Why I Don't Believe in Business Cards

Last week I gave a lecture about social media to 80 people. Afterward, a young woman named Ashley — one of the attendees — approached me, and I find out that she’s a personal vegan chef. I’m into eating healthy, and her services are affordable, so boom — Ashley has herself a new customer, and I hopefully get tasty vegan food that helps promote my healthy lifestyle. Right?

Well, not so fast. Before we parted ways, I tried to add her on Facebook, but my phone wasn’t cooperating, so she gave me her business card. Which I lost, of course.

So now she’s out of new customer and I’m out of homemade vegan food. Bummer. But frankly, I’m not all that worried about it, because there’s plenty of personal vegan chefs who I can probably find on Google or whatever.

What I’m worried about is that there’s plenty of people like Ashley who don’t harness the power and opportunity to stay relevant in people’s lives beyond the traditional business-customer relationship. Beyond the business card. Beyond the cell phone number and email address. Because even if I had saved Ashley’s information, now she’s just one of thousands of phone numbers and email addresses in my phone. Maybe I’ll remember her, maybe I won’t.

Are you comfortable with those odds? Maybe I will remember who you are, what you do, and how you can help me enhance my pleasures or solve my problems? Maybe I won’t? 50 percent at best? Or do you want to increase those chances, and more importantly, to control them?

You already know that social media presents the ultimate opportunity to stay connected with people who we don’t interact with on a consistent basis. And that’s precisely why you should immediately connect with people on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, whatever when you meet them offline. I’m not telling you to throw away your business cards, or to stop using them. I’m just saying, focus less on the formalities (business cards) and more on the practicalities (social media).

A lot of people will say that they don’t want to mix their personal and professional lives on their social media accounts. But guess what? Relationships are relationships, and people do business with and refer their friends to those they trust. If we have the opportunity to extend the life of our professional relationships and build trust based on familiarity, relate-ability and likeability — why the hell wouldn’t we do that?

I’m not saying social media should replace interpersonal interactions, or phone calls, or anything else. I’m just saying social media presents the easiest and most consistent way to build trust based on familiarity, relate-ability and likeability on a large scale.

In Ashley’s case, had we connected on social media, I’d be seeing her day-to-day posts. Perhaps she uploads recipes or photos of the food she makes. So now I’m reminded about who she is and what she does, and I exponentially become more familiar with what she can do for me. Perhaps she posts articles about the health benefits of a vegan diet, and being healthy is important to me, so now there’s a degree of relate-ability that takes form. And perhaps she posts photos of herself doing yoga, and I like yoga, so now there’s a growing dynamic of likeability between us.

You’re probably thinking: Well, yeah, she’s a one-man-band, a personal chef, she can easily sell herself because she is the business. What if I own a company? What if I’m just an employee in a large organization? Blah blah blah.

The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a freelancer, a business owner with five or 500 employees, or one of those 500 employees. You’re a person before you’re anything else, and the number-one thing that people connect and relate to is other people.

By focusing more on who you are as a person and less as an employer or an employee, people will better connect and relate to you. They just need any opportunity to do so in a way that’s not intrusive and obstructive, agenda-free, without taking too much of their time and attention, and in a way that adds some kind of immediate and lasting value to their lives.

Social media is that opportunity.

Josh Hoffman (better known as Social Media Josh) is an international social media consultant, instructor and speaker, as well as the creator of The Social Media Freelancer. Connect with Josh on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and sign up to receive his weekly column.