In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuck. His story hits so many of the right notes. Immigrant kid who starts with nothing and builds huge success, first in his own childhood entrepreneurial pursuits, then his family’s business, then his own big-time start-ups. Young guy knocking it out of the park and making bank in a way I never would have thought possible by someone only 2 years older than I am. Brash, bold, ambitious, with the absolutely massive (and in his case, believable) dream of buying the New York Jets. Social media savant who instinctively sees what’s next and makes the most of every opportunity, playing to his strengths to maximize every opportunity. Genuinely decent human being who loves his family and friends, cares about his customers, and in general (in his words) just gives a crap.
I am not now, and have never been, the sort of person who is extremely impressed by celebrity of any stripe. I have no pantheon of heroes. I’m just not wired to adore and emulate others, when I can make my own way and blaze my own trails. But something about Vaynerchuck just impresses the hell out of me. He makes me want to dig deeper, work harder, and accomplish more.
Gary has written two books: Crush It! and The Thank You Economy. I own both, and I’ve read the first; the second is still on my to-read list. But I know that The Thank You Economy is about how social media is changing business; how the interaction between brands and customers must be humanized, made personal. Connections made. Relationships built. Hard selling is not an option. There’s a way to do business in this environment, and a way not to. And this is how you don’t:
This isn’t just grandstanding, though. This is how Gary rolls. Despite having nearly a million Twitter followers, he’s responded to my tweets several times. He does this constantly. He interacts with customers, followers, fans, you name it. Sometimes I look at his Twitter stream and just scratch my head, trying to figure out how he finds the time. (I’m pretty sure he sleeps about 3 hours a night.)
One afternoon last week, I clicked over to Tweetdeck just in time to see this pop up:
Being a big-time cheese fan (possibly even a snob) I couldn’t pass this up. Within about 3 seconds, I had responded:
Before 5 minutes was out, Gary had responded to roughly half a dozen people telling them to email him their address so he could send it out. I was not on that list, despite my trigger finger on the tweet button.
Curious, I pushed my luck. I emailed him:
You didn’t respond to me on Twitter about the cheese, despite my dreams of delicious aged dairy, but just in case you realize that you meant to ; ) :[My Address Here]
Either way, love what you’re doing. I’m a huge fan. You’re an enormous inspiration, and I don’t say that lightly.
And as far as I knew, that was the end of it. There was no way he could send something to all the likely respondents, so I let it go. Forgot about it entirely, in fact.
And then today, I got a package delivered to my house, It was from some place called Gourmet Library in New Jersey:
But the cheese isn’t the most significant thing. It’s the interaction. It’s the time spent. It’s the relationship building. Gary Vaynerchuck is a unique businessman with a personal approach. An approach that builds good will. Because of his approach, an the fact that it made me feel good about dealing with him, I’m voluntarily acting as a brand ambassador. And I’ll continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
He probably spent all of ten minutes requesting interest, forwarding addresses to one of his employees for fulfillment, and typing up the contents of his little note. Ten minutes. What did he get out of it?
Well, I’ve spent roughly an hour writing up this post, not to mention taking pictures to tell the story. I’ll post it, tweet it, share it. I’ve liked Gourmet Library on Facebook and followed them on Twitter. I’ll reach out to my network of friends, family, and followers and let them know that Gary V. is a guy they should pay attention to, buy products from, and interact with.
What appears on first glance to have been just a flat-out giveaway to gain interest in a new brand has actually become an exchange between two people who each have something to offer the other. What’s the ROI on that? Who knows? How do you measure good will, the trickle down effect of a sphere of influence, or the impact of making an impression on a fan/customer?
I suspect that those of us navigating the social web for business will continue to try to figure that out.
In the mean time, I’m going to eat some delicious cheese. Thanks Gary!