Do you want to create a lasting following online? Wondering which social media platforms you should be using right now?
To explore the latest trends in social media marketing, I interview Gary Vaynerchuk on the Social Media Marketing Podcast.
Gary is the CEO of Vayner Media, a full-service digital agency. He’s also the host of the #AskGaryVee Show and the author of Crushing It.
You’ll discover how Gary has sustained his online visibility for more than a decade and which platforms he’s paying attention to right now. You’ll also learn how to develop engaging content for today’s social media platforms including TikTok.
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Scroll to the end of the article for links to important resources mentioned in this episode.
A friend of mine recently opened a fortune cookie and found Gary Vaynerchuk’s image on the slip inside.
Gary personally came up with the fortune cookie strategy. He met the company’s owners at a cocktail event and later worked with them to create ideas of what to put on both sides of that fortune cookie message. Gary is also personally managing the online community of people who are taking photos of it and posting them.
He started from a core belief that people opened fortune cookies so the distribution and awareness were there. He decided it was the right price for the right execution—although he also knew that it could turn out horribly wrong. He needed to try it and see. He also trusted that every single person who got that fortune cookie with his picture, phone number, and quote would take a photo and post it on social media, regardless of whether they knew who he was.
Gary took this unconventional route because he’s not just about digital—he’s about what he calls “underpriced attention.” It’s a similar motivation for a lot of creative things he’s done on more emerging platforms such as TikTok and Spotify. The fortune cookie is just another example of disrupting patterns.
Gary’s fortune cookie messages encourage people to text him at 212-931-5731. Using a new SMS app called Community, Gary sends messages three or four times a week to his entire text list. He also texts people in his community on their birthdays.
Gary thinks text is a very interesting platform to create consumption and engagement, and likens it to social media or email. Of the tens of thousands of texts he receives each week, he replies to hundreds of them and endeavors to eventually reply to everybody.
Texting has an intimacy to it—at least for now, before marketers ruin it. Everybody in the world is texting. There are more people texting every day than there are people using Messenger. Telegram is the king of SMS in Brazil and WhatsApp is the leader globally. Previously, SMS marketing was basically about pushing email offers. Gary treats SMS more like Twitter.
He’ll put out a post that he thinks will bring his audience value rather than trying to sell something. His community likes that, so they reply, and he replies back to them. In general, Gary recommends that marketers make the vast majority of their text messages ridiculously valuable for their followers, which then gives them permission to ask something of that community when it’s time to sell.
Gary first started using TikTok about 5 years ago, back when it was still the musical.ly. He thought it had the potential to become the next Snapchat or Instagram. Gary had two of the biggest musical.ly stars on the #AskGaryVee Show in April 2016, and even considered investing in the company. Then it got bought, disappeared for a while, and emerged repackaged as the TikTok platform.
TikTok really started getting hot about a year and a half ago. Gary has become very serious about content creation for the platform, putting out content three to five times a day, and has amassed 3.3 million fans. He watches the influencers, videos, trends, and virality.
About 80% of Gary’s TikTok content is post-production creative. His team looks at the other content that he films all day and then post-produces it for TikTok. With overlays, stickers, and words, the goal is to make it pop. The other 20% of Gary’s TikTok content is related to what’s specifically trending on the platform. TikTok has a lot of trending memes and “challenges” so Gary’s team will literally run into his office between meetings to let him know what’s trending and put something together.
TikTok’s advantage is that it’s young and fun, which is something other platforms haven’t been able to truly capture. If you’re not young and fun, you’re confused by it. It’s not so much about age as it is youthful energy. Gary considers himself “young and fun” at 44. It’s also a happy platform, which is why it’s doing well right now.
A lot of other social networks are heavy and daunting—but TikTok will evolve, too. From 2006 to 2009, Twitter was a happy place and then it got more complicated over time, and TikTok will as well. Instagram was super-artistic early on, all filters and moon shots and sunsets and walks on the beach. Things evolve. Every platform has. Right now, TikTok is young and fun. It also dominates the 15- to 30-year-old age group’s span of attention, and that matters to Gary as an entrepreneur and author.
