If you want to be more productive, spend more time on your core work. If you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more. If you want to have a better relationships, hear what the other person says. If you want to use social media, match the message with the medium. This last sentence is the summary of Gary Vaynerchuk’s’ three books, but like the other insipid advice that precedes it, that tells you everything and nothing.
To get Vaynerchuk, I had to get in the spirit of Vaynerchuk. It was this video about “The Most Important Word Ever” that started me on his books, and it was that video that I kept mentally returning to. Like a compass that pointed me north, that reminded me how to get where I was going. Let’s break down each of the books to see what Vaynerchuk says about creating content online. How we can turn the vapidity of “social media marketing” into something more substantive.
Crush It! Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion (Released 2009)
It will be important, especially for readers of this blog to know, that Vaynerchuk doesn’t go into full passion mode. He’s a second-cousin to the philosophy of passion whereas Cal Newport is the patriarch. Vaynerchuk wants you to find your passion not because that’s what you were meant to do, but because you’ve got work to do. He writes that you should enjoy what you’re doing because you will “work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life.”
In Crush It! he tempers people’s expectations in the first few pages to remind people that it is going to take a lot of time, effort and focus to achieve success. The good news to this though is that it doesn’t take a lot of money, just hustle. During this journey you’ll face obstacles, he writes, but these can be guiding for you:
“I’m convinced in fact, that if things had been a little easier for my family in the early days, I never would have gotten to where I am now.”
Ryan Holiday wrote something similar in his book, The Obstacle is the Way, quoting Marcus Aurelius, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” For Vaynerchuk this was the same story.
His obstacle was that people didn’t know much about wine so he had to educate them. Rather than seeing this as a setback, Vaynerchuk saw an opportunity. He could educate them, he could become an expert at selling wine. So he did, growing his family’s liquor store and learning these three things about great content.
- Know your stuff. The only reason Vaynerchuk was able to create Wine Library TV was because he was serving wine. He ran private tastings. He stocked the shelves. He sampled and tasted, swirled, and spit.
- Tell a story. For Vaynerchuk this meant describing wine, but not using the jargon that was popular at the time. He writes that he didn’t speak in “forty-five cent words.”
- Choose the right medium. This will be the focus of his later books, especially Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook but even early on he suggested people recognize the value of different mediums.
This book is more “rah, rah” than his others and parts of it show. In it he reminds people that “your content has nothing to do with your mic.” You don’t need to figure out all the details, just get started. In early 2015 Justin Jackson is doing something similar, trying to launch a project a week. His first one was a podcast where he tells people just to use the recording app on their phone and basic microphone. Just do it.
The rest of Crush It! is encouragement from Vaynerchuk to get started. He writes that “anything is better than zero” and to remember that it’s a long game and “everything is online forever.” If you are looking to get started and need the encouragement, start with this book.
The Thank You Economy (Released 2011)
Crush It! was like a person eating at a nice restaurant and being blown away by it and telling all their friends, tweeting it, and telling people waiting to get in what a great meal it was. The Thank You Economy would be that same person a week later wondering why the meal was so good. What about the ambiance, the food, the staff made it such a great experience?
It’s in this book that Vaynerchuk dives deeper into the social internet, into Web 2.0. He begins the book by rooting it in ideas that have been around forever. It’s not that social media is completely new, it’s just the new transmission. News may have changed from telegram to radio to TV to Twitter but the actual news hasn’t. We still look at the S&P500 and what world leaders are doing. It’s the same for business. Vaynerchuk writes that Web 2.0 is “small-town living moved online as other people eagerly sought out each other’s news.” He’s suggesting that we want to talk to other people, we need to in fact, and we can do that online. Vaynerchuk writes that business owners “need to be a pro at all times.”
