No matter what your business or industry, the value of the internet and social media cannot be denied. It’s allowing us to stay more connected than ever; but are social media channels set to replace the classic paper business card? All signs point to “yes.”

Just as online shopping systems have taken the place of many brick and mortar stores, and the website has all but replaced the paper catalog, the use of social media is rapidly replacing the old school Rolodex.

The Virtual Address Book

Yes, paper business cards were helpful, but static. They provided a contact’s name and phone number, but not much else. You had to keep track of them, organize them and make sure not to lose them. Social media is the user-friendly virtual version of the address book, but it’s also so much more: it can offer valuable insights about your contacts and allow you to make timely, successful sales calls.

For example, a loan officer specializing in funding loans after foreclosure might be following a particular realtor on Twitter. One day he notices they are voicing their disappointment about a client being turned down due to a foreclosure on their credit. This type of revelation can offer insight to the loan officer, who might then tweet: “I can help, even one day after foreclosure.”

Making Social Media Work for You

Connecting with people on social media before and after meetings via social media is far more effective than simply accumulating a pile of business cards and making contacts via phone later. Social media takes things to a new level, allowing for the easy organization of those contacts you want to follow as well as potent insights into their daily wants and needs.

To make social media work better for you than the business card ever did, start by signing on to all of the viable social media platforms. Take the time to make contacts before and after meetings via channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and more. Don’t hesitate to ask people about social media in meetings: “Are you on Facebook? Google+? How can we stay connected?” These are valid and even expected questions in this social media-driven age we live in.

After you’ve made contact, stay active. Watch for trends and patterns; post when you have something to offer, and be responsive to others. You’ll soon find yourself reaping the benefits of the next-generation “business card.”