The rich get richer on these platforms so the first users become the accounts that people engage with most. The algorithms see high engagement and push that content. Collaboration is a way to increase exposure. Hashtags also help. By jumping on trends and using the hashtag, engagement grows just like on every other platform. These are consistent strategies that can help you break out. TikTok has just added a link in the bio, and there were always links out to Instagram and YouTube profiles.
Gary recommends that people focus less on following the standout TikTok accounts; instead, just go to the platform and spend 8 hours consuming the feed. Explore… just look around. Gary spends hundreds and thousands of hours consuming comments, behaviors, and trends. He’s not looking to see what a specific person does. He’s just consuming the macro of behavior, which leads to really good insights he can then synthesize.
The virality on TikTok is very real. Gary thinks other platforms should be as remarkable and more “all over the place.” Content shouldn’t be in a pocket. On TikTok, he can post something that gets 88 views and then post something else that gets 2.9 million views. He thinks this randomness in reach should be more common across platforms because that’s really speaking to the truth of the value of the audience.
Gary truly believes that at this point, any B2C business should be on TikTok because it’s growing pretty quickly to include those audiences of 30- and 40-year-olds. If you sell dental products to 90-year-olds, Facebook’s still your platform. But, for instance, if V8 decided to target 60- to 70-year-olds, a clever TikTok creative around a granddaughter making a grandfather aware of V8’s health factors might actually work well.
Gary doesn’t think Snapchat is dead—all platforms ebb and flow on attention. Peach is dead. Snapchat is merely fading; it doesn’t have as much attention as it did. However, if you really push hard, it’s an opportunity. It’s no different than buying up real estate in Detroit and then Detroit turns. If Snapchat had a big feature update tomorrow, it could be right back in the conversation. Every platform ebbs and flows at some level, and there’s still a lot of future opportunity on Snapchat.
You can truly build a community anywhere. Gary says that if he had 4,000 people actively paying attention to him on MySpace, he’d probably create something for it. He’s still posting daily on Snapchat—he’s just not giving it his full oomph. Also, his team is helping him manage it, which he says isn’t as good as when he just does it himself. But that could change if that’s where his community really starts taking off again.
Instagram is Gary’s strongest platform right now. However, Gary speculates that Instagram is in the pre-dawn of having its challenges—being “the establishment” and becoming destructive. Anecdotally, Gary overhears people talk about deleting Instagram because it’s too much, or because it gives them FOMO; it’s become more negative. A lot of TikTok’s growth has likely come from Instagram’s overdominance.
He senses that we’re on the other side of Instagram’s apex moment, which was maybe a year ago. There was an enormous population of 20- to 30-year-olds who only focused on Instagram. It was where Facebook was 5 years ago. You can just feel that tipping point. Being able to sense these market shifts is part of what has made Gary so successful, and he sees it happening now.
What Facebook, Inc. has done incredibly well is adjust. Facebook’s heavy push into groups has now enabled it to become the internet’s new message board. You can dislike a million different things about it, but as a product and an evolution of a consumer behavior, Mark Zuckerberg has done a remarkable job. Facebook’s ability to adjust—more than Yahoo, MySpace, and others before it, maybe even more than Google—puts it on a pedestal and keeps it relevant.
Facebook’s organic reach on pages has really been dented but can still be significant for those who understand the platform and its core audience of 40- to 90-year-olds. If Gary decided to focus on what 40- to 90-year-olds care about and produced a ton of original content for them on Facebook, he’s confident he would be doing quite well on the platform.
It’s up to us to adjust to the attention grab of the platforms, to be able to win the organic game. And as far as the ad game goes, it’s very hard to find better ad inventory than Facebook and Instagram right now, covering 20- to 80-year-olds across America and the world.
LinkedIn has become a content platform like Facebook. Five years ago, it was really all about business content. Around 2 years ago, Gary started realizing people had started posting about things like family trips, working out, and wine on LinkedIn. He realized that if you have no followers and you post on LinkedIn, you’re getting 800 views, 50,000 views, and 100 comments.
Is LinkedIn’s organic reach remarkable for somebody who has no audience? Yes, it is, because they’re sending it to connections. He advises everybody to start using LinkedIn because it’s actually Facebook 2012.
