The New Yorker and Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuck, host of Wine Library TV, makes his debut as a subject featured in the New Yorker's Talk of the Town

Gary Vaynerchuk has made it big in social media, the news media, and now the cultural media.  This week the New Yorker, of all magazines, published a piece about the wine guy in its Talk of the Town.  In its inimitable tongue-in-cheek manner, as the magazine is prone to do, it bestowed both praise and thinly veiled criticism on the author of Crush It. Though the writer, Tad Friend, did let Gary’s personality shine through, whether his intentions where to show Gary’s good side or poke fun at him is somewhat questionable.

The New Yorker is my favorite magazine and Gary is one of my favorite social phenomena.  So I love the fact that this high-brow cultural periodical profiled him, and that in return he appears totally unintimidated, either by the reporter or the magazine’s readership.  Gary Vee stays true to his passionate, opinionated, intense personality.  “Take me as I am or don’t take me at all,” he seems to say.

While the New Yorker acknowledges Vaynerchuk’s accomplishments it implies that Vaynerchuk isn’t quite as social as he may claim to be, arguing that if we believe in the theory of Dunbar’s number, no one with 45,000 fans or 850,000 followers can actually engage with but a fraction of them. The article cites Gary’s automated video email reply, which substitutes for a real response when you send him a message, along with the amount of time it takes him to actually respond to his community as evidence that what Gary espouses and what he delivers aren’t quite the same.

A relationship with Gary V means an ironclad guarantee that he’ll reply to your e-mail within four months, with at least a “thnx” or a “mwaa!” First, however, you’ll get a bounce-back message that directs you to a brief video. In the video, Gary V, looking sporty in a maroon rugby shirt, thanks everyone: “I don’t want anybody to not recognize how appreciative I am of the volume of e-mails I get.” He names assistants and handlers who can help with your biz-dev or media-op needs. Then he thanks everyone again, and again, and again, six times in all. His passion and sincerity make his eyebrows pop like upside-down Vs—V for Gary V! Branding! Tad Friend

But I think the New Yorker misses the point a little bit. It’s easy to fault the host of “The Thundershow” for not being able to respond in real time to his thousands of followers. And this is not a new argument. Plenty of people have proffered that we can’t really be social in social media once we reach a certain size following.  This is especially true for celebrities (think Oprah, Martha, Ellen) not to mention anyone with hundreds of thousands of fans.

Illustration of Gary V by Tom Bachtell, from the New Yorker, Talk of the Town, June 7

But Gary’s real contribution is something other than his day in and day out engagement. He’s demonstrated it’s possible to build a significant business with social media alone. He’s set a pretty good example in the process. And he’s willingly shared all or much of what he’s learned.

Bypassing traditional media, eschewing paid advertising, he’s proven what one person can achieve by taking things into his own hands.  With a video camera, a folding table, and an understanding that by democratizing wine with a straight forward, unpackaged, no BS approach to content generation he’s built a business and a following while pioneering an approach that’s obviously as valid as any of the models documented in marketing text books or ad agency case studies.

You can do business with Gary. The prices at Wine Library and Gourmet Library are pretty darn good. You can engage with him. But I think the real opportunity is to study what he’s done and how he’s done it, then replicate some of those techniques for yourself, your business or your client’s business. In fact I know people who after one night of hanging with Gary — and listening to his enthusiam for the potential of social media — have upped and quit their jobs to start their own business.

P.S.  You might be interested in a post I wrote about Gary Vaynerchuk and Lee Clow a little over a year ago.  Let me know who you think wins.  Might be fun to see if a year has changed anyone’s opinion.

Illustration by Tom Bachtell, used without permission.  Hope since I’m linking to the New Yorker page featuring the illustration that he won’t mind.

21 comments
Gary vaynerchuk
Gary vaynerchuk

Flattered! Period! Thank u everyone for the super kind words!

Howie G
Howie G

I agree with you Edward. For a one person start up he really has excelled. Everything is scale. Its hard for a big company to have scale in social media. They have to reach 100m's of people at once. Not thousands or millions. But a one person show? If he got 1 in 9 of his fans/followers to give him $10 that's a cool million in revenue.

And what is the bar now for 'being social'? Did the New Yorker get the power to make a new social media bar to be called social? That you have to respond to every single mention, DM, Tweet, email. He didn't set up the automated systems because he was lazy. He set them up because he got overwhelmed LOL.

Ben Kunz
Ben Kunz

Edward, this is one of your best posts. Nicely done.

