In this new age of Twitter and LinkedIn, I’m wondering: Is the business card dead? When I think about it, I hardly ever carry a business card these days, and, when I do, it’s usually quite purposeful (I’m going to a conference and I need cards to win prizes in the exhibit hall). Usually, when I meet someone professionally, we pull out our smartphones and connect on LinkedIn, or follow one another on Twitter. And I am not alone in this experience. Jay Shepard (@Jayshep) writes about his recent experience at the ABA Techshow on Above the Law, Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Twitter and Business Cards at the ABA TechShow.
When these lawyers weren’t listening to the dozens of cutting-edge seminars or browsing the exhibitors’ booths, they were making new friends and new professional connections. But instead of exchanging business cards, many of the attendees were trading Twitter handles — their online identities that begin with the @ symbol. (I’m @jayshep.) Massachusetts lawyer Gabriel Cheong (@gabrielcheong) told me that by the end of the conference, he had collected exactly zero business cards. (I immediately gave him one of mine. #irony) Instead of accumulating two-by-three-and-a-half-inch scraps of cardstock, he typed their Twitter names directly into his iPhone. (And I doubt anyone actually said, “Uh, I’m not on the Twitter.”) Molly McDonough (@Molly_McDonough), online editor at the ABA Journal, tweeted at the end of the conference: “For first time, I didn’t collect any biz cards at #abatechshow. Just made note of names and followed on Twitter.” Others retweeted (quoted) her tweet with approval.
Ironically, Jay’s experience, and the experience of others at the ABA Techshow, is no different than what we’ve been experiencing on the marketing side of the industry. Jay:
People also used Twitter to arrange impromptu get-togethers in and around the conference. If you wanted to know where people were hanging out, a quick Twitter search told you.
Over the last three years, I’ve developed a network of LMA friends and colleagues through Twitter – our online conversations happen on a regular basis throughout the year, both about professional and personal topics …. As a result, we’re talking before the conference and making plans, we’re talking during the conference – about the sessions, about meeting for meals, about meeting those on Twitter we don’t know in person yet, about where we’re sitting, what we’re thinking, the questions we might have – and we’re talking after the conference – sharing posts, sharing articles, continuing the new and old relationships and friendships we’ve found in LMA.
And most importantly, attendees began conversations with each other, many of which are likely to develop into relationships — as professional friendships, resources, or referral sources. Instead of ending up with a pile of business cards that end up in your desk drawer along with vague aspirations of “keeping in touch,” the Twitter connections directly start that process.
Through Twitter, I’ve met marketing professionals at all different levels – some new to legal marketing, some with years of marketing experience – and they inspire me, introduce me to other people in the industry, help me on projects, ask and answer questions, and make me feel cherished and supported.
This week in Chicago, I picked up about 50 new Twitter followers, and I began following about that many as well. And it’s not about keeping score; the point isn’t having a certain number of followers. It’s about making 50 new connections: new friends with whom I ate and drank and chatted, and new potential avenues for growing my business.
So I’m grateful to Twitter for enriching my conference experience – I’ve gained professional colleagues (as someone who works alone most of the time, that is invaluable), but I’ve also gained lifelong friends. Some people may still not understand Twitter or think it valuable, but it can really enrich a conference experience, and make your membership in an organization incredibly worthwhile and rewarding.
Twitter, for me, is about identifying people in a crowded room that I want to talk to. I didn’t need to connect with 1000 legal marketing professionals last week … but I easily found the people I needed to meet, and they were usually broadcasting loud and clear via their social networks. I’ve broadened and deepened relationships I have identified on Twitter, by inviting many of these people into my inner-circle via my personal Facebook. I use the social media tools available to me to reach out and connect on a daily basis, either personally or professionally. I know to whom I can turn when I need to brainstorm an idea, get a referral, celebrate or commiserate. So, is the business card dead?? In it’s current incarnation, yes. I see the professional business card becoming a beacon to connect, a calling card inviting you to join the holders personal network. It won’t include a list of offices the holder has never visited (and that are constantly changing, and thereby requiring a new print job every few months), and the receiver doesn’t care about. But it will be personal to the user. In addition to the firm’s website and office location, it will include the user’s personal Twitter, LinkedIn, blog url, Facebook page (business or personal), email and phone number (cell phone, preferably, for texting).