Burkey Belser (@burkeybelser), a pioneer in legal services marketing and branding, wrote this week that email outperforms social media by three to one.

I hate to break it to all the Facebook and LinkedIn marketers because this revelation is so uncool, but email marketing outperforms social media three to one according to almost everyone including Buffer. Sure, you hate spam but buyers have honed their email skills to recognize destructible spam (hit <delete>), while they might still take a peek at spam that might have value (you know who you are!). Just because “your” habits are not “theirs” and “they” are not “you” does not mean everyone shares your point of view.

Outperforms as to what? How are we measuring performance?

It appears the sole basis of Belser’s post was Kevan Lee’s (@kevanleeassertion that “email reaches three times more people than Twitter and Facebook combined.”

And the basis of Lee’s statement? That email has nearly three times as many user accounts (2.9 Billion)  as Facebook and Twitter combined. Wow.

Following this logic we should look at the number of cars. How many cars do potential clients have? Perhaps four times as many as social media accounts. Put fliers on their windshields. Most will be tossed (deleted), but some folks may take a peak.

Okay email marketing is not as crazy as windshield fliers. I am also not saying that email marketing ought not be used. But let’s not dismiss social by making cavalier statements that email marketing is three times as effective as social.

Most importantly look at what you are after. Is it face time? Is it reach as many people as possible? That’s different than strategically building and nurturing relationships, a goal in social. That’s different than growing one’s influence as a “go to” lawyer in a niche or locale, an outcome from social.

If it’s the later two you’re after, as many of the best lawyers are, it’s tough to beat social. Whether it’s blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, these media, when used effectively, rule for relationships and word of mouth reputations.

Citing a McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report ( The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity through Social Technologies – Professional Services (pdf), LexBlog’s President, Kevin McKeown (@kevinmckeown), shared social media is the future for marketing and business development for professional service firms (legal, accounting, advertising and marketing, architecture, engineering etc).

Per MGI:

  • The professional services industry has the greatest potential of any industry to see huge return-on-investment benefits from social media.
  • Externally, social media is a powerful tool to build overall brand strength and awareness and to signal subject matter expertise.
  • At relatively low cost, professional services firms can establish credibility as thought leaders with a wide audience.

It’s easy in the legal industry to prey on ignorance, insecurity, cynicism, and resistance to change. But we’re not going back from social as a medium for professional development. There is much more future than past in social.

Mediums such as email still have a place. But I question the value of telling law firms that email is three times as effective as social.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Boston Public Library