The importance of the business card in a social media age

The importance of the business card in a social media age

I keep seeing social media “gurus” claim the age of the business card has come to an end. It came to a head a few days ago when a discussion on LinkedIn developed into a list of reasons why someone handing you a business card is a clear sign they don’t “get” networking. Far better to send a connection request on social media.

Maybe I am “old fashioned”. When someone hands me a business card I don’t roll my eyes at their outdated ways. I take it (with both hands, a consequence of working with Japanese banks in my youth), read it twice, making note of the person’s name. It then stays with me until the conversation is ended.

Why do I have such an “elaborate” process for a simple piece of card?

How many times has someone introduced themselves only for you to miss their name? Usually I’ll repeat their name to make sure I have it, but there are times when it slips through the net. The business card becomes a useful reference point.

There is also a social benefit to this ritual. The card is a gesture, an invitation to connect between two human beings that have met face-to-face. Accepting it, acknowledging it and showing some respect towards that gesture starts to build a bond. Even if the card owner was casual in handing it over, the reaction to calmly accepting it is overwhelmingly positive.

Finally, the business card is convenient. Casual conversations snatched on trains or introductions at conferences focus on making the connection. A business card is taken out from a wallet and handed over in a second or two. It’s written on with a “this is how we met” or some other information requested or retained.

Is that the end of the story?

Of course not. Once you have the business card the next logical step is to follow up and make that connection on LinkedIn (if they have it) or via eMail. Making a reference to “you handed me your business card” reminds the card’s owner a physical exchange took place, which triggers memories more effectively and reestablishes a connection faster.

My standard opening to follow-up messages after receiving a business card is, “You handed me your business card while we were discussing X at Y”. The majority of the time the conversation continues by email or secure message.

The business card is not dead

In our hyperconnected, social media enabled world it is so easy to focus on the many technological ways we can connect. They have their place and they are important. However, when you meet someone for the first time, or if their circumstances have changed since you last met, don’t disregard the importance of an exchange of business cards. You’re making a physical connection and the way you respond to it can easily undermine all of your hard work.

The gesture of an exchange of cards, a handshake or even a simple smile can go far further than any connection request, like or follow.

Image courtesy of the World Economic Forum and used under a Creative Commons licence

About Ross A Hall

A business researcher and writer, I help companies find new markets, form strategies and build successful businesses.

Find out more about my work.

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