Gary Vaynerchuk is a 33-year-old entrepreneur whose dual identity as both business guru and wine guy has made him known as the "Social Media Sommelier." He's a dynamic speaker and passionate about everything he does. It's almost enough to forgive the fact he's a Jets fan.
Rich: I'm very excited you've got your first book coming out—Crush It!— on October 13. It's about how to create a career around what you're passionate about.
Obviously, the economy is not great. Some people might think this is a pipe dream. What are your thoughts on that?
Gary: I'm not really interested in convincing. I think my arguments and my thoughts are compelling. I know what it's about. I'm not looking to do something that's not real.
Anybody I know that's in the Internet space or social media space that really knows what they're doing is up 35%, 50%, or 80% in ad revenue, things like that.
The economy is bad for traditional places. It's never a bad time to build a great business, right?
I love this time. I think that this is where the real players step up and win. I feel that if you come from a place of passion, you're going to love the process. The results become almost secondary.
Clearly you need to pay rent, take care of your family and things of that nature, but I think people need to start wrapping their head around how much opportunity there is right now.
Rich: You talk a lot about passion. Do you think that passion is something that you can develop over time or is it just something that's innate in that some people have it and some people don't?
Gary: I think everybody has it. I think the innate thing is that some people see it and others don't. What I'm good at is communicating and trying to force people to see it and understand it. That's what I'm passionate about.
Rich: What happens if you're passionate about something that's kind of unlikely or odd or just a very narrow niche? How do you turn that into a business that's going to help you make a living?
Gary: Mixed martial arts was a small niche seven years ago. If you came out and owned that space, you'd probably be sitting as a content provider and be in the half million or million dollar a year business right now.
My thing is to stick to your passion. I don't understand how you can do something you don't love. If you love it and you're only making $40K and you were making $75K before, figure out how to subsidize the other $35K. Get a second job, a lightweight $35,000 a year job that may be at McDonalds.
Give as much time to what you love the most. You can grow with it. You will be bigger than you could ever imagine if you do the thing you love the most. It's just the way it is. It's so frigging obvious.
Rich: I had actually never heard you speak until I heard you do one of the opening presentations for the Social Media Success Summit and I was just really blown away.
You obviously have a very natural innate ability to attract people to your passion. But I know a lot of people who just don't seem to be able to do something like that. What tips can you give people who might have a hard time attracting a crowd?
Gary: I attract a crowd, not because I'm an extrovert or I'm over the top or I'm oozing with charisma. It's because I care.
I promise you that if you break down the people that you know that are in the content game right now and they aren't building an audience, they're spending more time reading about how to do it, trying to figure out how to do it, working on the content and are not putting in the 15 hours a day into the community. I promise you. I've never seen anybody put in a crap load of effort and time into their community and not grow. Never.
Rich: That actually brings up another question because I see a lot of people, especially lately on Twitter it seems, and I'm not sure if they're people or bots some of the times, but they seem to be jumping into social media with the idea that it's some sort of get rich-quick-scheme, that it's easy money and it doesn't take a whole lot of work.
I know you have a strong opinion on this. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Gary: Yes, there's a bunch of bull crap everywhere. People don't want to work. That's it. There's nothing else to say.
I do not believe that people want to work hard enough and they want to find the quick Twitter, SEO. Anybody who's obsessed with SEO has lost already, period. I believe that firmly.
I just think that people need to think about big pictures. It's a race.
I'm sitting here and I'm thinking about this. People are not running marathons, they're running sprints. They're looking for quick cash. They're obsessed with things like buying AdWords and then converting on an affiliate program quicker and making cash. They're looking for easy outs.
There's only one true way to build a big business and its hard work, differentiating products and really giving a rat's ass about your community.
Rich: I once called Twitter the 'Swiss army knife' of business communications. You had a great quote where you called it a 'caveman's club'.
What do you think social media tools are going to look like in the future and how are they going to evolve?
Gary: I have no idea because that's not what I do. But what I do is when I see them, I use them.
I don't really want to invent a fork. I don't want to invent a baseball bat, but I want to swing that bat better than anybody did. I didn't want to be Louisville Slugger. I want to be Ted Williams and that's what I'm good at. I recognize that. I'm not an inventor. I'm somebody that understands how to use products and tools to accomplish what I want. I know that there are going to be more and more connections and I find that fascinating.
I like that transparency is at an all time high because good people win and that's a game I know I can win.
Rich: It's interesting that you mentioned Ted Williams because I believe you're actually a New York sports fan, aren't you?
Gary: I am, but you've got to respect the sweetest swing. The best hitter, the person that saw it the clearest from all accounts is Ted Williams. It's funny I didn't pick a home run hitter, which I'm going to think about all day now. It's interesting that I didn't pick Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron or what have you.
I'm just a slow-and-steady, singles-and-doubles kind of guy. I just don't want to strike out. It's a step back. I want to get on base. I'm an OBP kind of guy.
Rich: Exactly, small ball.
Gary: That's right.
Rich: You've got a very interesting story to tell, your parents being Russian immigrants and working in liquor store. You also talk about the importance of storytelling. Can you talk to us just for a few minutes about why storytelling is so important?
Gary: Storytelling is the game. It's what we all do. It's why Nike is Nike, it's why Apple is Apple, it's why Walt Disney built Disney World and it's why Vince McMahon makes a billion dollars.
Storytelling is the game. If you're unable to convey your story, consumers will not consume your product whatever that may be, whether it's content or entertainment or food. Whatever it may be, if you're not capable of telling a story, you are not in the game with human beings because that's what they want, that's what they do, that's how they roll and it's the main principle of marketing in our society.
Rich: I also know that you've talked about authenticity. How far can one go to tell their story and still be true to what actually happened? In other words, you're not suggesting that people make up a story, like make up something out of thin air. You're saying you need to be able to tell your own story in a compelling way, right?
Gary: Yes, we're not talking about fiction here. Absolutely, you need to create and invoke emotion around the reality of your product. I'm not looking for people to scam. You've got to tell a story. You've got to connect with people, but around authenticity and transparency, of course, because it's the only game left now in the way that this has all been built.
Rich: Excellent. In the last couple of minutes we have, do you want to tell us a little bit more about Crush It?
Gary: I find it fascinating that a lot of business books that do well are from people who've never made any money in business. It's not that that's wrong because I'm sure that they're intellectually smart and they get it and that's phenomenal.
I just find that I'm excited that I've used these tools and I've made it happen. It's real. It's a very authentic story and I'm excited about that. I just feel like I pulled off a good book and I didn't think I was going to. I'm not kidding. I feel like I was able to articulate what I wanted and I just want people to be happy because it's so damn easy in today's world.
Three years ago, no. Everything I believe in, three years ago, no. That's powerful. That's interesting to me.
I find it completely fascinating, Rich, that everything I believe in, every core principle, was not executable 36 months ago.
Rich: It sounds like you were just born at the right time or you just entered the scene at the right time and that could be part of it.
Gary: It could be. I'd like to think that I'm an explorer and I have my eyes wide open and I would have used different platforms. But the fact that this game is not predicated on cash but on sweat is very attractive to anybody listening to this.
Rich: Where would you suggest people go and check you out and learn a little bit more about what's going on and learn a little bit more about Crush It?
Rich: Gary, thank you very much for your time today. I really appreciate it. I look forward to reading the book when it comes out on October 13.
Gary: I appreciate it, my man. Thanks for your interest.