Friday, March 13, 2009

Social Networking for Small Business

Here is an article from The New York Times on Twitter and Blogging.

Be It Twittering or Blogging, It’s All About Marketing
New York Times
March 11, 2009

Passionate New York Jets fan. Keen Knicks fan. Spends hours a day on the social networking sites Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Imbued of an entrepreneurial spirit — he even dreams of owning the Jets someday. Gary Vaynerchuk may sound like an all-American boy, but at 33 he is a successful, grown-up businessman who has put his enthusiasms — and his penchant for publicity — to work in achieving 15-fold sales growth in his family's wine business in the last decade, to $60 million. He rebranded the shop, which was founded by his father, Sasha Vaynerchuk, a Russian immigrant, in Springfield, N.J., as the Wine Library and began online sales in 1997, when he was still in college. Since then he has steadily advanced his Internet-based marketing skills. His sites are, where his daily webcast, "The Thunder Show," has won a wide following, and Last December, seeking to enhance sales, he offered free shipping and promoted it three ways. As a result, he said, a direct marketing mailing cost $15,000 and brought in 200 new customers; a billboard ad cost $7,500 and won 300 new customers; and tweeting the promotion on Twitter attracted 1,800 new customers. No wonder he loves the online approach and is in demand as a consultant by businesses as large as Disney and as small as neighborhood hardware stores. Mr. Vaynerchuk answered questions on how to connect with consumers, especially on how to harness the free resources of the Web.

Q.-What type of business person can benefit from Internet-based promotion?

A.-Every type. You just have to be you. Social networking means virtual handshaking, working the room. You connect with people instead of giving presentations. I work countless 18-hour days, answer 1,000 e-mails a day. People feel the authenticity. It's a very different, very transparent game now.

Q.-That sounds like President Obama's campaign.

A.-Exactly. I had thought Hillary would win, but the minute I saw him on social media, I said, "He's going to win."

Q.-You and the president have very distinctive, outgoing personalities. Suppose a business owner is shy, terrified of speaking into a camera?

A.-I got very lucky in the DNA lottery, but content is king. The introvert can write a blog, offering expertise and making a personal connection with the customer. Charisma or an over-the-top personality wouldn't mean anything in the wine business if I didn't know a zinfandel from a Chardonnay.

Q.-By the way, what is "thunder" in the wine business? That's a word you use a lot.

A.-My buddies and I used "thunder" in New Jersey when we were 12 or 13: you made a basket or were good at Nintendo. Thunder! One day it just slipped out, and people loved it. I got a lot of e-mails. So I've used it ever since. A great wine. Thunder! I'm a very feel-driven guy.

Q.-Suppose our shy business person is older, doesn't know anything about the Internet. Should she hire a consultant?

A.-Ask your niece, nephew or grandkids to show you how to use it. Everyone under 25 walks down the street looking at their iPhone or BlackBerry. They don't look at store windows. So the kids in the family can help you. I consulted with a 72-year-old pizza guy. You have to make a genuine connection with the customers. Say 55-year-old Sally at the hardware store thinks social networking is not her real job. She has to stand at the register and take care of reordering goods. She can have someone do that, but she can't cut out her connection with the customers.

Q.-What sort of equipment will the business owner need? Isn't that a big investment?

A.-No. A $100 video camera is fine. People overthink the quality of the mike, the camera, the lighting. What matters is the heart and soul you put into it. I have a simple camera and no special lighting. Mott, my friend and employee, shoots "The Thunder Show" for me. I love the interaction. We don't use a script or edit it. You could do it yourself with a simple webcam.

Q.-Suppose someone does it poorly. What is the downside?

A.-The downside is the time you put into it. It takes time to do the video or blog, and time to answer the e-mails. If you do it poorly, and you get only one response, that is better than zero, which you would have gotten without it. It takes work, hustle and patience, too. I started my show in 2006, and it took 18 months before it began paying off.

Q.-So business owners should expect to wait that long for real results?

Not today. Social networking is exploding. Facebook had 12 million users in December 2006. Now it has 175 million. You just have to be you. Get in the trenches and do it. On my Web site,, I have 50 videos that will give you an absolute blueprint for what to do. I turn down 90 percent of the requests I get to speak or consult. I have a business to run, too, and I want to see my wife.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post. Gary is doing his thing! Truly inspiring. The internet has leveled the marketing field. We're now able to play with the BIG boys...Good stuff!