A Tale of Two Gurus ...


Yes, it’s Monday, and it’s time for another book feature. Usually I get to these hot on the heels of having read them, however this one’s been sitting around for a month since I finished reading it and posted my review.  The reasons for this will be dealt with later, but I first want to talk about the book. Gary Vaynerchuk‘s Crush It! (subtitled “Why Now Is The Time To Cash In On Your Passion”) has been, of all the “personal branding” and “social media” books that I’ve read, the one that has most “spoken to me”.

Unlike many of the books that I’ve discussed here, this isn’t a dystopian projection of a “job-less” future, nor some white paper on becoming a 20-something Übermensch, or a philosophical treatise on our culture, but a look at how one guy was able to take the hand that he was dealt, and the tools of Social Media, and create something massive out of it.

The tone of Crush It! is very conversational, and this appears to be due to Vaynerchuk’s preference of speech to text.  One of the reasons he’s been so successful is that he’s able to fire up a video cam and just go, not needing scripting, not doing “takes”, just riffing on a subject.  Using this, he’s built up a huge audience, many of whom have become customers of his wine business.

Vaynerchuk discusses a lot more of the “why” of  doing Social Media than most of the other books, but he also provides a fairly systematic walk-through of the how, without being particularly doctrinal about the details (he discusses finding one’s voice, be that in text, audio, or video).  If one wanted a great “first exposure” to Social Media, Crush It! would be my current recommendation.  As many of the books covered here have indicated, the future of employment is likely to be about personal brands and selling one’s services as a contractor, and this book at least makes that sound fun!  More details, of course, over in my review.  So, on to the interview (behind the cut) …

Or not.

I have spent a month trying to get my 8 little questions answered, to no avail.  I initially e-mailed Gary, which was intercepted by “his people” who had assured me that “by the end of the week” they’d have something back to me.  But weeks went by (you may recall my excusing not having a review up a few weeks in a row … well, that was from my “holding space” for this) and they stopped responding to my e-mails.  I was kvetching about this on Twitter one day and Gary noticed his @ being discussed and we had an interesting exchange in which he claimed that he couldn’t possibly write that much text (16-24 sentences?), although in our back-and-forth he very likely had generated as many characters as he would have had to in answering my questions!  He left it that he might be able to spare me “5 minutes on the phone in 2-3 weeks”.  As a final level of frustration, even my attempts to contact his publisher for this went unanswered … leading me to give up on having an interview, and replacing it with what you’re currently reading!


This brings me to the title of this post, and a bit of a shift away from the job search and into some philosophical meanderings through the realities of fame, notoriety, and community.  The “two gurus” of the title are Vaynerchuk and Chris Brogan (whose Trust Agents was featured in this space a couple of weeks back).  Both of these gentlemen are huge in the Social Media sphere, and have built very successful businesses via these efforts.  Vaynerchuk took his parents’ moderately successful $4,000,000/yr liquor business into a $60,000,000/yr monster, largely via his off-the-cuff videos about various wines.  Brogan recently revealed what he charges companies to tap his expertise, which runs as much as $22,000/day.  Why wouldn’t either of these guys see somebody like me trying to get an e-mail interview as anything other than an insect to be flicked aside?

However, Chris Brogan very graciously made the time, jotting down his answers to my questions while on a plane between high-powered meetings, and shooting it right back to me when he got back on the ground.  Vaynerchuk … well, that’s why I’m writing this.  Both of these “Gurus” encourage folks to get in touch with them, but there are only so many minutes in a week, and they both have long since passed the threshold of being able to realistically interact with everybody who wants a piece of their time.  Within the world of Social Media, much like with TV, it’s easy to delude oneself that one knows the “famous” folks, while the reality is often that you are no where near “on their radar”.  Brogan wrestles with this in his book, as his advocacy of “building trust” involves a level of transparency that must be quite difficult to maintain. It is very much to his credit that he makes the efforts that he does to forge relationships with other users of Twitter, etc.

In Vaynerchuk’s defense, there may be a question of “scale” coming into play. Chris Brogan’s @chrisbrogan Twitter account has 126,855 “followers” while Gary Vaynerchuk’s @garyvee has 848,254 … more than six times as many.  Would Brogan have been able to block out the minutes it took to respond to me if 6-7 times the number of things were tugging at his schedule’s sleeves?  If these numbers seem vague, let me put some others out there to sort of “frame” them … popular Chicago (and TV) chef Rick Bayless, a very active Twitterer, has only 35,332 “followers” of his @Rick_Bayless account, while the Twitter account for Chelsea Handler’s “Chelsea Lately” show, @chelsealately has a whopping 2,026,609 (and my own @BTRIPP limps in with a mere 573).

The core take-away from all this is to reiterate that, as much as I advocate (and use) Twitter and other Social Media platforms in the job search, it’s about building relationships and not just about volume … unless people know you, there’s very little incentive for them to be useful to you (unless they take Brogan’s “be useful” credo to heart).  Coming at people “cold” is likely to be perceived as either fawning or spam, and neither of those contexts is likely to produce the results for which you’re hoping!

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