Gary Vaynerchuk is co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia, a brand consulting agency with a focus on social media. The Makegood recently spoke with Gary about trends in social media, his success as an entrepreneur, and his new book ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.’
The Makegood: What inspired you to found VaynerMedia and how did you get started?
A magical combination of a few things led to it.
1. My brother AJ and I have been doing different things together since he was 12 years old. He was graduating from college, and we knew that we wanted to be in business together, but that AJ didn’t have a heart in the wine business.
2. Also, the influence of my father in law, who was very successful in the corporate world. He had a big career as a top executive of Gillette and we had many conversations on holidays and vacations. Our conversations were about why Fortune 500 companies were doing the things they were doing, why they were acting so slow to non-existent, and what was going on in social media in 2009.
3. I started writing books, speaking at conferences, and having a lot of brands reaching out to me asking me to come in to speak or do a day of consulting. That led to the fact that I didn’t necessarily want my brother to be one of those kids that raised a lot of money in a startup idea, but it seemed to be the best opportunity. And we started looking around. I didn’t know about the B2C world, but it seemed to be that everybody was just completely unaware and not understanding of what was about to happen. So the opportunity seemed right.
We started in 2009, but until September of 2011, we only had 35 employees. Because at some level we were carrying a lot of the wine business, wine videos, putting a lot of effort in my books and speaking career and angle investing. And it was really quite incredible what my brother was able to do, straight out of school with no experience. I had a lot to do with new business and a lot with retention and structure and operations. By August 2011 I thought these big holding companies and agencies still don’t get it, so I got involved. From September 2011 until now there was a real growth. And we are moving the first week of May into a new building due to our growth.
The Makegood: What’s the #1 reason why companies are working with you?
I think for a number of reasons. 20 years of success from me personally has a lot to do with that. I think it’s our practical plan of business opportunity and our knowledge on how to story tell on the new platforms. I think that we have as much DNA as McKinsey or R/GA. I think that over the last 12-18 month a lot of it has to do with the fact that many people travel in the corporate world, they go to new brands and all of the sudden, they have to make decisions, and they have to pick the agencies or partner they want to work with, not necessarily the one they are forced to work with because of the politics. And the people we work with give us more opportunities.
A lot of it has to do with the right hires, for example Kelly McCarthy came over. Also it’s a lack of competition. I’m laughing and watching the smaller and bigger agencies, just starting these always on, 24/7 newsroom divisions. We’ve been that since 2009. I think people are just starting to get it a little bit more.
The Makegood: Where do you see yourself getting at in the next year? Is your growth going to continue at the rate we’ve seen so far?
We are at a stage where it has never been more intense and we’ve been very selective. I think for a lot of people that have worked in other places, they are very attracted to see how we notify prospective clients and opportunities. I think that the next year will be to grow some, but at some level we really want to over deliver what we’ve already done. I’m an authentic player so we are going to grow. We don’t want to worry so much and a lot of the next year is going to be to put that into motion.
The Makegood: You have nearly 1,000,000 Twitter followers. Has that been all organic or did you do promoted accounts and tweets?
Early on I was part of Twitter ‘suggested using list’, which amplified my reach. But before they had that, and before celebrities came on in 2007, I was one of the 25 most followed people. I think I’m doing it the right way. Much of my thesis on how I fill my brand has been more laid out of how we’ve gone and navigated for our clients. I built my own brand and now I’m doing it for companies.
For me it has always been Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and being a wine video blogger, and one personality that actually has a television show, is a lot harder than the brands that I work with. It’s easier for them with the dollars they have to spend and their overall brand awareness. It has been easy to navigate through those waters. There are a lot of people, PR agencies, and creative shops that are trying to provide social strategies that have never executed within social.
In my career, I sold hundreds of millions of dollars in product in a company in a decade. And I think it has a lot to do with the value we bring to our clients. I’m not here to sell them our next technology; I’m here to sell stuff.
The Makegood: You’ve got a new book coming out in November in which you will be describing how to tell stories and the new rules around it. Can you provide us with a preview?
My biggest goal is to make it the bible for content sharing in real time in 100 pages of thesis overview of Internet platforms. Hundreds of case studies including individual Tweets, Facebook updates, and Tumblr posts, and I’ll describe why a brand does Super Bowl posts on brand and on voice. I was posting at 9 AM in the morning on the day of the Super Bowl, showing people how to do it, and I will be showing people how to use it. I want to make this book a real commodity and entertaining content.
It will be a book with specific examples on what people doing right and wrong. Every brand, agency, entrepreneur, and celebrity in the world should have this book as a guiding light to figure out where the world is going from a content perspective.
The Makegood: What is working and what is not working in Mobile Advertising?
What’s not working is disruptive advertising. Not all impressions are equal. Just because you are delivering impressions, say with banner ads in my mobile device. We have to understand the native nature, the context, and the nuances on the platforms. The screen on the mobile device is very small. If marketers take over my screen with the banner ads on my mobile device, they are giving me no room to do something else, not like on a banner on the right side on a website. Mobile is worse and even more disruptive, so as much as I am a big fan of native ads because they are integrated and not like other ads that are completely in the way and have no value to you. In general, understanding who reads this article. We have to create value, and that working media is great, but if we don’t start understanding our content better, we are going to be left behind. And most of all, interruptive ads that are bringing no value to others, then people have to exit-out to move on. This is really not smart marketing.
The Makegood: Thanks, Gary.