Electronic Alternatives to Business Cards


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Guest post by Lief Larson

This morning I was asked to write a rebuttal to Randall Ryder’s article about no suitable electronic replacement for the printed business card. To the surprise of some (and I suppose the delight of those in Randall’s corner) I concur with his assessment. The printed business card has no electronic equivalent.

Up through 2006, the nearest electronic alternative to the printed business card was the .vcf data format, the hCard microformat, or mobile formats such as Palm’s Contacts v1.2. These electronic formats were nothing more than vector contact data repositories. They conveyed neither personality nor aesthetics in the way the print business card did.

In 2007 the team I was working on developed the world’s first dynamic and portable electronic business card. You can see this technology alive and well at BusinessCard2. In fact, it’s used by many, many lawyers around the country. So, based on my vested interest in an electronic business card, most would expect me to wish for the end of the printed business card (or at least see it suffer like other print medium such as newspapers and magazines). But quite the opposite is true. I love printed business cards.

But this isn’t a fair fight. The printed business card has a history going back more than 250 years. It has an adoption rate higher than any electronic equivalent. It is most often presented with pomp and circumstance. The tangibility of the printed business card goes far beyond the bits and bytes of digital.

Again, I love printed business cards. So much so that last year I attempted the World Record for the Largest Business Card.

So now that we know I’m a fan of printed business cards, lets get down to the brass tacks. As Randall Ryder said, there isn’t an electronic substitute. Nevertheless, there are electronic alternatives. I’m not going to write about all of them here, because other people have done a much better job than I of compiling an inventory of these solutions.

We have been working longer than anyone to build a format for a portable, interactive business card for the internet. I would be grateful if you’d join us by creating your own BusinessCard2, which I believe you’ll find is additive (not cannibalistic) to your printed business card.

Business Card #1 will always be the business card you carry around in your pocket every day. BusinessCard2 is simply the digital extension of that same spirit.

Lief Larson is the co-founder of BusinessCard2.com, the world’s largest network of web-enabled business cards.


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  • Trees

    Though many/most of us carry some variant of a smart phone the vast majority of the time, it is decidedly NOT a perfect device. Wishing or deeming it so does not make so either. Yes most if not all of our contact information becomes part of our electronic daily life but it usually does so because of our choice.

    Beside being an artistic or creative representation of an individual or institution, it utilizes more than just one of our 5 senses. It can also involve our sense of touch and yes, smell. Research has shown over and over that most people learn better when more of our senses are utilized. Additionally, there is the aspect of passivity – at a meeting, I can leave a few business cards on the table. This leaves the recipient the ability to accept or reject my contact information.

    Additionally, many people have a rather strong “emotional” attachment to their mobile devices. I know people who might not feel comfortable with strangers wanting to “beam” them contact info. It’s like that person from long, long ago who wants to “friend” me on Facebook – except their standing 24 inches from my face. Uh, no thanks.

    A physical business card lets me choose when and IF I want to accept their contact without any pressure.

  • Good points.

    I think that’s one of the greatest challenges we’re presented with today: transparency. Are you willing to give up your professional/commercial data and make it widely accessible if it means greater commercial opportunity for you?

  • What are your thoughts on using a .TEL domain name as a business card?

  • I didn’t know there was such a thing.