As our professional lives increasingly happen in the cloud and on the go, one decidedly old school aspect of networking that remains prevalent is the paper-based business card. Dozens of Web and mobile apps have attempted to recreate the business card for a digital world, some more effectively than others. Here are three that look promising.
Rather than try to replace paper business cards all together, ScanBizCards simply digitizes them and makes them a bit more useful. Using an iPhone 3GS or higher, take a picture of that business card your new contact just handed to you. The app recognizes text on the card, like the person's name, phone number and email address, and then imports that information directly into your contacts.
Once the new contact info is saved, you have the option of sending a following up email, not unlike the one you were going to eventually get around to sending after you get back to your desk later. The app saves all of the business card images, which can be flipped through in a Cover Flow-style interface. Each card's contact info is clickable so you can get in touch instantly, and adding your new contact to your LinkedIn connections is a matter of a tapping a single button.
SnapDat is another iPhone app, but instead of tolerating a world in which paper business cards still exist, it aims to bring the entire exchange into the cloud. Design and build your digital business card, or SnapCard, and then easily exchange it with any other contact who has the SnapDat app. Since this is a bit too limiting to be useful in all networking situations, the same contact info can alternatively be sent as a vCard attached to an email. SnapDat also integrates with the iPhone address book and popular social networking sites. If it's important to remember where you met somebody and recieved their contact info, you can use the GeoStamp mapping feature to geo-tag the exchange.
For those inclined to network professionally via Twitter, there's TwtBizCard. Fill out your contact info to create a business card hosted on TwtBizCard's site, a link to which you can then include in tweets to people you'd like to stay in touch with. Since the mobile version is Web-based, it can be used on any Web-enabled phone. While this solution may not be for everyone, it does make exchanging professional contact info over Twitter rather easy.
Have you used any other digital business card apps or are you still trading paper cards? Let us know in the comments.
Photo by Carlos Varela