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This article was published on November 9, 2009

Gary Vaynerchuk – The Next Web’s Exclusive Interview

Gary Vaynerchuk – The Next Web’s Exclusive Interview
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

gary_vaynerchukI was very lucky to have a piece of Gary Vaynerchuck’s time Friday, and over the course of three cell phone calls, and three Skype conversations was able to pick the mind of @garyvee.

We took questions earlier from readers, and some of those questions were used. A big thanks to @mindofandre, @agencyCG, @jamesmcdonald, and @christianalva for their questions.

The audio from the conversation is embedded below. For those who do not have the 20 minutes, I am going to bullet some of my favorite points from Gary.

From the mind of Gary:

  • Twitter is just going to get bigger, next year look for a doubling or tripling of Twitter traffic.
  • Word of mouth is the best thing in town, and that is why Crush It has done so well. Gary’s ‘vaniacs’ keep his message moving.
  • Crush It was just the start of ten books, Gary really wanted to nail it with this first book.
  • If where you live Facebook and Twitter are tiny, fish in the pond with trout: use whatever tools are popular. Even Orkut, if you have to.
  • Cinderella is the for wine, something to be proud of.
  • People were disappointed that “Trust Agents” did not hit the top ten on the NYT list.
  • “Crush It!” is going to be on the NYT list for three weeks, and is killing the book by Ivanka Trump.
  • Twitter and Facebook need to stay separate, the separation of public/private is too large to overcome.
  • Twitter is going to keep expanding features, and kicking general ass as time moves on.

The audio is posted below, and beneath that is a full transcript of the interview. The audio is a bit poor, so I took the time to type it all out. I apologize for the three calls linked together. Gary and I had a number of technical hiccoughs. There  is an audio volume and quality discrepancy between Gary and myself, as fair warning. I would start the audio, and read along the transcript.

The Gary V Interview – download link.

