Depending upon who you ask, business cards are either an essential professional tool or a dinosaur left over from the old days of print. The reality is probably somewhere in between; you will not win new clients through the sheer brilliance of your business card design, but a good card can help keep you in touch with valuable connections.
Truly tech-savvy early adopters have been searching for ways to digitize the business card for some time. LinkedIn offers an app called CardMunch, which lets you take a picture of a physical business card with your iPhone and then convert the information to a contact in your address book. This may be good for storing other people’s information, but it does not address your ability to share your own digital card. Other apps, like Cardcloud do allow you to create and share a digital business card via phone or email. Unlike some card apps, Cardcloud does not require the person with whom you are sharing to also have the app. Cardcloud stores your location when you receive a contact and allows you to add notes and access social profiles from the card.
The newest arrival to the digital business card scene is Icon, a cloud-based card system that provides you with your own url as well as a sharable card (called, unsurprisingly, an “Icon”). Icons can be shared through email, phone, online or in person.
Icon differs from other card apps in its robustness and reporting tools. In your admin panel, you can connect the social networks of your choice to your profile, which Icon then curates automatically to present an overall professional persona along with your contact information. (You can choose which content to curate and which to keep to yourself.) You do not have to add notes or update your card – this is done for you when you post to any of your connected networks. If you revise your LinkedIn profile information, for example, your resume description will change to reflect this on your Icon page and in your app.
Once you have shared or received an Icon from someone else, you can click a “Find out what you have in common” button, and the app shows a comparison of your professional skills, keywords and interests. This allows you to get to know your colleagues (or prospects) in a different way than your average business card. You may find that you have things in common with a contact that comes in handy when in a networking or other professional setting.
Icon also offers some reporting tools, which allow you to see who has viewed or shared your card. While the service is still in its infancy, these tools could become useful should it gain a large user base. Knowing how often your Icon is being seen and shared will help you do some experimentation to learn what type of information gets the most traction with other users.
Print is not dead yet, and it is still a good idea to carry an old-fashioned business card to meetings and events. But digital solutions are becoming more viable, and are likely to be much more widespread in the coming months and years. If you feel like doing some experimenting, you can claim your name at www.icon.me.