I am curious about the issue of Dunbar's number and how any of us act when we begin to reach our upper threshold. We all, obviously, have a maximum capacity -- just as I can now commute 60 miles by car if I had to but would never drive 1,000. Social media is the auto engine of our decade, allowing us to increase our human relationship horsepower ... but only by so much.

The sad reality is as we approach our upper network limits, we have to put caps on how many real relationships we can maintain. See Jim Carrey, Bruce Almighty, the God email scene. At some point, we'll just punch in "yes" to all. Or, the more likely choice, we'll add new relationships as old ones fall out the bottom of the mental bucket.
.-= Ben Kunz´s last blog ..Has Apple snared 20% of total mobile ad spending? =-.

Dale Cruse
Dale Cruse

I'm not sure why we hold Gary to a standard we don't hold anyone else to. If you write Oprah a letter, you don't actually expect a response. Same with the President. Gary actually will respond to you , albeit late. I've hung around him personally enough that I'm willing to cut the guy some slack.

And if you REALLY need to get ahold of him ASAP, there's always ways. ;-)
.-= Dale Cruse´s last blog ..Joseph & Curtis Interview Paul O'Neill =-.

Mark Fitzpatrick
Mark Fitzpatrick

Nice writing here Edward. I hadn't yet seen the New Yorker piece.

The other posts sum up Gary. Obviously busier than ever, it's even more challenging for him to reach out to everyone - but he's a straight up baller and won't throw in the towel.

Unlike a character, Gary plays Gary. A smart biz dude with a ton of hustle, a non-stop creative mind, and passion for people....and a great sense of humor. When we created the Crush It music video, he was all about having some fun with it. And as usual, dove in full force.

Wilson Usman - Fun Lifestyle
Wilson Usman - Fun Lifestyle

Yea I like this. You make some interesting points here. I've always appreciate how much passion Gary has for helping others.

captroblee mentioned Personally, I think Gary is genuine, the real thing. TOTALLY agree with you I just hope more businesses start realizing this. I am trying to help a company realize this right now, but they are having a hard time since they are 100 years old.

Well anyway some great people and comments here. I found your blog through Gary's post on Facebook...We live in a small world now! Nice to find you.
.-= Wilson Usman - Fun Lifestyle´s last blog ..Interview with Rob Rammuny: 16 Yr Old Internet Entrepreneur Making Full Time Income =-.

David Siteman Garland
David Siteman Garland

Edward,

Fantastic insights. The best thing about Gary's story is it goes way beyond Gary. There are takeaways for pretty much every hustling entrepreneur. He built an ever-expanding brand based on the principles we all love:
Authenticity
Passion
Being A Human First
Interacting
...and of course selling a product.

More than that, when I interviewed Gary in New Jersey, he is just a genuinely nice guy who really cares. So what if he can't answer every email or tweet? It doesn't mean those rising to the top shouldn't. Gary has paved a path. Now, it is our job to perhaps use a bit of his compass.

Gerald J Daniele
Gerald J Daniele

Of course Gary could never really get back to every single person who follows him BUT he is very approachable and if you give him a reason to get back to you he will. He always does. He definitely respects people who are bluntly honest. In my opinion he sees these people as much needed barometers hidden in a huge haystack of drooling followers who would love to do what he has done. You may be able to pull some very useful tips if you pay attention to what he does but there is only one person with Gary Vaynerchuk's DNA and that, is Gary Vaynerchuk. In return for blunt honesty (good or bad) he gives up some of his own pearls of wisdom. Totally worth the trade. The only guy who can stop him is himself. He's smart, takes matters into his own hands, is very very pro-active, is a born promoter, he's all over whatever is "next" and also finds a way to listen. People see him as someone who never shuts up but the irony is that he's someone who never stops listening. Like him or hate him, you HAVE to respect him for being exactly who he is at all times. He also surrounds himself with people who could be successful business owners in their own right and his brother AJ? Holy crap....I wish there was a way to invest in him cause I'd put every penny I don't have into this guy's future.
.-= Gerald J Daniele´s last blog ..Wazu Commercial =-.

Caleb
Caleb

Great point! Gary's passion is certainly what we derived by seeing him and understanding that sincerity, enthusiasm and love for what you do is eventually what throngs of people in the social media space will appreciate and patronize.

Neil Tolbert
Neil Tolbert

Gary's book Crush It! has inspired me to grab all I can read regarding personal brand and passion. Saying Gary's energy is infectious is an understatement.

