your resume in one click.” Free premium accounts for the first 10,000 sign ups.

Voila! Goodbye, Rolodex. No more stacks of cards overflowing from your desk drawers, no more rushing to make reprints. However, in the same Times article, Trapani countered that “you’re real and you have a real job if you have a business card.” Do you think tactile cards still have a certain status attached?

Check out other tips & advice from No Joe Schmo, such as ways to maximize your resume and questions to ask at the end of interviews.

5 Ways to Make Your Business Card Stand Out

Photo credit: themarketingguy.wordpress.com

A few years ago, I began collecting business cards everywhere I went — restaurants, boutiques, hair salons, coffee shops — and stored them in a 3×5 index card file. Today, I dumped them all out to take an inventory. Of the 132 cards in my box, I was most attracted to about 10 of them. I noticed a few commonalities among these 10 cards, and each trait can be translated into a tip to make yours just as noticeable.

1. Include a visual element. Choose a concept that connects to what you do. An image can help jog someone’s memory of who you are, and will reinforce your brand if used on your website and resume, too. Images should use color and take up at least one-fourth of the total surface area.

2. Utilize both sides of the card. Many of the most attractive cards in my box used one side for name and visual element, and the other side for contact information. On some, one side was a solid color, and the opposite side was a white background with that same color for text.

Photo credit: evancarmichael.com

3. Show, don’t tell. Add a creative twist that suggests your passion or field of expertise. For example, the “Google Me” business card to the right implies an interest in programming and technology.

4. Try non-traditional color schemes. Most of the cards in my box had a white background, so the light-text-on-darker-background cards really stood out. Also try going vertical with your layout.

5. Don’t include extraneous information. Pick and choose from these basics: name, email address, phone number, Twitter handle, LinkedIn URL, and personal website/blog address.

Want to really push the envelope? The following suggestions will definitely set you apart from the crowd, but make sure your alterations have purpose and adhere to your product or brand.

Play with shape. Some cards in my box were squares, circles, and ovals.




Add bite marks or holes.

Photo credit: allgraphicdesign.com






Non-cards. Several businesses have online catalogs for personalized chocolate cards. Other materials I’ve seen include leather and dog tags.

Photo credit: reencoded.com

Remember to keep a few business cards with you at all times – not just during networking events. You never know when you’ll meet someone at a bar or on a train ride!

What do you think is the most important element on business cards? What does yours look like?