A Wine Blogger's Guide To Social Media For Business

Gary Vaynerchuk reviews wines, including the official champagne of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, for the Daily Grape. Vaynerchuk began video blogging wine reviews in 2006. i i

Gary Vaynerchuk reviews wines, including the official champagne of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, for the Daily Grape. Vaynerchuk began video blogging wine reviews in 2006. via Daily Grape hide caption

itoggle caption via Daily Grape
Gary Vaynerchuk reviews wines, including the official champagne of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, for the Daily Grape. Vaynerchuk began video blogging wine reviews in 2006.

Gary Vaynerchuk reviews wines, including the official champagne of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, for the Daily Grape. Vaynerchuk began video blogging wine reviews in 2006.

via Daily Grape

Back in 1997, Gary Vaynerchuk wanted to turn Wine Library, his family's liquor store in Springfield, N.J., into a major Web retailer. Nobody thought he could do it, but over time he proved them wrong.

Today — thanks to his early adoption of social media and his offbeat wine video commentary — Vaynerchuk sells $60 million worth of wine a year. His new book, The Thank You Economy, is part memoir, part handbook for success.

Vaynerchuk tells NPR's Michelle Norris that when he first put Wine Library online, he was exploring uncharted territory.

"I launched WineLibrary.com and people [weren't doing] that in 1997 — you didn't have a local liquor store in New Jersey [with] a website," he says.

The Thank You Economy
The Thank You Economy
By Gary Vaynerchuk
Hardcover, 256 pages
HarperBusiness
List Price $24.99

Read An Excerpt

But the site was a success and in 2006, Vaynerchuk launched Wine Library TV, a video wine blog in which Vaynerchuk would taste wines, spit them out into a New York Jets football helmet and deliver his review.

"That led to a lot of people watching and buying wine from our business as well," he says.

In The Thank You Economy, Vaynerchuk shares the philosophy behind his success. He says the "thank you" in the title represents a return to the kind of personal attention mom-and-pop-type businesses used to give their customers.

"When you pay forward, I really believe that there's a return on investment — especially now that word of mouth is on steroids," he says.

Vaynerchuk says the word "economy" in the book title is meant to underscore the business potential of new digital platforms.

"Most people are grossly underestimating the impact on business that all these new apps and gadgets and websites are going to have," he says. "We live in a world with Facebook and Twitter and other platforms where we're sharing thoughts we never would have picked up the phone and called about, and it's my belief that every business needs to humanize and overcare for the customer if they want to be successful going forward."

Gary Vaynerchuk Picks Three Wines For A Warm Spring Evening

1. Gavi: "It's made from the Cortese grape. It's got high acid. It's very crisp, clean. You get it nice and chilled for $15 to $20. It's perfect with light salads or just a drink on the porch by the pool."

2. Gruner Veltliner: "Remember this slang term and most wine shops will know what you mean: It's called 'GruVee.' Gruner Veltliner is an Austrian white wine ... a $13 to $18 wine. Again, green apple, pear, tropical fruit, guava, kiwi flavors — very clean. These are both — the Gruner Veltliner and the Gavi — in my opinion better alternatives to the standard pinot grigio or New Zealand sauvignon blanc that we see so many people trying."

3. Torrontes: "Argentina's hot for Malbec. They have a white wine brother to that wine called Torrontes. You can have it [for] between $8 and $12 a bottle. It's very like orange blossom. ... It smells delicious. Very, very aromatically pretty. Very clean, crisp — think cantaloupe, melon flavors."

One way businesses can start "overcaring" for customers, Vaynerchuk says, is simply by following what customers are saying on Twitter and Facebook. So if a new customer is a big Chicago Cubs fan on Facebook, you can thank him for his business by sending tickets to a Cubs game.

It's all part of creating a truly meaningful connection, which is hard to do if you're pushing too hard.

"For the last hundred years ... we've all been pushing," Vaynerchuk says of classic radio, TV, print and billboard ads. "What these platforms have done is actually allowed us to listen."

These days, he says he'll search Twitter for, say, "merlot" to start a conversation.

"We don't try to sell them a merlot when they say on Twitter, 'Thinking about having a nice merlot tonight,' " he says. "What we do is we say, 'What kind of merlots do you like?' And all of a sudden we become a service and try to help them pair that wine that evening with what they're eating."

Some users are receptive, while others aren't — and that's OK, Vaynerchuk says. The important thing is for a business to be as polite and genuine as possible.

