Hybrid Networking: In Defense of Business Cards in the Social Media Age
  by:  |  May 10, 2016
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Last updated on July 29th, 2022 at 03:43 am

Business cards are “irrelevant, wasteful—and just plain lame.”

Or so wrote LA Times contributor Matt Stevens in a recent article that misguidedly weighs in on the role of business cards. With this decline in interest in business cards, many printers are feeling the loss.

And yet—Stevens’ gloomy article notwithstanding—business cards still retain their importance in international business, conferences, and, believe it or not, our digitized world. In many contexts, they remain essential, trumping “modern” electronic methods of exchanging contact details. This is especially true for ease of use (no fiddling around awkwardly with your phone for 20 seconds) and branding.

In Asia, business cards have a strong cultural and ceremonial importance and strict etiquette. They are more than a contact exchange; cards serve as a first impression. When dealing with overseas clients, especially in Asia, you should have a proper business card.

In the Western world, people are getting creative with their business cards. Business cards are evolving into something more remarkable than contact information, from paper to ink, textures to graphics.

Cards and social media accounts (such as LinkedIn,, Twitter, and Facebook) are often said to perform the same function: turning meetings into business connections. But a professional can benefit in different ways from both networking tools.

History Repeats Itself—Business Cards Reconnecting with Their Social Roots


Business cards have been around for a while: as visitor announcements, mini-advertisements, or trade cards, and now as contact information carriers. At the peak of their popularity in the 1890s, trade cards were collectible, premium advertising for businesses; they attracted attention because they had something that magazines didn’t: color.
 Vintage-inspired Business Card - Hybrid Networking: In Defense of Business Cards and Social Media

Vintage-inspired Business Card via

As the adage goes: history repeats itself. Business cards have fallen behind mobile technology as the most efficient way to exchange contact information; however, they can provide benefits no online profile—no matter how fancy—can hope to match. They’ve become an outlet for personality and an alternative kind of marketing. Some of today’s business cards will floor you with their creativity; a card restricted solely to contact information should be burned for misuse.

Unlike a social media profile like LinkedIn, a business card is a tangible reminder in a digital world. Notifications get lost in new interactions. Emails end up in spam boxes. But a card, which someone will invariably study at least twice, can at least serve as a reminder. And if the card has the right style and information, it leads to further interaction.

Think back to the last business card you were handed. What did you notice about it first? What do you remember most about it? A QR code, perhaps? Shoddy design? Quality of the paper? A humorous blurb? Maybe it folded into something related to their business?

The sky’s the limit with what you can do with a business card. And it will leave a lasting impression on your personality, what you do, and how you do it.

Social Media in Business Networking


Smartphones Complement Business Cards- Hybrid Networking: In Defense of Business Cards and Social Media

via The New York Times

Social networks are a great gauge of our time—they analyze what people are talking about and sharing; they connect us on a personal level.

Tons of platforms exist solely to build your image. Whether you’re job-seeking or looking to connect with others in your industry, there’s nothing like a great online presence for a potential employer or contact to find and explore. No one will argue that. But there are some things technology can’t do.

We’re in a generational shift, where people who grew up with the power of business cards and people who grew up with mobile technology share the workplace. LinkedIn is a great place to forge connections, but many connections start at conferences or in the everyday world.

For those who dread manually entering a contact’s info, apps like ScanBizCards and CardMunch digitize business card contact information.

Don’t be Afraid to Mix Eras

Business Card Paper Plane - Hybrid Networking: In Defense of Business Cards and Social Media

By CameraGeek 2.0 via

Times are blurring. Some people still read newspapers. Others get news tweets on their phone. Another might more readily pick up a Kindle instead of a book. It varies by person, age, and personality. In the business world, you’re bound to meet at least one person who prefers a business card to a LinkedIn request (and vice versa).

Business cards and social technology shouldn’t be individual networking techniques—their natures complement each other. Using both keeps your options open with whomever you meet.


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