How many online profiles do you think you have right now? I know, too many to even count! Such is the case with anyone that uses Web 2.0 sites these days.
Whether you have boatloads of profiles or just a few, you need a way to manage your profile information. Here are some tools that you can use to share your profiles online, kind of like a virtual business card.
Tell us in the comments how you share your profiles online.
Customize Your Twitter BackgroundTwitter has become a popular platform to share your profile. Users are creating customized image backgrounds with all of their vital contact information and using their Twitter account as their primary social profile.
Instead of just using a generic image of some pattern or photo of the dog or kids (guilty as charged here), many people are making their own business card-like backgrounds with detailed biographical information, self-portraits and more contact details. It's rather simple too, you just edit an image you want to use and add your bio and contact info, then upload it to your Twitter profile. Here's an excellent example.
Use Your Social NetworksLinkedIn is the network of choice for many professionals. It's becoming increasingly common to see people using the URL to their LinkedIn profile instead of links to their own blog or website.
Facebook and MySpace profiles are commonly used, but far too many companies block these two social networking monoliths, which could make them a bad choice for your primary online profile.
Aggregate Your InformationRetaggr is a new online profile service that allows you to add all of the social networks that you belong to and create a virtual business card. The cool thing is that this isn't a static display, the card can actually reveal recent activity on the social sites that you belong to.
FriendFeed has become one of the most popular aggregators for social networking sites, so naturally it's also become rather popular for sharing your online contact information. The URL is easy to remember, http://Friendfeed.com/username. The best thing about this method is that all of your social networking feeds are available on there too.
MyBlogLog's widget provides a versatile profile page that shows all of your points of contact in one place. MyBlogLog is used primarily by bloggers, so this might not be the best solution for non-bloggers.
Google Profile was announced almost a year ago by Google and has ever so slowly been showing up in some Google services such as Shared Stuff, Google Reader and Google Maps. The promise was made to centralize all of your profiles for various Google services as well as other services into one place. Sounds nice, but it sure is taking a long time to roll it out to all of their services.
Plaxo has been around for many years. It's well-known as a social aggregator because of its Pulse feature which was released before FriendFeed, but its primary function has always been address book synchronization and contact management.
Many people are using their Plaxo profile as their virtual business card because it serves many purposes. Not only does it share all of your contact information, but it allows your contacts to stay informed of any changes that you make to vital details such as where you work, email addresses, phone numbers, etc. It also allows them to keep in sync with the changes that their contacts make, which is most useful. The pulse social network aggregation is just an added bonus.
Use Online Business CardsrmbrME is trying to convince people to go as far as throwing away their real business cards by using their online business card service. Their claim is that your information online is more interactive than a paper business card which can get lost too. While a cute marketing concept, I think it's silly to ever think real business cards will ever go the way of the DoDo bird. Is there a potential place for this type of service where people can exchange their information by beaming their mobile devices at one another? Sure, why not.
DropCard is another virtual business card service that's trying to convince people to give up their old habits of paper business cards. Once again, there are some benefits to the service, but traditional business cards are here to stay.
Create an About Me Page One of the most commonly used methods of sharing profile and contact information appears to be the About Me page on blogs and websites. Most of them aren't done very well though; they only contain the most elementary bits of information. However, the trend lately has been to create more socially dynamic and engaging About Me pages. Here's an example from Julia Roy:
At first glance it appears to be the usual About me or Contact me page. There's a personal and professional biography and the all-important email address. Then you'll start to notice more social aspects. There's the Twitter feed, of course. Then it jumps to what she calls A Digital Life, which shares all of her most commonly used social networks with links to her profiles on each site.
The other interesting and ultra-informative section that you don't see that often is called Digital Ink, which is where Julia shares links to some of the articles and interviews that involve her or her website. It's a fun and different way to learn about someone, through the eyes and experiences of other people.
An About me page doesn't have to be the usual dull and static page that we encounter all too frequently. It can be a dynamic and active webpage with information that's updated all the time. It can present not only who you were in the past and who you are today, but also link to what you'll be doing in the future.
There are many ways we can choose to present ourselves and share our contact information online. This will continue to evolve as new services enter the scene and address our need to manage our profiles and contact information.
Perhaps it would be a good idea to have an aggregator that works with your OpenID account so that all of your contact information is centralized and available for use on any new service that you join. It would save a great deal of time and typing, that's for sure. In the meantime, we will continue to spend a lot of precious time editing and updating our profile information all over the Web in an effort to keep everything consistent and up to date.