G: hey
A: Hello?
G: Hey!
A: Hey This is Alex from TheNextWeb.
G: Hey this is Gary, how are you doing dude?
A: Hey Gary, I am doing great, how was your flight?
G: It was fantastic.
A: I’m sure, I’m sure.
G: laughter
A: Well, I wanted to say thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I think that a lot of people that read TNW have been tracking you very carefully over the last few weeks, because of your book mostly, I think.
Um, so we had a bunch of questions from people that just wanted to pick your mind a little bit, if you don’t mind.
G: Not at all, fire away.
A: So, from Twitter user @mindofandre: what would be your top two suggestions for starting the day right, focused, and motivated?
G: to starting your day?
A: yeah, to start your day.
G: That’s a good question, I’ve never heard that. Um, I would say for me it’s kind of, to get pumped that you actually woke up, it’s something that a lot of people don’t do. They tend to take it for granted. But if I don’t get any phone calls from people through the course of the night, when I wake up, that’s a great way to start the day for me.
A: right
G: the other thing is, you don’t have to know what you want to accomplish, but I don’t think that it is great to be [focusing] on how the day is going to end…
A: so have something that you are moving towards?
– cell phone dropped call –
G: hey
A: hey, sorry for all that confusion Gary.
G: no problem
A: so, moving onto our next question then, this comes from @antiquier I believe. He wants to know that if you live in a country where Twitter and Facebook, are, as tools, are not popular at all, what should you do?
G: You should, you know, fish in the ponds that have fish. If that is Bebo, Orkut, or even Hi5, then that is fine. Twitter and Facebook happen to be the play in the US, and in other markets, you know, don’t get romanced by what we are doing here, you have to always be in the trenches where your users are.
By the way, [A: mmhmm] on that note, I think that [people are] overlooking forums and blogs. There is plenty of activity to engage them there. You shouldn’t overlook that.
A: I think definitely, at least whenever I see you I tend to, see you on your blog, on So I think that that is a very fair point, that Facebook has phenomenal reach, but it has almost become so saturated now with excess content that its really hard to see through the noise.
G: I think that the cream always rises to the top, but just that you are the best fisherman, and you can pull the fish out of the toughest pond, where all the other fisherman are, doesn’t necessarily meant that you shouldn’t go to ponds where there is nobody else, you know?
A: No, that’s fair. That makes perfect sense. So, next up, coming from @agencyCG, talking about your book coming out, what was your most impressionable childhood book?
G: Um, laughs, there is this series called “Sweet Pickles,” and they had, you know, animal characters, and that would definitely be it.
A: laughs what was the plot like?
G: You know, it was a series, there were like 40 different characters, [A: oh jeez]. I don’t even really super remember them, but I remember they were called “Sweet Pickles…”
A: Oh, well, whatever floats your boat, if that is what it takes to write “Crush It!” then, you know, more power to the books, right?
– cell phone dropped call –
G: hey.
A: Ok, Gary, let’s just run through this because god knows when we are going to lose our connection again. So, quickly moving along here, @jamesmcdonald wants to know, if you are ever going to come to Scotland, and that is all he wants.
G: Yes.
A: You are going to Scotland, and that is on 2013, April 4th, right?
G: That is correct.
A: I thought so, I will be a little late to tea, but we’ll make it work. @chrisitanalva if you feel good because you have more followers than @god?
G: Do I feel good what?
A: having more twitter followers than @god.
G: Do I have it, or do I feel good about it?
A: Oh, you have more, and do you feel good about it?
G: I feel tremendous about it.
A: Ok, so moving past all of that, “Crush It!” came out, it hit number two on the New York Times bestseller list, number five on the Wall Street Journal, you have been flying all over the nation, I think that you did a day of airport stops only, I think, so how has the reception been so far to the book tour?
G: Um, really, really, awesome. You know, its funny, its less for me about how the reception has been for them, then how its been for me. To get the opportunity to meet so many people that support what I do, has been like huge, and so gratifying, so awesome. I’m in it, Alex, you know, for the people. I like the interactions, [A: mmhmm] and its been very um, very good. The crowds have been big, and the interaction fun. I’ve been staying to the end, and signing everybody’s book, its going really well.
A: Well, I’m really glad to hear it, Chris Brogan wrote Trust Agents, and I think that that was number 15, on the list?
G: Yup!
A: Yeah, and I thought it was going to do better than that. Its gratifying to see your book really nail the charts as it has. You know it gives a lot of credence to the point that people aren’t cheap. That they are still willing to buy stuff, even these internet people that me and you are, the wallets are always there if the product is quality people will still pay for it.
G: I agree, I think that a lot of people were disappointed that Brogan did not make the print version [of the NYT bestsellers list], including myself and so people thought that Crush It would be kinda the same thing. And so, I’ve been happy, to, well, we are all on the same team. I root for Brogan’s book, I root for every book. You know?
A: right.
G: So, I’m happy that “Crush It!” is doing its thing. It’s made the WSJ list for the second week now, and I know that it is going to make the NYT list as 7th, and the following week as 8th, and being in the top ten for three weeks is a really big deal.
A: no, its phenomenal. Now if I remember correctly, this is the first book of a longer book deal you signed, right?
G: laughs yes! Which is probably why I wrote “Crush It!” hard, because can you imagine if it didn’t do well?
A: It would be, well, they paid you a large advance, so I mean, you’re set right?
G: Yeah, I mean, that’s true, but, you know, there are much bigger advances out there. Ivanka Trumps book, which I am beating on the charts handily, she got a million dollar advance, just on one book.
A: Just on one book? That’s a disgrace. They should have given you that money. Well thats my two cents.
G: I agree!
A: so you’ve been doing, I’ve been watching a number of your speeches, being the internet guy that I am, you show up at a number of conferences and things, your SXSW talk was especially good if I recall correctly.
G: Thank you.
