The New York Times does a feature-length profile of Gary Vaynerchuk, who went from wine seller in New Jersey to social media phenomenon. It took forever in social media terms, days, but he got there. clawing his way to the top of twitter, where he’s known as @garyvee with almost 100,000 twits and more than 1 million followers.
He’s bootstrapped his social media fame into a thriving ad agency, though I doubt he would call it that since ad agencies are so 1950′s Mad Men-ish. Gary is early-adopter all the way.
Mr. Vaynerchuk, 37, is a social media marketer with some very big clients, and he’s a tireless self-promoter. Anyone fitting that description is all but required to find novel ways to win attention and coin catchphrases, and his new favorite is “jab, jab, jab, right hook.”
Bear in mind that Gary is a social media “rock star,” not a pretender who claims to be a guru while having a following of 12 and being on 3 people’s lists, like most of the self-proclaimed experts. He’s on (at this moment, since it will certainly be more by the time you read this post) 18, 664 lists. Considering all the new money being thrown into social media by lawyers who are not Gary Vaynerchuk, the question is what does he do that you don’t.
If reducing virtually all human interaction to purely transactional terms isn’t your style, you probably should avoid Gary Vaynerchuk. Since his childhood days hawking baseball cards at convention halls in New Jersey, and later pitching wine online at his father’s liquor store, he has dedicated most of his waking life to a single puzzle: What will sell more stuff?
“Look at any tech conference,” said Peter Shankman, a social media consultant who rejects the social-media-expert tag. “Anyone can call themselves that. It’s just too easy.”
Mr. Vaynerchuk is not shy about embracing the title because he is not shy about anything.
Most lawyers aren’t shy, at least not in the criminal defense field, but there is a big difference between not being shy and being shameless.
Given his status as a guru, some of the rants he posts on YouTube are surprisingly banal — conventional wisdom framed as blazing insights. A recent one, titled “Every Single One of You Is a Media Company,” argued that the Internet had reduced the cost of publishing to next to zero, and he beseeched viewers to produce content of genuine value. Subtract the panache and the urgency of his delivery and there is little left.
His trick on twitter is less brilliant than one might think. He plays the sycophant to endear himself to others.
“Great talk by @garyvee at #99school today,” one tweet read. “Helped me understand how Twitter has evolved & I really liked the ‘Jab-jab-jab-hook’ idea.”
As the taxi rolled uptown, Mr. Vaynerchuk wrote back, “That means a lot to me man.”
Naturally, this brief acknowledgment was strategic.
The tactical (not to explain to David Segal, who wrote the profile, the difference between tactics and strategy) move showed heart to those who aspire to be near greatness, to bask in the glow of Gary’s importance. After all, if you followed your favorite celebrity on twitter and one day the celeb responded to your twit, wouldn’t you be flattered? And a fan for life?
This is where most lawyers who take to the twitters and internets in the hope of transforming themselves into an overnight social media rock star fail to grasp how it works. By sending out a constant stream of flagrant solicitation twits, you’re more likely to be gently reminded of your scumminess than catch the interest of potential clients:
The alternative is to engage with others all day long, be nice and responsive to all, pretend to be fascinated and appreciative of everyone, and get people to like you by pretending to like them first. You will be required to show interest in the love life of law students, or the misery of the failed justice due sovereign citizens, but that’s the price of social media prominence. It may sound exhausting and tedious, but it will work.
When someone twits something stupid, compliment their perfect spelling. When someone misstates the law or offers an absurd or insane conclusion on an issue about which you feel strongly, gently tell them how much you appreciate their insight. It’s an art, and one that must be mastered to achieve adoration in social media.
There is only one problem. If you aren’t quite as shameless as Gary, and you’re not willing to respond with sweet support to those whose lives don’t fascinate you or whose ideas you find repulsive and ignorant, or if there is a bone in your head that commands you to try to be honest about your thoughts and beliefs, then you will make enemies. You will disagree with people, or more to the point, they will disagree with you.
You won’t know who you are twitting with, or who is reading your blog or leaving you comments. Maybe the person on the other end of the internets is Nino Scalia. Maybe they’re a twelve-year-old troll pretending to be a lawyer or client or sovereign citizen. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. And yet, if you want to be adored, you must overlook this aspect of the medium to feign kindness and appreciation. That’s Gary’s way.
In the alternative, people will think you rude and arrogant for not treating them with the respect and adoration they believe they’re due. People will think your ideas foolish and wrong (which they may well be). People will call you mean names and tell their friends what a jerk you are. Or worse. And you will never accumulate a million followers on twitter, because you aren’t a celebrity, and you lack Gary’s ability to reduce “all human interaction to purely transactional terms.”
That’s my way. As Mike Masnick reminded me recently, I’m not a “big leaguer,” just a lawyer. But then, he’s right. I’m a trench lawyer, and if that’s what I am in social media, then I’m good with it. So you want to be a star?