Gary Vaynerchuk: Insights from a Successful Web Entrepreneur

If you didn’t attend the July 28 NY Video Meetup, I recommend watching the following James Lipton-style interview that group founder Yaron Samid conducted with Gary Vaynerchuk.

A key discussion topic:  What can content producers learn from the 34-year-old Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV, a daily video blog about wine that he started in February 2006 and which now enjoys more than 90,000 daily viewers?

In 1997, before the emergence of such social networking platforms as Twitter and Facebook, Vaynerchuk used the web to rebrand his father’s wine business.  With the launch of Wine Library, a retail site, he increased the company’s annual revenue from $4 million to $60 million as of 2008.  Success begat success for Vaynerchuk, with the release of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Crush It! Why Now is the Time to Cash in on your Passion, in 2009, numerous national television appearances including Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and the co-founding with his brother AJ of VaynerMedia, a boutique agency that works with personal brands, consumer brands, and startups. He is also an angel investor in various startups.

“There’s no overnight success,” Vaynerchuk told the NY Video audience, which consisted of about 200 video producers, entrepreneurs and other industry professionals.  Building an audience is a “marathon,” in which expertise is “massively important” and the traditional concept that ‘content is king’ is “really a big deal.”

He also said that content providers really need to care about their audience, taking the time to respond to each inquiry, including emails.  “If anyone follows you or watches you, you should be grateful.  It’s not the size but the emotion” of the following that matters.  Vaynerchuk said the Twitter phenomenon has hurt because, “it’s created a culture about numbers.  How many of those (followers) really care, at least from a business standpoint.  To get them to really care, you must care about them first.”

Vaynerchuk said online entrepreneurs should be focusing on the revenue-generating potential of mobile.  He foresees possibly developing a Wine Library smartphone application that would include a barcode scanner that enables shoppers in the store to see if his show has reviewed a particular wine or to determine whether a store has a recommended wine in stock.  He also envisions each Wine Library TV episode ending with shopping list.

Oh, and he made this one prediction: Facebook Connect is going to win search over Google. He said people would prefer getting a friend’s recommendations than some anonymous opinion positioned through SEO.  “Context of relationship is really powerful,” Vaynerchuk said.

If you’re interested in developing a following for original web content, I highly recommend listening to Vaynerchuk’s entertaining and insightful discussion.

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