A: But you’ve been doing since then Cinderella, Corkd, Wine Library TV, and then book deals, how do you fit all this in? People kept asking me to ask you, how do you keep the energy alive? How do you keep it so intense?
G: *sighs, you know I’m thankful dude, I am thankful for the natural gifts that I was given, as an entrepreneur, and the fact that unfortunately I lost both of my grandparents before I was born, so I have had a very good fun of health in my family, you know everyone, knock on wood, is healthy and, I’m just grateful for the sort of things that life has brought me and I don’t take them for granted, and so you know I have (fresh holds?) to stretch myself, I trust people, I empower people, I train people.
So I understand what it takes to be scalable, and um, I work my face off. I mean, I just landed from Chicago, and its a Friday night, and I am headed to a book signing, in New Jersey.
A: right, and then on the way there, you are talking to me! I mean, you couldn’t fit more stuff in.
G: That’s right! I mean you really couldn’t! It’s probably very unhealthy, I’m definitely going to defrag in 2010, you know? But, I’m still going to hustle. But, this is real intensity right now.
A: well, you just did a day where you went to, what was it, five different airports, right?
G: Six! All within 24 hours.
A: Jesus Christ. How did you do that?
G: laughs I am not quite sure. Now that it is over I am not quite sure myself.
A: Oh man.
G: But it was intense, you know, with a red eye and all. It was hardcore work. (but it’s a scrap by?) and I got to meet some people, it was fun, and it is what it is.
A: Well I think that, just on a personal level, Im kinda envious of your travel schedule, I love to fly. And you were taking seven flights that day, or whatever it was, I was like “damn,” you know. That sounds like a lot of fun to me. And then I realized towards the end of the day that you were still flying and I was eating dinner, and I was like, you know, he can just have it. I’m good. I’ll jus sit around and do nothing.
G: laughs yeah! Exactly.
A: So, quickly, Cinderella is, um, a new website, and its in, um, upscale women, with wine?
G: was it made to appeal to women?
A: What is the point of Cinderella? What is the vision for it?
G: That, originally, the wine came out at midnight, and turned into a pumpkin the following midnight. That is was only 24 hours, of goodness.
A: Oh, so its the of wine?
G: No question, it has a lot of similarities to what Woot has done, and I yeah.
A: Well, thats not a slam at all, I think that woot has one of the best business models ever.
G: No, oh my good, I think Woot is the greatest. I love those guys.
A: I’ve got like three bags of crap stored in my closet. I never use any of the stuff in the bags of crap, but I have them. I don’t know why….
G: Oh (thats what those guys?) I love them, they are amazing.
A: So, quickly, you have been touring a lot, as we said, so you have probably had some time to defrag never, so what is your favorite wine of the last month that you have had. What was the killer bottle?
G: Uh, I had a 1990 Alonso Cornas, [A: ok] that was incredible.
A: Nice, nice. Well this is for TheNextWeb, so we need to keep it as techy as we can, so I have a question for you, this one from me. Twitter grew very very quickly for a six month period. Me and you have both been on for years, so it wasn’t that surprising to us that it finally took off. But for a lot of the new users that have come on, in six months do you think that they will still be around? Or will Twitter level off somewhat and find a more core audience?
G: No, I think that Twitter becomes huge next year. I think that it is a big year for Twitter next year.
A: So, doubling in size, or tripling?
G: I would say that doubling (static), yes.
A: Why?
G: Because of its core use of interaction. We love the speed of twitter. You know, and I dont see any platform that is threatening it.
A: Well, especially now that FriendFeed is gone. Now I never thought that FriendFeed had a shot, what Bret Taylor was doing was smart, but it was too niche. But if they can effectively build FriendFeed into Facebook, and make the real time less techy, and less aimed at the technorati, I think that that might be a fair competitor, but for me no matter how you break it down,Facebook is private, and Twitter is public. And that is a dichotomy that you cannot really cross if you ask me. That is why..
G: I think that that is pretty valid, I think that Facebook and twitter coexist in my mind.
A: I agree, entirely, I really don’t want them to come together. People a year ago or eight months ago were talking about how Facebook was going to buy Twitter, and how it was going to be the best thing in the world..
G: yeah
A: I have always been against that, because I like to have my Twitter as open as possible. You know, I never guarded my tweets, you either of course not, but I mean its supposed to be this open exchange of links and ideas and what not, it has to stay like that. To me it loses 2/3rds of its value.
G: Yeah I think, I think you are right. I think more importantly the more these products allow people to you know, do what they want on them, they will be successful. So, you use Twitter like that, someelse uses it differently, and now with lists. I think that with lists Twitter is going to start, you know, hiring, making some money. I think that Twitter is going to hire some really smart people bringing on more talent to the company, and that is going to allow them to bring out more features.
Fundamentally the product is simple, but it defenitely can get better. Things like lists and the retweet button are things that they are iterating that are going to make the product better.
A: Well, I think that with the new $100 million dollar round of financing, well after that we have seen the first real two feature launches that we haven’t seen, well, before these two there wasn’t a lot of new features releases. So with lists and the retweet button, which to me seemed pretty damn simple, to twitter they must have taken more time, I don’t know what is wrong with their backend. But, if they can really keep innovating in a simple way, as you said, on top of their current platform, and letting their API be as open as possible, to allow for third party innovation, I think that Twitter can really keep it going. I’m just..
G: I don’t see them, really fading.
A: My only thing moving forwards is that they should open up the firehose of tweets, to more people. I know that Ycombinator signed a deal with them, to get access to the firehose for their startups. But, I think that if twitter makes the data even more public, and even more accessible, its going to grow even faster.