Very nice of you to share this. Congrats to Gary for making the New Yorker!

CaptRobLee
CaptRobLee

Ahoy!

You know...Everyone has an opinion, many have more than one. Personally, I think Gary is genuine, the real thing.

Yes, Gary has zillions of followers on Twitter and FaceBook. Yes you get an automated reply when you send Gary an e-mail.

BUT...Gary is very approachable if you chose to make the effort. I'm a regular guy, I made the effort to develop a relationship, dare I suggest a friendship with Gary. I met Gary at a book signing and engaged him in a friendly conversation. He answers my e-mails, often replies to my Tweets. I think Gary is a regular guy that has used his DNA to pursue his passion and has succeeded.

CaptRobLee

Jeremy Caverly
Jeremy Caverly

I'll definitely have to go read the whole piece.

It's funny that you pulled out that section and that Tad Friend used that for some cheek-stretching. In my experience, Gary's responded to any e-mail I've ever sent that warranted a response -- usually within 48-72 hours but sometimes in 20 minutes or less.

I haven't even found a good enough reason to REALLY bother him about a true business opportunity. I'm usually simply sharing resources or otherwise just giving feedback on some of his content.

All it requires is engaging him on the topics he's focused on at any one minute/hour/day. When you use a subject line with terms that he recently mentioned, he'll read it and always send a *real* response.
.-= Jeremy Caverly´s last blog ..JeremyCee: RT @WillieGeist1: Blago's lawyer compares feds' pursuit of Blago to their pursuit of Bin Laden. This trial is gonna be so good! =-.

Luke Thomas
Luke Thomas

I read Gary's book, Crush It, and I decided to test and see if he was really as "social" as he talked about in his book. I sent out and email about about 2 weeks later I received a response. He was right, and his tenacity and enthusiasm about social media was apparent in videos, as well as his book. Keep up the good work Gary!

Andy
Andy

Gary's the real deal. He gave me 5 minutes on AIM and doesn't know me from Adam.
I read Gary's book last weekend after watching him speak in a video from Booksmiths. I had been considering developing a content driven business (several actually) and my wife had loosely been planning this move for the last two years. We own a successful web development company and we really hustle so it was a natural fit to "farm our own land" instead of sharecropping for others.
Gary fired me up BIG TIME. I know I will continue to do web development for at least another year or two, but we have a great business plan and already launched our first site this week. It is all moving so quickly we are drunk on the possibilities.
Thanks Gary! We are going to Crush It!

Web Smith
Web Smith

Excellent article. I was proud to receive that reply email....FOUR months later.

Jeff Janer
Jeff Janer

Couldn't agree with you more that the real opportunity and value that Gary provides is his infectious enthusiasm for following your passion and realizing that - as he puts it - it's not a sprint, it's a marathon.

edward boches
edward boches

I think that there is social in the sense that we genuinely interact, connect, engage and digitally dialog. Then there are the social tools that allow us to touch lots of other people with ideas, inspiration, content we discover or create and share. The latter may be more about giving and sharing and less about engaging. Hopefully the recipient appreciates and benefits the content even if their email or comment never gets a response, or has to wait a long time to get it.

edward boches
edward boches

Ben,
With you on the Dunbar number. I hate to admit it, but I realize that my capacity is like a slider that moves up and down my long list of contacts, dropping some off the top or the bottom. I'll engage with people for a while and then, ooops, I'm absorbed by someone else's interaction and requests. Then I'll notice that missing person in my stream again and realize that it's been a while since we connected. Social media makes it possible to manage more than 160, but for sure we can only have so many real relationships. Note, I distinctly remember the days when I knew everyone who worked at Mullen: their names, their spouses, etc. That was right around 150 people. Now there are a lot of folks I recognize in the halls, but don't really know. Fact of life and relationships.

edward boches
edward boches

I agree. Usually I hear from him within an hour or two on Twitter, though we have connected in person a few times. It's amazing that he can even get back to people within months. I receive 10 percent of the email that he gets and I can't do it.

edward boches
edward boches

That is an awesome story. I bet that if we collected stories from those who have been inspired by Gary and went on to create something it would be a lot thicker than Crush It.

edward boches
edward boches

Jeff:
Gary has an energy that is enviable. He's also smarter than many people realize. His foresight to buy URLs that will be about of the day, his pricing strategies re Gourmet Library, and his belief in making these business successful are truly a new lesson in how to do business. It's the HBR that should be writing about him, not the New Yorker.