Despite various pundits predicting the death of paper in the office for the last 30 years it's just not going to happen. Why? Because paper is an outstanding medium for communication. It doesn't need power, it can be read in a wide range of lighting, it's light, portable, flexible, cheap, and never needs to be rebooted. For much the same reasons, paper business cards will never die out but what is changing is that business cards are becoming digitally augmented so they can be machine read as well as getting digital counterparts.
A number of companies now offer digital business cards but there's a problem with many of these solutions: Many don't span the real world and the digital world and many suffer from having been originally designed for large screens and Web browsers rather than for mobile platforms. This limits their usability in an increasingly mobile world.
I just talked with James Alexander, the president of Vizibility, a company that offers a brilliant digital business card service called vizCard with really well thought-out mobile support. What's more, the service is enterprise-ready. Alexander calls the vizCard "the third side of the business card."
The heart of a vizCard is a repository of data about you that starts with your name and your email address to which you add an online alias (it's your own tail to the viz.me domain ... for example, my alias is http://viz.me/quistuipater). Your alias displays your vizCard which can be examined and the links followed and or the vCard downloaded or sent via SMS.
You also provide your logo, your photo, add "My Links" (a list of links to your professional, personal, and social sites and services) and add your contact details (street address, phone numbers, etc.). You can enable or disable whether your vCard can be downloaded and whether your mutual connections on Facebook and LinkedIn will be shared with people who view your vizCard.
Next you curate your Google results so that the larger online context of you and your business can be loaded into a browser window directly from your online vizCard. You can interactively edit the search terms to be used and Vizibility shows you how visible you are in terms of the number of hits on the top three pages of Google results.
You can choose to be notified by real time alerts when your vizCard is accessed via QR codes (you can order sheets of QR stickers from Vizibility), by clicks on your profile, and for vCard downloads and optionally have that data presented as a Google Results Monitoring report.
Vizibility provides lots of ways share your vizCard profile in addition to the Web-based profile itself and QR codes including Apple's Passbook, codes for Near Field Communications (NFC) enabled smartphones as well as offering a credit card-sized plastic business card with both a QR code and an embedded NFC chip coded for your account. In addition there's support for the Microsoft Tag App, an email sig link, a Google Adwords link, and a service called CardFollow that ensures that anyone who downloads your vCard gets updates when your vizCard changes.
In your Vizibility account there's a whole analytics section devoted to metrics and geo-tracking and another that monitors the results of your curated Google search showing which hits have moved up and down in the rankings.
How much do vizCards cost? You can get a free vizCard which includes the online Mobile Business Card with vCard and CardFollow, a Personal QR Code, Links, an NFC tag and Apple Passbook support as well as unlimited QR code scans, taps and clicks.
For $79 per year you get vizCard Pro which lets you use your own logo, support for mobile directory so all the members of a company can be identified in each other's vizCards, access to the vizCard Manager for Enterprises which provides management and analytics for a group of vizCard users, support for mutual connections on Facebook and LinkedIn, alerts and geotracking of vizCard access, custom links in your online content, a "Google Me" button and results monitoring, a physical plastic wallet card with QR code and embedded NFC, and telephone support.
Vizibility also offers the vizCard Pack for large groups which includes the features of the free version plus the custom logo, mobile directory, and access to the vizCard Manager for Enterprises. This package allows for unlimited users for $999 per year. There's also a vizCard Upgrade option for the Pro and Pack versions for up to five accounts for $499 per year that adds a direct URL to your mobile directory, a branded URL for QR codes and links, auto-redirect for former employees, up to 2 hours of training and implementation consulting, and telephone support.
When you consider the complexities of managing business cards and directories for even a small group of people the pricing of vizCards makes complete sense. Business card management for even large groups becomes so simple that you might even be able to palm off the task to Human Resources.
Interestingly, Vizibility was acquired in August this year by ALL-STATE LEGAL, an engraving and printing company which will offer its business card customers the annual $999 vizCard Pack at no additional charge.
Vizibility have secured a number of patents that will, the company believes, provide them with a competitive edge in the market and even have an API so that third parties can, with restrictions, retrieve your vizCard data.
I'm really impressed by Vizibility's vizCard service which gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.