I had the opportunity to hear Gary Vaynerchuk yesterday, at a Drucker Business Forum event.
Vaynerchuck is a social media expert, entrepreneur, and bestselling author of Crush It! – Why Now Is The Time To Cash In On Your Passion, and The Thank You Economy. He is a regular speaker at events such as the TED conference and SXSW and consults on social media with companies like Johnson & Johnson, Disney, Pepsi, and Google.
He is best known for building a huge online wine business with his irreverent WineLibraryTV video blog and extensive use of Web 2.0 technologies. Gary is in the top 100 of people followed on Twitter. He is funny, intense, competitive, and has a ridiculous work ethic.
In The Thank You Economy he passionately advocates for the humanization of business by strengthening authentic relationships with customers using Web 2.0 tools and old-fashioned generosity and consideration.
Building strong relationships with customers is a long-term play. Established businesses, particularly public companies, resist investing in this kind of culture shift because they are focused on short-term profits and have difficulty computing the ROI on Web 2.0 engagement.
Vaynerchuk insists that this is the future of business and if companies don’t start caring about their customers and employees they will not survive.
As passionate as this guy is about people, his focus is on making money. He believes that building generous and sincere long-term relationships is the key to success, not because he is Mother Teresa, but because he is driven to compete and create wealth. Many people dabble in social media, but they are not really sure what they are doing or why. After some experimentation they give up. Without a clear business model and a solid understanding of your potential market, tools like Twitter seem scattered and decentralized compared to old-school top down marketing channels like television, print media and radio.
People have a tendency to use social media as a ‘push’ PR broadcast channel, which it is not. I see this all the time with musicians advertising gigs and their latest accomplishments on Twitter and Facebook. This amounts to random electronic direct mail. When I see this kind of communication I immediately tune out.
Twitter and related tools are like a giant cocktail party. This is a medium for listening and conversation. How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t get Twitter. Why do I care what so and so had for breakfast?” People are discussing their passions online. Facebook, Twitter, and mobile phones have become the new barber shop. Listen and learn. We are instinctively afraid to engage with strangers, but stepping into that conversation opens a new door.
The bottom line for business is this: Customers are talking about you every day, whether you like it or not, the good, the bad, and the ugly. You have the opportunity to join that conversation and build genuine, caring relationships. Vaynerchuk believes that unless businesses do just that they will be run over by the empowered consumer and the competition. I think he is probably right..