Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thoughts From Someone Who is "Crushing It"

I joined an organization called NY Video last year and attend their Meetups in NYC every couple of months. The organization's founder, Yorin Samis, has done a great job building a community of over 3,000 media entrepreneurs and execs in NY who gather to share information about their online video-based businesses.

Last week's Meetup featured a Q&A session with Gary Vaynerchuk, who took over his Dad's liquor store when in he was in his early 20s and built it into a $60 million business. Along the way, he mastered every new media platform from online video to Facebook to Twitter,  just as they were moving into the mainstream. 

His daily online video show is one of the most viewed original web series of all time and he is approaching one-million followers on Twitter.  Since he became a web video sensation a few years back, he has moved well beyond selling wine and many people now follow him based on his well-informed thoughts on new media tools, branding, and entrepreneurship.

He has a written a best-selling book titled "Crushing It",  launched a marketing agency and has an unabashed plan to buy the NY Jets.  And while most of his success can be tied to new media, he has also mastered traditional media appearing on practically every major media outlet from Conan O'Brien to Jimmy Fallon to ABC News. 

His path from Russian emigrant to wine store owner to media maven and celebrity is inspiring.  He also appears to be a good dude.  More importantly, he is uniquely qualified to riff on the future of media and advertising, which he did in response to some great questions from Yaron and members of the audience last week.

When asked which media tool he would choose if he could only keep one, he was torn between between Twitter and Facebook, before choosing Facebook.  Like many others in the media industry he questions why Twitter, despite its enormous success,  has been unable to catch on with the younger demos.

He said that Facebook and Twitter are currently being used at less than 15% of their potential and the best way to imagine their future is too look at them as utilities, much like the railroads and electric companies at early stages in their history before their enormous impact on society was realized.

He was less enthusiastic about Google's future opining that Facebook could dominate search one day as recommendations from friends become more valuable and relevant than random search results from across the web that are based on monetization strategies and search engine manipulation. 

A clear move in this direction was Facebook's new partnership with Amazon last week.  Amazon.com now offers a personalized Facebook-powered page that offers birthday and gift suggestions as well as specific products that are popular with your friends.  (I signed up immediately and discovered that "The Hangover" and "The Bible" are popular items among my diverse network.)

Social Beat goes so far as to call the partnership Facebook's most important integration to date:

"A deep Amazon.com-Facebook partnership could help corner Google in the e-commerce market. One of Google’s most lucrative use cases is when consumers search to decide which products to buy. Costs-per-click on product keywords like refrigerators, TVs and books are often easily more than $1. But if consumers start looking toward their friends to find out what to buy, they could be able to bypass Google altogether."

So it's obvious Gary has a great feel for the new media landscape.  I always find it valuable to spend time with successful entrepreneurs who are willing to share their stories and opinions.