"There's always a place for a heartfelt everything, whether it's a hug or a handshake or a gift basket or even a head nod — even a wink on Twitter," Vaynerchuk says. "Consumers' BS radars are much better than we think and they're going to continue to get better in this transparent world."

Excerpt: 'The Thank You Economy'

The Thank You Economy
The Thank You Economy
By Gary Vaynerchuk
Hardcover, 256 pages
HarperBusiness
List Price $24.99

For business, our Internet love affair was a gift from the gods.

Online startups exploded and the target markets for existing companies dramatically expanded. Businesses could now point proudly to their websites and assure their customers that the lines of communication would never close. In theory, the website made them available 24/7. In reality, with a few exceptions, these corporate websites merely made it that much easier to truly pander to the idea of service without actually providing any. In fact, it made it possible for them to virtually avoid dealing with customers altogether. Now people could waste even more time clicking around on websites in a fruitless effort to find a phone number or the name of someone to speak with. When all that was available was an email address, they could send out a question, complaint, or comment into the ether and wait God knows how long until receiving a totally bland, formulaic, and useless reply. In the event they could dig up a phone number, they wasted millions, maybe even billions of hours per year on hold, or being transferred from one helpless or hapless rep to another. As companies outsourced their customer service, customers struggled to make themselves understood by script-reading foreigners. They seethed, but as usual, there was nothing they could do.

Corporations had nothing to fear. Their customer base was no longer in the local zip codes within a five- or even fifteen-mile radius — it was the entire country, and in some cases, the whole world. So what if one person got her panties in a bunch? Or a hundred? How many people, realistically, were going to take the time to find sites like Paypalsucks.com, read them, post on them, and tell their friends? How many friends could they possibly tell, anyway? It just wasn't worth the time, money, or effort to handle each customer, whether satisfied or disgruntled, with anything other than a token bit of goodwill. The ROI didn't justify doing things any other way.

Small-Town Living Moves Online

Then, around 2003, in the midst of this high-tech, digital, impersonal world, a new train started bulleting across the online landscape. It was nothing like the trains our great-grandparents might have ridden, but for all its shiny digital modernity, in essence it closed the vast distances created over a near-century of car culture, cheap land, and technology. Many of us still lived far apart from one another, but we were about to be connected in a totally small-town way.

The train was Web 2.0, now known as social media. It rode along the rails of the Web at breathtaking speed, every one of its cars a powerful platform designed with the express purpose of getting people to talk to one another again. The silent, anonymous, private Internet suddenly turned extremely chatty, personal, and revealing. Small-town living moved online as people eagerly sought out each other's latest news. Our morning social media browse to check in on what everyone has been up to became the equivalent of the old-timers' early morning stroll to the diner for pancakes and coffee. We check Facebook and comment on a friend's photo of her new shoes (which we know without asking are Kate Spades and were bought at Nordstrom's because she said so in her status update) the same way we once would have remarked, "You look lovely in that hat, Margie," as we passed by our neighbor. We click "like" upon seeing our friend's status update announcing his kid's college graduation the same way we'd have nodded approvingly upon seeing that little Timmy had finally gotten the hang of his Radio Flyer scooter. We tweet an article and accompany it with some curses for the city management clowns bungling up yet another public works project with the same energy we'd use to rattle our newspaper and vent our frustration to all the other folks lined up next to us at the diner counter reading their paper, sipping their coffee — plain, black — and chewing on a doughnut.

Social media allowed us to become more aware of the minutiae in each other's lives, of what was going on, of what people were thinking and doing, than ever before. In the 1940s, we'd have found out about the progress of our neighbor's new wallpapering project or model ship during run-ins at the bus stop or the Piggly Wiggly. In 1990 we might not have known about these projects at all. And in 2010, we can not only know about them, we can see pictures and video chronicling their progress and get information about the retailers and service providers involved. In the beginning, a lot of people saw the banality of the topics flying around and wondered who could possibly care that Jeff in Boulder had found a half-eaten bag of Snickers in the pantry, or that Liz in Miami was heading out to the beach for a run in her new Pumas. But people did care. Society jumped on the chance to re-create the regular exchanges of personal news and thoughts that used to be a staple of those smaller, relationship based communities.

Excerpted from The Thank You Economy by Gary Veynerchuk. Copyright 2011by Gary Veynerchuk. Excerpted by permission of HarperBusiness.

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