Add Mailing Lists to Your Marketing Mix, Part 1

March 6, 2012

Part 1: Introduction and Mailing List Basics

If you don’t consider yourself to be particularly tech-savvy, all of the talk these days about “social networking” and “web 2.0” may be a little confusing, even scary.

You may be surprised to learn that there’s a simple, easy-to-use social networking tool that has been around since the early days of the internet and that allows for much of the community-building, social interaction, and expertise demonstration that characterize newer tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs.  Even if all you know how to do on the web is send an e-mail, you can use this tool. I’m referring, of course to the mailing list (a/k/a e-mail list, listserv).

Mailing List Basics

When e-mail is addressed to a mailing list, it is automatically broadcast to everyone on the list. The result is similar to a newsgroup or forum, except that, because the messages are transmitted as e-mail, subscribers receive them in their e-mail inboxes instead of having to log into a forum or discussion board to view them. It’s “push” technology rather than “pull” technology.

Lawyers can use mailing lists with different memberships for different marketing purposes. Participating on mailing lists geared to lawyers, like attending bar association events, helps you raise your profile among your colleagues, who may refer cases to you. Other mailing lists can expose you directly to potential clients. These mailing lists may be focused on a particular business or industry; a recreational interest; a geographic location (such as your hometown); or any combination of these cateogries.

Traffic on lists can range from very heavy (hundreds of messages per day), to sporadic (with days elapsing between new messages or threads).

Some mailing lists are moderated, with all posts requiring approval before they are distributed, while others are unmoderated. Even if a list is not moderated, however, the community is often self-policing. Additionally, most lists have a list manager who has the power to remove subscribers from the list and block attempts to re-subscribe from the same IP address.

One benefit of participating in mailing lists composed of other lawyers, or devoted to a business or industry, is that the rules for these types of lists often encourage, or even require, posters to include a signature block with contact information in each post. By contrast, on a mailing list that revolves around a topic that is not business-related, it may be uncommon for posters to identify their profession or business in a signature block at the end of each post. Nevertheless, it may be appropriate to identify yourself as a lawyer in some of your posts.

To continue next week

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