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Are business cards still relevant?

With social media keeping you in contact, we re-examine the role of the business card.

It used to be that business cards were passed around like candy. But with digital transformation firmly in place across society, are business cards dead?

Not yet. According to an online survey of 806 small business owners (SBOs) conducted in December 2017:

  • Just over half (55 per cent) use business cards “all the time”
  • 22 per cent sometimes use them “depend(ing) on the circumstances”
  • 23 per cent never use them

Breaking down why the latter 23 per cent never use business cards:

  • 12 per cent say they use social media instead
  • 11 per cent say “no one asks for” business cards anymore

It’s clear there is still a place for the traditional business card, but many people are turning to social media and other digital channels as their preferred way to make professional contacts.

Networking goes digital

The undisputed king of the social media networking realm is LinkedIn, which grew its user base from half a million in 2004 to half a billion in 2017. (That means approximately one in every 14 people on this planet uses LinkedIn.) It’s easy to figure out why people are increasingly forging career connections through sites like LinkedIn rather than business cards.

For starters, you can only fit so much stuff on a paper card: name, title, contact info, website address and maybe a photo. You can say so much more about yourself on LinkedIn: education, skills, work experience, professional contacts, endorsements, not to mention links to blogs, articles, videos, academic papers or other content you’ve created or contributed to.

Unlike business cards, social media sites are searchable online. Although you have to physically give someone your business card, anyone in the world can find your social media profile(s) with a quick Internet search. In fact, even if you’ve never made contact with a particular company or executive, they may discover you serendipitously if your skills match the experience they’ve plugged into an online search engine.

Other tech tools

Social media sites aren’t the only digital networking tools replacing business cards. Below are some other paperless options for making professional contacts.

Virtual business cards: Mobile apps like SnapDat allow you to create your own digital ‘vcard’ and share it right from your smartphone via email or the app itself. Haystack vcards are shareable on email, SMS, WhatsApp, Trello and Slack, plus the app tracks analytics like recipient views and shares.

Smart badges: The Proxfinity badge saves time (and awkwardness) by only fostering likeminded contacts. Before a conference or other event, you fill out a questionnaire about your interests. When a guest with similar interests comes within a few feet of you at the event, both of your badges light up and display each other’s initials so you can easily connect. No need to swap paper or digital cards, since the Proxfinity badge tracks contact info for each person you interact with.

LinkedIn QR app: Okay, so we’ve already landed back at social media again. In June 2018, LinkedIn added a new feature to its mobile app. To add each other as new connections, users open the LinkedIn app on their phones, then scan the QR code in the top corner of each other’s LinkedIn profile. A particularly useful feature at events, rather than trading business cards and going online to connect later, the whole LinkedIn connection is completed in a few seconds.

For diehard card fans

Yet, some people will never give up their paper business cards. Thanks to DIY websites like Moo and Zazzie, it’s easier, quicker and cheaper than ever for diehard card fans to design their own and have them shipped right to their doorstep.

Besides, think of all the cool things you can do with business cards. You can have them made out of materials that really stand out, like metal or wood. You can add augmented reality images or playable video files to them. If there’s a super slow day at your office, you could play the ultimate prank by plastering your coworker’s cubicle with over 5,000 business cards.


Up Next: The art of transforming a digital marketing negative into a positive.

Christine Wong

Christine Wong is a journalist based in Toronto who has covered a wide range of startups and technology issues. A former staff writer with, she has also worked as a reporter for the Canadian Economic Press and in broadcast roles at SliceTV and the CBC.

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