I met Gary Vaynerchuk briefly in Austin Texas last week. We’ve got a friend in common, so I said hi, and he gave me a copy of his book. He’s not a big guy, and he doesn’t have a loud voice. You probably wouldn’t notice him if he walked into a room.
On stage though, speaking to a Boeing 747-sized ballroom at interactive conference South By South West, he somehow grew bigger. And louder. And more mobile. And a lot swearier. (I was impressed. I’ve now seen someone who swears more on stage than I do.)
He had fire in his belly, Gary did, and I began to get a hint as he paced up and down the stage, pulling Bono moves to get the crowd to clap louder, why this New York wine store owner has become one of the best known social media personalities on the planet. His Wine Library TV online video channel receives up to 90,000 views an episode. On Twitter, he has more than 850,000 followers: most of them interested in wine, but a growing chunk wanting to know what he says about social media. And his first book, Crush It, hit Number 2 on the New York Times Best Seller List.
I was pretty buzzed leaving the room. Gary’s take on content calendars (“fuck them,” or words to that effect) struck a chord, and when I shared it on LinkedIn it set off a pretty interesting discussion. So I was excited to get my hands on one of the first copies of The Thank You Economy.
The big idea at the heart of The Thank You Economy is that as consumers now have the power of mass communication at their fingertips, or in their pockets, companies need to return to the small-town customer service ethic our grandparents grew up with. While social media gives people the power to spread the word – good or bad – about your company, it also gives you the power to hear and take part in conversations you’d never have known about 10 years ago.
I like that thinking, and it ties in well with how local businesses that have found success through social – from Telecom to Giapo – treat their customers.
Thing is, every chapter I read after the first left me a little less amped, until by the end I was flicking pages like I was looking for the next photo spread in Playboy. (There were some tantalising glossy colour pages at the end, but they turned out to be the crowd-sourced runners up for the book’s cover design. If you ever need an illustration of why professional designers are worth the money, they’re it.)
Part of the letdown, I think, is that there’s not a lot of meat in the book. Maybe it’s a New York thing, but Gary seems never to be able to tell you the time without explaining how the watch was made. Then telling you where the watchmaker came from. And why the watchmaker’s an idiot for not being on Facebook.
Another part is the chest-beating tone of the whole thing. (“I’m probably an All Star player right now, but at Wine Library I was a Hall of Famer.”) Maybe it’s my kiwi reticence, but I’m pretty sure no one can really claim to have all the answers in social media. It’s too new. It’s a work in progress. We can all learn from each other.
That said, a lot of the content in the book I agree with. (I have to – a lot of it, especially around the impact of organisational culture on social media, and vice-versa, is in line with what I wrote in my own book last year.) Vaynerchuk serves up some nice insights on overcoming objections to social media too, and most of his case studies you won’t have read about anywhere else. That’s refreshing.
But I think what this is, is a book too far, and possibly a book too soon. The business publishing industry needed a bestseller on social media and customer service and they’ve probably got one. But did Vaynerchuk have enough new to say to fill a book? I’m not sure.
Yeah, there’s some interesting and true stuff in there, but for anyone already working in or with social media there aren’t many surprises. Maybe its real value will be as a primer for old school CEOs, marketers and anyone else who still needs convincing that social isn’t going away. So if that’s what you’re looking for, The Thank You Economy might be it.
[Image Credit: Dailysense]