The heart of this book is what Vaynerchuk says are the eleven excuses people use to dismiss social media and he makes the case for why we shouldn’t. Among those excuses is that it’s hard to figure out a Return On Investment (ROI). Companies are hesitant to experiment even when hard numbers are involved. Stephen Dubner (from Freakonomics fame) writes that he and his co-author, Steven Levitt, were consulting a company and trying to get them to run a marketing experiment where some cities saw advertisements and some didn’t. The company refused, afraid they would lose their market share if they failed to advertise. That would have been a black and white, check the bottom line experiment and yet they failed to go for it. Imagine the reluctance then with social media which has a limited – but growing – set of metrics. Vaynerchuk writes that even though a way to measure success doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing it.
There are other excuses as well; I don’t have time (what, to talk to your customers?) we’re doing fine without it (so was the turkey right before Thanksgiving dinner), and we tried it, it doesn’t work (for only a few years, this is a long game remember). My parenthetical comments don’t do justice to what Vaynerchuk writes but are merely there to show that he suggests answers to each of these things.
If laying bare the excuses and stripping them down is the heart of the book, part two about how to win is the hands. He gives specific advice about what to do like; start from the top by getting buy in from senior leadership and to take care of your employees. “I care more about my employees than I do my customers” he writes.
There are other good suggestions in this part of the book and the section about marrying traditional and social media feels especially strong. It’s not just about throwing an #awesome #hashtag at the bottom of your print ad, but to do something that will engage the people you want to connect with.
In part three he breaks down what the thank-you economy will look most like, giving specific examples from companies he thinks are doing well. Rather than break them down here, let’s dance to the final part.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook (Released 2013)
In an interview with James Altucher, Gary said that the best compliment he got about this book was that it felt like the first 201, 301, course on social media. It is a beautiful book, full of color and specificity. If the first book, Crush It! was a philosophy about you, and the second, The Thank You Economy, was a philosophy about business, then Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is the book about the details. No more philosophy. He writes:
“No matter who you are or what kind of company or organization you work for, your number-one job is to tell your story to the consumer wherever they are, and preferably at the moment they are deciding to make a purchase.”
He gives the example of hearing a commercial on the radio for a burrito restaurant at 5:15 on a Tuesday. This is what the online world needs to apply to social media. That burrito shop knows people will be in the car and hungry and that’s the time to call them in. Don’t dismiss your business as too high-brow either, Vaynerchuk writes that, “A smart entrepreneur will head over to the platform, see the bikini shots and think, ‘How can I do this better?” Figure out where your customers are, and find out what language they are speaking there. To help you out, Vaynerchuk shares his six rules for outstanding content.
- It’s native. Medium is for articles, Pinterest is for pictures.
- It doesn’t interrupt. You’re there to add to the conversation, not dominate it.
- It doesn’t make demands – often. This is where the book title comes from, it could just as well have been; give, give, give, ask.
- It leverages pop culture. Find the pop culture for your customer’s generation.
- It’s micro.
- It’s consistent and self-aware.
After this introduction, which is a quick summary of the other two books, he gets to work sharing what he learned. There are 150+ pages of summaries of what some brands are doing well and what some aren’t. This review is only that, but there are a few key takeaways about masters and mistakes:
- Make sure you have a logo on your photos. If you’re a brand that has a logo, put it on the corner of each photo. This will not only consistently make your content stand out, but it will also let you omit needless words. Being clear and concise is key and if you can impart something visually with little additional space rather than in words, it matters.
- Have a clear, single call to action. Most often brands mess this up by including a single link or a single link to the wrong place. If you are tweeting out a handbag that’s on sale, make sure your link goes directly to that product page.
- Remember to be human. Going back to the small town analogy Vaynerchuk focused on in The Thank-You Economy, remember that you’re talking with people and you are a person. If you mess up, own it. Speak in real terms, not hashtags.
Jab is the book to get if you want to get inside Vaynerchuk’s head about what exactly you should be doing.
If you want to talk about these books more, let’s connect in the comments or on Twitter. You can find me there as @mikedariano.