Outspoken? Arrogant? Just plain crazy? Whatever you might think of Gary Vaynerchuk, there’s no denying he’s a great exponent of simple, pared down social media marketing.
CEO of VaynerMedia, Gary Vaynerchuk began his digital career by setting up the online arm of his parents’ wine business, winelibrary.com, taking turnover from $3 million in 1997, to $45 million just eight years later
He’s a social supremo who is definitely one to watch for anyone in media jobs.
By reading up on the industry, gaining as much experience as he could and making himself indispensable to wine buffs everywhere, Gary’s winelibrary is still going strong thanks to his commitment to developing the business and his endearingly informal style.
Since setting up winelibrary, Vaynerchuk took everything he learnt and created VaynerMedia, a company that helps Fortune 500 companies ‘find their social media voice’. But don’t be fooled into thinking that Gary Vaynerchuk is a hard-headed marketer who’s all about the quick buck. In fact, the opposite is true.
In It for the Long Term
Vaynerchuk was born in the former USSR in the small town of Babruysk. He emigrated with his family to the US in 1978 and he and his parents settled in Edison, New Jersey. After graduating from Mount Ida College In Newton Massachusetts he set his sights on transforming the family liquor store. He named it Wine Library and the rest is history…
In 2006 Vaynerchuk revolutionized wine marketing by adding video reviews to the winelibrary site. His irreverent and amusing critiques earned him an army (up to 100,000 views per day) of fans, who nicknamed themselves the ‘Vayniacs’ and it’s this less intellectual approach, coupled with an eye on the long game, that has earned him a place on BusinessWeek’s list of top 20 people every entrepreneur should follow and almost a million followers on Twitter.
He feels strongly that brands using social media have a duty to listen, rather than talk.
“What people don’t understand is, with so much noise, not having context around that ‘push’ is real detrimental,” he said. “To me, it’s always an app or service or product—you always hear that cliché of ‘giving value’. In social, giving value is listening instead of talking—think about the friend that you would call when you have a problem versus the friend that always calls you with a problem. Usually they’re a different person.
“I used Twitter’s search the other day…I just searched some marketing terms, like ‘engage’, and right away a couple of new people started following me. And when I’m pushing out my stuff, one of them I noticed (because I was paying close attention) responded to it because the context of our relationship wasn’t that they were a fan of mine, it’s that I did something nice first. That’s how I built my wine brand. I was answering people’s wine questions, then they followed me for wine.”
So to Gary, it’s not about units sold, it’s about loyalty and by showing interest in your existing and potential customers you are showing you care, and they like that.
Mega Money Doesn’t Mean Mega Followers
As well as espousing the value of nurturing your followers and customers, Gary also believes that phenomenally high production values for online content may also be misplaced as the social space is a much warmer, more accepting place than, say, print media or TV. He feels that high production values do not equate to higher engagement.
“It’s not engagement,” he said. “It may make you feel differently. It’s brand positioning. If I’m a high-end brand, do I want to have bad lighting like an Iraqi hostage? No. But on the flip side, I think that quick, cheap content works for so many brands and individuals—so many people. I’m big on just turning the camera on yourself and just ‘flip-caming’ it out.”
Vaynerchuk’s mantra of ‘if you listen, they will come’ seems to be working for him – VaynerMedia works with some of the world’s biggest brands – Campbell Soup Co., PepsiCo, the NY Jets and Green Mountain Coffee, and winelibrary’s 100K visitors per day seems to suggest there maybe method in his madness.