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The Evolution of Business Networking: Farewell to the Traditional Business Card

Business Man handing over business card concept.

Last week, I went to an informal business networking get-together. As we sat down, one of the attendees encouraged us to put some of our business cards on the table.

Now, I’ve just ordered 2, 000 of the suckers, so I had no problem with this suggestion; however, it did feel a little odd. I haven’t done too much in-person networking since the pandemic, and it’s been quite a while since I was asked for one.

A couple of the other business owners at the get-together said that they don’t even use paper business cards anymore. They said, if they connect with someone in person, they just follow each other on LinkedIn or another social platform.

Does this mean that the paper business card is now obsolete?

In the ever-evolving landscape of business and networking, this relic of the past has been slowly fading into oblivion. For decades, these small pieces of cardstock were the quintessential tools for professionals to exchange contact information, making them a symbol of business etiquette and networking prowess. However, in 2023, the traditional business card is facing obsolescence, replaced by technological tools that offer efficiency, versatility, and environmental friendliness.

For centuries, the exchange of visiting cards served as a customary practice to make introductions and leave a lasting impression. In the 19th Century, these cards evolved into the modern business card, carrying essential contact information and serving as a tangible representation of one's professional identity. The business card became a powerful tool for networking and establishing connections.

However, in the past two decades, the business landscape has undergone a digital transformation that has rendered the paper business card increasingly redundant. Several factors have contributed to its decline:

  • Environmental concerns: As sustainability and eco-friendliness have gained prominence, the production and disposal of paper business cards have come under scrutiny. The carbon footprint associated with manufacturing and distributing paper cards has led many professionals to seek more environmentally conscious alternatives.

  • Inefficiency: In a fast-paced world where time is of the essence, manually entering contact information from a paper card into digital devices is an unnecessary and time-consuming step. This process can lead to errors and inefficiencies, further diminishing the appeal of paper cards.

  • Technological advancements: The advent of smartphones and various digital tools has provided a plethora of alternative methods for exchanging contact information. With just a few taps, individuals can easily share their contact details, making paper cards seem archaic in comparison.

  • Limited information: Paper business cards can only hold a limited amount of information. In contrast, digital alternatives can provide a comprehensive overview of one's professional background, including links to social media profiles, portfolios, and more.

  • Loss and forgetfulness: Paper business cards often end up lost or forgotten in the clutter of wallets or business card holders. Digital alternatives are easier to organise and access, reducing the likelihood of losing valuable connections.

As the paper business card becomes a relic of the past, various technological tools and solutions have emerged to meet the demands of modern networking and communication. Here are some of the key digital alternatives that have gained popularity in recent years:

  • QR codes: QR codes have become a ubiquitous feature on digital business cards. By scanning a QR code with their smartphone, individuals can instantly access contact information, websites, portfolios, and social media profiles. This eliminates the need for manual data entry and simplifies the process of connecting with others.

  • Digital business card apps: Numerous smartphone apps now allow users to create and share digital business cards. These apps provide customisable templates, support for multimedia content, and the ability to update contact details in real-time. Digital cards can be easily shared via email, messaging apps, or social media platforms.

  • LinkedIn and social media: Professional networking platforms like LinkedIn have become essential tools for making connections and sharing contact information. With a LinkedIn profile, individuals can connect with others and exchange information with a simple click.

  • NFC (Near Field Communication): NFC technology allows for contactless data exchange between smartphones. By tapping their phones together, individuals can instantly share contact details, making networking more seamless and efficient.

  • Email signatures: Many professionals now include their contact information and social media links in their email signatures. This ensures that every email sent serves as a digital business card, making it easy for recipients to connect and stay in touch.

  • Augmented Reality (AR) business cards: Cutting-edge AR technology enables individuals to create interactive digital business cards. When someone scans the AR code on a physical card, they can access a multimedia-rich experience, including videos, animations, and interactive content.

  • Digital wallets: Smartphones now feature digital wallet apps where users can store contact information, making it readily available for sharing. This method eliminates the need for physical cards whilst providing a secure and organised means of managing connections.

As we bid farewell to the traditional paper business card, it's essential to adapt to the digital age and embrace the new tools and methods available for networking and professional connections. Here are some tips for making a smooth transition:

  • Create a digital business card in readiness: Invest in a digital business card app or platform to create a dynamic and easily shareable online presence. Include links to your social media profiles, websites, and a professional photo to make a lasting impression. Have this ready before attending networking opportunities, so that you can effortlessly share your information with new contacts.

  • Keep information updated: One of the advantages of digital alternatives is the ability to update your information in real-time—no printing of new cards if you change phone number or email address. With a digital card, you can ensure that your contact details, work history, and other relevant information are always current.

  • Stay organised: Digital tools can easily help you organise your connections and their information. Create folders, tags, or categories to make it easy to find and connect with specific individuals when needed.

The death of the business card may be mourned by some as the end of an era, but it marks the beginning of a more efficient, environmentally friendly, dynamic era of networking and professional connections.


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