Gary Vaynerchuk: Lessons in Video Blogging, Conflicts, and Social Media Marketing

Gary V.I was playing with Pownce and Twitter over the weekend, and through various clicks on friends of friends ended up finding Gary Vaynerchuk -- a guy who "drinks wine and tells people what it tastes like" -- which led me to Wine Library TV. I expected a polite video about some nice chardonnay, but instead was smacked by the high-volume "VAY-NER-CHUK" opening Gary uses on his daily 15 minute wine review show. Gary was recently featured in the article Totally Uncorked in Time Magazine. A telling point:
"I can't write, so I missed the whole blog thing, and I was pissed," he says. So when he saw Andy Samberg's Saturday Night Live video Lazy Sunday explode on YouTube, he got himself a video camera and started winelibrarytv.com.
Video Blogging Gary's show shows how much video is changing the way people make and share content online. Here's a guy who would never write a blog, but can sit down for 15 minutes straight with no cuts, no edits, and pull off an entertaining show that's got something new every time. He leverages the medium well, too. He knows his web page layout, and points viewers to key spots where they can "friend him up" or click on a link he mentions lower on the page. Expect to see more and more people who a couple of years ago might have launched a traditional text blog going the video route. Players like veotag, which includes a clickable table of contents and other text content, and the wide-format viddler, which allows time-specific tagging and comments, makes the viewing experience significantly better. Throw in the fact that search engines can pick up this meta content (not true of the video itself) and the video model gets even more attractive to content producers, because the primary method for attracting an audience (search engines) is covered. Conflicts The Time piece says:
Only on the Web could Vaynerchuk review wine ... because he's trying to sell wine on the very same website where he's rating it--which, despite his deep knowledge and spot-on nose, reduces his trustworthiness. But, Vaynerchuk says, what people seek from him isn't individual reviews but lessons in how to enjoy wine.
It's true, the whole show spawned out of Gary's wine shop, and he's a life-long wine salesman. But would he really score a bad wine higher just to sell a few extra cases? He puts his reputation on the line (and in a permanent archive) every time he voices his opinion on the show. As soon as he hocks wine without his audience's best interests in mind, his reputation will be gone along with his audience -- and both are far more valuable than any one-time up-sell gains. I'm all for journalistic integrity and I think the debate about conflicts with bloggers (read: not journalists) is an important and evolving topic. I think the transparency of Gary's opinions, relationships, and conversations with the community go a long way to showing how it can work. Gary knows a lot about wine because he sells it for a living. As he's sharing his expertise, why not create a seamless shopping experience for me? I think the process should be even more integrated than what he has setup now. In fact, I think a see-it-buy-it process should be plugged into all online content (text and video). Done unobtrusively, it only enhances the user experience. Integrate it behind the scenes with affiliate programs (or direct sales) and you'll inspire a lot more great content to be generated. Who wouldn't want that? Social Media Marketing I caught Gary on a good weekend. On his 7/19 episode he went a bit heavy on the "friend me up" routine, asking viewers to connect with him on corkd, facebook, myspace, etc. They let him know their feelings in the comments, and he responded in a multi-URL video scavenger hunt that started with garyissorry.com. He isn't really sorry, of course, and at waitgaryismad.com he rants about his audience not appreciating his free content and late-night email responses. Fair enough, but it's the whydoesgarysendmetosomanyplaces.com video that offers some lessons on the latest marketing techniques. He calls it "spreading the thunder." An example: on a recent trip to San Francisco he twittered about meeting him at a wine bar, which sparked a multi-hour exchange with some of his "Vayniacs" in person. No press release, no lead time, no event planning. A 5 second microblog post online leading to a 2+ hour meeting offline with people Gary wanted to meet. For more on his thought process, watch for yourself:

Two points of emphasis are spot on:
  1. It's about people. He loves making connections, and he's using the latest tools of the trade to help him do it better.
  2. It's all up to the audience. He's not telling anyone to do anything. He's encouraging and engaging people. How they take it is up to them.
Social media marketing isn't about manipulation, and going into it with a business-minded strategy doesn't make it so. It's about engaging communities and contributing value to make them better. Play a part. Gary was already providing value with his show, and he's been savvy enough to jump on all (and I mean all) the social networks and community platforms to spread his message. Will Gary's show grow because of it, or will his shameless self promotion be too much for his growing audience to bear? Gary listens to his audience and reacts, and even if he doesn't always agree at least he gives them free stuff. But as he'd probably tell you, it's all an experiment these days, which is what makes it so interesting. Each step we take seems to more closely connect and intermingle content generators with content consumers. The result is that success or failure is more about the quality of the actual product (in this case Gary), and less about all the fluff around it. That's how it should be anyway, right?

Brian is Viget's co-founder and CEO. He does everything from advising our clients to building our conference tables with his bare hands in our Falls Church, VA, HQ.

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