Ok, not really. But think about it. Business cards kind of suck, right? You go through some sort of re-org, the company does a branding change, your role changes, whatever. But that box of cards you got? I bet you didn’t get half way through it before something changed and the cards were rendered useless to some degree.
Maybe a phone number changed and you found yourself scribbling on the cards with a pen and writing the new number in there. Maybe the company’s logo changed and marketing has strictly embargoed use of all the old branding. Whatever, you find yourself, once again, getting rid of a stack of business cards. In my case, there’s another thing I find completely annoying – the cost of shipping the things. My company has worked out some kind of spectacular deal with the company they buy business cards from. But the shipping? Yow. So, 500 cards is like $7, but UPS Ground for that same order is $25. Multiply that times how many people and how often roles and branding changes, and that’s a lot of money and paper.
So, what could we do instead? For the past many years, most mobile phones, whether iOS or Android have had NFC (Near Field Communication) capabilities built in. So what’s NFC do? Without going into the nuts & bolts, it’s a protocol that makes communication between 2 things as easy as bringing them near to each other. It’s how things like tap-to-pay systems work. Like the one in your American Express card, or Apple/Google Pay, etc. The great thing about NFC tech? You can use it to store tons of different types of data and share it between devices.
Ok, so now that I’ve hooked you, how do we save the environment while impressing everyone with our amazing command of technology? If you’re the DIY type (like me) maybe you just program a URL on an NFC device and let folks scan that. Maybe you want something more packaged/turnkey and are willing to cough up some cash to pay for it – there are business models for both. I’ll spend the bulk of the rest of this article talking through the DIY model. If you really want to go down the packaged route – look at something like Popl. They’ve got a bunch of stuff ranging from QR code stickers to a variety of NFC devices coupled with a service that comes in free and subscription versions. The free version frames your content and lacks flexibility, while the pay-for version offers a lot more options. I’m not a fan of sticking a third party in the middle of any interactions I’m having with people I’m sharing my contact info with, so I ruled them out immediately.
Step one – you need something to point folks at. It could be a site like Beacons or Linktree, both of which come in free versions, it could be a social media profile page, like your LinkedIn profile or maybe your Instagram, or perhaps it could be a link to a website you stand up specifically for this purpose. In my case, I went for that last one.
I’m not much of a web designer, though I can do a decent job of modifying someone else’s design to suit my needs. So, I came upon the lovely html5up.net site, where one can find a bunch of great templates to work from. I settled on the Aerial template, swapped out the background for something that had more of a “networking” vibe, ripped out the Font Awesome v5 bits, replaced them with the latest v6 bits, tweaked some bits, created a profile pic using the super cool AI-driven https://thispersondoesnotexist.com/ site, and generated a vCard using the macOS Contacts app. In a few minutes, this demo was ready to roll. Honestly, the demo has the most impact on your phone, since when you hit the link on the far right it launches the vCard in your Contacts app.
Hosting? Free, fast and easy. GitHub Pages. Get yourself a GitHub login if you don’t already have one. Read up on how to turn a simple GitHub repo into a website here. It’s so easy you’re practically done before you’re started. I’m not kidding. Your URL will look something like https://youruser.github.io/.
Ready? Program that into the NFC thingy of your choosing as a URL object. Cool. So, what’s the NFC thingy I’m choosing? Great question. You’ve got options. I’ve got a couple of things myself. My first thing was a metal business card. Yes, metal (who’s making metal fingers right now with me? Yeah, I know.) I got it from Tyler at TapTag. He’s such a good dude. He’ll answer all of the stupid questions bouncing around in your head right now. I know he answered the ones I had – I’m sure he’ll keep going with you too. He’s such a great guy, patient too. Send him your business. Prices are good too.
Another interesting option is an NFC sticker. I picked up some black NTAG 215 stickers from Amazon, and popped one on the back of my phone case. I’ve got 2 actual pages like above. One’s for business use – that one’s linked from the actual “business card” that I walk around with in my wallet and wave around at business functions, and the other is linked from the sticker on the back of my phone case. The business card tag also has a QR code printed on the back side that goes to the same URL for folks who are either NFC challenged, or just plain refuse to scan a tag.
So, do your part, stop wasting all that paper and get with the program.