Picture what usually happens when you meet someone new at a networking event or a trade show. The well-prepared among us have business cards at the ready to swap with potential clients or customers. Others need a little more time to rummage through briefcases and bags, finally unearthing that all important piece of cardstock.
But there's a question often running through the minds of both the giver and the recipient. Isn't there a better way to keep track of contacts than printing and carrying around these little paper rectangles?
It's a given that you'll want to exchange contact information with new acquaintances, but most people agree that too many potential contacts fall through the cracks because business cards are misplaced or simply ignored. But maybe there's a better way.
Since most people now carry a mobile phone and more and more are adopting smart phone technology, why not turn your phone into a virtual Rolodex? There would be no reason to hang onto physical business cards and you'd always have business contact information at your fingertips.
That's why different companies are bringing a variety of mobile business card apps to market, notably those that create virtual cards or vCards using QR codes, which can be easily scanned using a camera-equipped smart phone with a bar code scanner. Two business card management apps that you might want to try are YPrintit and Card Swapp.
Both of these smart phone applications are available through the Android Marketplace and the iPhone App Store. Here's a little more about how each one works.
YPrintit: A socially responsible business card app
While many smart phone applications aim to save you time and even money, YPrintit goes one step further by positioning itself as a socially responsible, green technology. That's because the business cards created with the app are virtual cards. You can combine the visual impact of a traditional business card template with the changeability of a vCard. And you'll go easier on the environment by avoiding the commercial printing process altogether.
The virtual cards appear on your phone display like traditional business cards, forming an interactive, social community including you and the other people who have swapped cards. And you can create and display more than one business card, depending on your needs.
YPrintit offers hundreds of different templates in many industries, from agriculture to food and beverage to real estate. The company has apps for both the iPhone and Android operating systems with plans in the works for the Blackberry.
Here's what you do. After downloading the app to your phone, create a free account. Then log-in via mobile phone or the website interface to enter your contact information and create your card (or cards).
The application automatically produces a unique QR code based on your contact details. And when you make changes to your contact information, anyone who has already viewed your card will automatically see the new information.
Now you're ready to share your card with friends and business partners. Simply bring up the QR code on your phone's screen, and another person can scan the code using their bar code reader. Your recipient will get all your contact information plus a copy of your unique QR code, meaning that your information can be shared over and over. And the person on the receiving end doesn't need to have the YPrintit app on their phone.
When you use your smart phone to scan another person's virtual business card, the contact information is automatically stored in a Rolodex within the app. Flip through your contacts and tap one of them. Depending on the information the other person has entered, you can send a text message, click to call, or find their address on the map. All without leaving your phone screen.
Here's where you can get YPrintit.
Card Swapp: Opening the doors to your social media empire
The developers behind Card Swapp see the application as the jumping off point for your mobile social media empire. Functionally, the app works the same way as YPrintit, creating a dynamic QR code for others to scan. But that's just the beginning.
Your business card has links for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Skype, Yelp, and personal or business websites, so your contacts can easily find you. And the QR code image can be downloaded and used offline on flyers, posters, car magnets, billboards, menus, magazines, and newspapers.
Restaurant owners can quickly link to their menu, giving potential customers a chance to see what's cooking right from their phone. Speakers presenting to conference groups can display their QR code for the entire audience. And the app includes a news feed, giving you a place to showcase the latest events and spotlight special offers.
Card Swapp is available in both a "Lite" version and the more advanced Pro version. If you plan to search and export contacts from the app, then you'll want to upgrade to the Pro version for just $0.99.
Here's where you can download Card Swapp.
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