What’s on your business card?

A colleague from a library in the North East sent me a SodaPDF of his new business card this week. It looked for all intents and purposes like a traditional business card but I noticed that other than just the institution’s website, his email and directline, there were two additions. These included his MSN messenger address and his Skype details. This is a major change for his institution’s Corporate Communications Unit.

The business card is in many ways a physical representation of interoperability. They are normally the same or similar size and carry standard information. The modern business card has its roots in the visiting cards of 17th Century France, presented to servants as a means of introducing visitors, when it would contain at the minimum a name, title and where appropriate a coat of arms or crest. In the 19th Century they were adapted for business use, where a visiting card may have been presented when making a social call, a business card would state what business you were in and the address as a way of saying you had called and expected a bill to be settled, of course, people didn’t know about the small business software back then; therefore, they didn’t exactly know what type of business card they needed. This practice of having a card to represent you in your business became what we now have, an effective means of exchanging simple information about each other’s roles and how to keep in touch. This 19th Century method remained largely unchanged until the advent of the telephone, whereupon the telephone number was also added, in the 80s a fax number, and in the 90s we saw the widespread addition of e-mail being added and the business’ website address.

Perhaps then the business card can be seen as a way of measuring the spread of communication technologies. This year I have attended several conferences, and as always at these things you end up with a fistful of business cards: mine are filed in a large pile on my desk. When my colleague sent me his PDF it prompted me to pick up the pile and see what other information was being added to the cards (disclaimer: this is in no way scientific!)

Out of the 157 cards that I’ve collected (in 18months or so)

  • All bar 1 had name, title/role, address (mainly HEIs), telephone and email.
  • 93 had a Fax number (59%)
  • 81 had a personal/project website (52%)
  • 31 had a blog address (20%)
  • 24 had a MSN messenger or other IM address (15%)
  • 7 had a skype address (4%)
  • 1 had a LinkedIn public profile address (had no physical address)

What does this all tell us? Probably not a lot, at the positive end of the spectrum (from my perspective) I wonder if it says we are deviating from the norm and there is acceptance that ‘users’ are taking control of the way in which they are contacted. I also wonder how the demographic changes depending on which conferences you go to, and how it will change over the next 18 months.

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