From the August 2012 issue of Entrepreneur

As wired-in as most of us are, chances are you still return from a networking event or meeting with a stack of business cards in your pocket. In a world where LinkedIn has replaced the Rolodex, and we routinely pack far more powerful tools of connectivity, why does the paper card survive?

Richard Moross--CEO of Moo.com, which sells stylish printed products--sees business cards as more than scraps of paper. "When we meet people at a conference, in a business setting or in a bar, it’s important we make a good impression, that we convey who we are, what we do and why that might be relevant," Moross said in an e-mail exchange. "We want to stand out, and nothing has yet matched the power and simplicity of handing over a well-designed card--it starts a conversation."

Business cards have unique potential for personal connections that can generate leads. Here’s how to optimize the space on that tiny paper canvas.

1. Include relevant social outposts. Since most businesses regard social media as a way to tell their story and engage with customers, it makes sense to highlight your Facebook page, YouTube channel or Pinterest account on your card. Give curious new friends a chance to see what you’re about by directing them to social channels on which you’re active--but only those that are truly relevant to your business. Which leads to my next point.

2. Lose the kitchen-sink approach. While you may be tempted to offer a wide array of contact options (office, cell and fax number; street address; e-mail; Twitter and Facebook ID; LinkedIn URL), a better approach is to prune ruthlessly. Ask yourself: Where do you really engage with prospects? Where might they be most likely to get a sense of you and your company? And, by the way, the biggest real-estate hog is a full street address, when usually a city and state will suffice.

3. Skip your homepage. This may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out. It could be that your homepage is not the best place to start a conversation. Your business might be better served by directing new prospects and tire-kickers to a company blog, an active resource page or a landing page with a free download or video that’s informative and/or entertaining. Many homepages are a fire-hose blast of information, but a blog or page of dedicated content could offer a more manageable taste of something satisfying.

4. Be visual. A simple logo is a yawner. Try using images or graphics that spark conversation and connection. Moo.com allows you to put a different image on each card, sourced from uploads or Facebook. Show your products, your people or, Moross says, "things you’ve built, designed, painted, eaten or loved."

5. Inspire curiosity. One of my favorite cards was that of Michael Simon, CEO of LogMeIn: "Connect with me at [e-mail address] or [phone number] to talk business, or if you need a recommendation for a great restaurant the next time you’re in Budapest." Short and sweet? Sure. Curiosity-arousing? Definitely.

6. Link your online and offline worlds. A card can be a bridge between your online and in-person presence. Consider adding a QR code that digitally relays contact info or directs people to a web page. (But for the love of Pete, make sure you’re delivering an optimal experience for the person who scans your code; too many suffer from poor execution.)

7. Think of your card as a call to action. Consider producing small print runs of customized cards tailored to specific events, campaigns or markets. Perhaps for a trade show, tote cards sharing a special download or show-specific offer. At a cocktail event, hand out cards that invite partygoers to check out photos of the gathering at a microsite or on Facebook.

8. Create utility. I’ve seen cards designed as mini-catalogs and brochures. Recently, Robert Nolan of Gold Coast Promotions in Hollywood, Fla., handed me his card--a mini spiral-bound notebook. Now that’s more than pretty to look at. It’s downright useful.