G: Yeah, no I definitely think that there is some truth to that, but I think that Twitter is holding onto it for some reason as well, and you have to balance, you have to crawl before you walk, walk before you run. I think that Twitter has been doing a good job so far.
A: I think that that’s fair, it’s still a very very young service, and for the amount that it has grown, and integrated itself into a lot of society, I think that it is still in diapers. Pretty much.
G: Absolutely.
A: well, yeah, I mean it can barely hold itself up, you know, with its hands, but even with that I think that you can already see the potential. Now with that, when TechCrunch leaked all those documents, Twitter had been talking internally about almost disappearing, becoming just the message service, dropping the interface, and becoming the telegraph service of the internet, as it were. Do you think that that is a valid view, or should Twitter should maintain its brand integrity, and maintain it as a separate service.
G: I like the brand part of it, I think that there is always more sexiness to being brand and especially a consumer brand, the keep that brand equity. And so, that is more attractive to me, but I think a lot of that is just talk. I mean, we all talk.
I thought about charging for every episode of Wine Library TV at one point, I knew that I would lose 90% of my audience, [A: overnight], but at the same time, 10,000 subscribers a day, 100,000 a week, ain’t so bad.
But of course I never really thought about doing it, but I brainstormed it. And I think that that is what you were seeing there.
A: Im very fascinated to want to watch what happens to Twitter, because it has so changed so rapidly, and with its huge influx of users I think that it is almost an interesting social experiment to watch it grow in the next year. How people react to it, I think from the sociology perspective it is going to be fascinating.
G: agreed.
A: So, one last question, Gary. You have a couple Twitter followers. Like, 850,000 I think. I don’t know if you have this data, but when you tweet out a link, how many clicks does it get in ten minutes?
G: You know, probably like 100, nothing too too crazy. I think that there is so much noise out there, and I also send out a lot of stuff, so mostly links get between 500 and 5,000 clicks, nothing insane you know. It just depends on you know. I’m really just communicating, you know what is so funny Alex, I don’t even really know. You know?
A: [very loud laughing, damn audio] no no, I get that.
G: I think that everyone is always looking at ROI and metrics and analytics, and I just dont, dont really (quote?) up in that. I put my head down and I grind, I interact with people. What is more important to me is the actions, the @ replies. How many people I engage with on a one to one basis, within the scope of what I tweet out, is how cool it is.
A: Well, no I think that, well one of the first things that I found out about you was that how responsive you were. Back, a while back, before I was really familiar with your work, I @’ed you, and you tweeted back in like 5 minutes, and I thought that that was the coolest thing in the world. And I mean, I am not as big, a very big blogger, and you a much bigger personality than me, but you still respond to all my emails, all my @’s, you are the most interactive guy that I know, 500,000 followers and up.
And I think that that is such a testimony to how you actually walk the walk. And that is one of the reasons why I wanted to talk with you today.
G: Well, and it’s probably the biggest reason that my book got to number two. [A: I agree], I mean people appreciate it, and that is the whole thank you economy thing that we talk about, which is real connections. I mean, there are people with numbers, but I have real connections, deep deep conections, and have done it hard, you know?
A: Yeah, well I think that you talk about having that trust, and you beat Trust Agents, which strikes me as ironic, but I think that one of the reasons that your book did so well, was because your people are so dedicated, and went to their friends and they said “this book is coming out,” you know. I think that you talked about it in your segment, about how word of mouth marketing is still the most powerful tool there is, and you have almost created like an army, of people that are, whats the term, vaniacs? I believe. That are out there promoting your stuff, not because they want to get paid, in any sort of monetary renumeration, but because they just love you. I think that that is your power.
G: And you know what? It’s because I loved them first.
A: Oh I understand that.
G: I know you do, and that is so cool, and I think that that is a real thing out there, and the other cool thing is that I took a lot of time when writing the book, it’s tight, it lacks fluff, its consumable. People are getting pumped, and that is, creating emotion is way more important than teaching tactics. Because tactics are very very easy to find.
A: Right, it’s funny that you bring that up, because I was talking to my mom of all things, and I was like “oh mom I am interviewing this guy Gary Vaynerchuck,” and shes like “who’s that,” she doesn’t use the internet much, and then I told her about your book, and I said that he says that if you have this one really strong passion, and you really love that more than anything else, if you do that you will make money. And she said “oh that is like the best message!” And she was so excited about it, like that sort of thing. [G: heh, that’s awesome!]
I mean, you don’t need Twitter to find what you are saying, I think that this book is actually a very smart move, to sound a little egotistical there, but I think that it is smart because it is going to bring your message to people who do not get on Facebook, and couldn’t find plurk..
G: exactly. Actually, that was the reason that I wrote it. To hit the audience that do not see my vides on Viddler, or on Ustream, or on my Tumblr.
A: Yeah, I don’t think you know, that generally speaking people 50 and up know what Tumblr is. I don’t think that half of people in our age know what Tumblr is.
G: you are right, you are right.
A: But that aside, I have burned through my time with you, I think that Matt is going to yell at me if you too much longer.
G: laughs Alex I appreciate it man. It’s been a lot of fun.
A: No, I have been looking forward to this for the last day and a half. Actually I scribbled down some notes, and I closed the document right before I called you, I figured that if I can’t do it off the cuff with Gary Vaynerchuck, I shouldn’t do this shit anymore. So.
G: I love it man. Stay well.
A: You take care Gary, there is a post going up about this on, and I am going to put the audio up as well once I splice together the calls. But, I really appreciate it.
G: Take care, bye bye.
A: Alright, peace out bro.