If you don’t know who Gary Vaynerchuk is yet, you should. He’s the entrepreneur turned social media guru who was laughed at when he stood in front of a room of people and told them that social media is the key to business success in 1997. After he turned his parent’s mom-and-pop wine store into a $45 million enterprise, people weren’t laughing anymore – they started paying attention. In “The Thank You Economy”, Vaynerchuk tells the story of that success and explains how to make social media work for your business.

People were laughing not just because social media was new back then, but because he was advocating something else that went against established business wisdom: returning to the past. Vaynerchuk believes that technology and business may change, but people don’t. When industry and commerce moved to the big city in the 20th century, business forgot its small-town roots. It forgot to look after customers like they were friends and neighbours. It forgot to care about relationships. The digital age has returned us to that time, and social media has become such an explosive success because it works with human nature. We want to connect with other people, and we want to do business with people we know and like and who make sure we’re happy.

“If You Don’t Care No One Will”

What Vaynerchuk understood back in the 1990s was that people start relationships by talking to each other and deciding if they like each other. Relationships have to develop over time. He built the success of his online Wine Library store tweet by tweet, video blog post by video blog post. He’s honest about the time it takes to initiate, build and maintain these social relationships. “ At Wine Library, we don’t just pull out the charm when a big spender walks in, or when someone is unhappy…”, Vaynerchuk explains in the book.

He does a great job of demolishing the excuses of businesses that are resisting social media, like “it takes too long to pay off” and especially “we tried it and it didn’t work”. By providing play-by-play analysis of social media interactions that work, and also ones that were working really well until the company dropped the ball, Vaynerchuk really helps you understand what he is doing right and what so many businesses are doing wrong.

Building a Culture of Caring From the Ground Up

Ready for a culture shift? Gary Vaynerchuk provides a complete guide illustrated with first-hand accounts of how he built a culture of caring and turned it into business success. He even has a cheat sheet at the end of the book when you want a refresher.

  • Start with yourself: as a leader, set a tone that’s based on caring but is still authentic. “If you’re a conservative company, be a conservative company; just be a conservative company that puts its employees first and its customers ahead of everything else.”
  • Make sure that you have happy and passionate employees: they will share their positivity and excitement with each other and with customers. Treat them like adults and empower them to do what’s right. “When people are happy, they want to make other people happy.” Customer satisfaction levels will rise and draw new converts to your business.
  • Provide a “shock and awe” experience for your customers. Over-deliver like crazy. Blowing people’s minds with your customer service will get your customers talking to their friends, families and followers. If something’s wrong, talk to them honestly in real language about what you can do for them.
  • “Social Media = Business”. Research where your customers are and join them, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, or Foursquare. Different social media work for different demographics, and this will change over time as your customers find and adopt new tools.
  • Make the time for social media, and make sure the conversations are real. Don’t just announce your latest product, talk with them. When Vaynerchuk was starting out on Twitter, he looked for people talking about wine and joined in, answering their questions. “If people mentioned they were drinking Merlot, I gave them my Merlot recommendation, but I didn’t mention that they could buy Merlot on my website.” Only after he had built the relationship would he sneak in the occasional mention of his wine store.

To sum up, it’s safe to say that the Envision team thinks you should read this book: there’s way more to learn from Gary Vaynerchuk than I can put in this blog post. “The Thank You Economy” is a powerful demonstration that doing well in business today is not just about pushing your product. In the new social media era, transactions are no longer just an exchange of money: they are built on a change of hearts.

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