There’s a lot of overlap between people who are on LinkedIn and Facebook; they’re just acting differently. On Facebook, they’re acting like we’re all at a community center, in somebody’s house, at a PTA meeting, or debating about politics. LinkedIn has a little bit more of a professional swing.
You’re not seeing as much of the anger, hate, or silliness that you might see on Facebook because people are scared that their boss might see it. They still want to talk like a human but you’re seeing a little bit more caution, which leads to less fun and also less anger.
Influenced word of mouth has been around forever. John Wayne got paid by cigarette companies to smoke a cigarette. In 500 years, some robot will be paid to talk about the oil it uses for its joints. This is never going away. It’s perpetual, and now there are many more people who have much more influence. It’s a much longer tail.
Influencing isn’t just for the celebrities and athletes of the world. We’ve always looked up to certain people who are influential. It was around before social and it’ll be around after social. The human brain wants to be able to trust somebody.
Gary loves that Instagram is now starting to hide view and like counts because people are insecure. When you hide metrics, it helps people because they’re all pandering for metrics. Gary thinks platforms should also consider hiding follower counts. He’s not worried about it hurting him because he doesn’t feel he derives his clout, influence, success, or happiness from how many followers he has.
More importantly, he knows that the obsession with follower counts is hurting others. He’s willing to sacrifice his follower counts for the greater good of the world.
Gary doesn’t feel hiding things like follower counts would impact influencer marketing very much. It’s more about what’s front-facing, and the accounts themselves would still have the metrics anyway.
He does think most humans don’t know how to price themselves, which means a high percentage of influencers are wildly overpriced. It also means a high percentage of them are wildly underpriced for the attention and cosign they’re giving a brand or a business in return.
YouTube is often the platform people think of least when they talk about social. But for YouTube content creators, which are a different breed, that’s the only platform they think of.
For example, D-Rock, who has worked with Gary on videos for a long time, comes from a world where all of the other social platforms don’t mean anything. For him, it’s always been about YouTube. Even today, many YouTube content creators struggle to produce for IGTV or cut down their work for Twitter.
Gary is obsessed with YouTube and thinks it’s one of the most evolved platforms in the world. He admits that he hasn’t really executed a solid plan for YouTube Stories yet, much to the chagrin of his team. He vowed on this podcast to get his team busy on the task of revving up his YouTube and Spotify story output immediately.
Podcasts and Spotify
Gary is also obsessed with podcasting. He’s been doing really well with it for the last 4 years. He’s on the top 100 podcasts on the Apple charts and his Spotify numbers are monstrous. He’s across every platform and he puts out a podcast every day of the week.
Spotify is about to launch a pre-roll product where you can write a script—like a radio commercial—and put it into the platform so podcast hosts can grab it, read it, and get paid. The potential for this could be enormous.
Spotify has also created a new Stories functionality for certain accounts—not for podcasts but for music playlists. Gary has a playlist that’s quite successful called Monday to Monday, which features up-and-coming hip hop and Latin trap music and emerging young SoundCloud-like artists.
Why Early Adoption Matters
One of Gary’s key strategies is to be on these platforms early.
Part of it is to get in there with a younger audience. Eventually, they’re going to grow up and they’re going to get into business and entrepreneurship. Then they’ll want to follow him and see all of the other things he’s got going on.
Another reason is that one of Gary’s biggest competitive advantages is he actually walks the talk of these newer platforms. Gary runs one of the most successful digital marketing agencies in the world and his clients that target youth are going to want a strategy. By being an actual practitioner, as well as the CEO, Gary has helped VaynerMedia leapfrog over the competition.
He’s competing with agency CEOs who are actually CFOs or suits who work for big holding companies, whereas he’s both a hands-on operator and a top practitioner. Because he’s out there doing it, he can talk about it and explain to his clients which approach is and isn’t right for them. Plus he’s built a serious business; his ideas sell product.
Gary recommends putting 2%–3% of your energy toward learning new platforms while you spend the rest of your energy on other things. Eventually, if that new thing becomes the next Instagram, you’re going to want to be there anyway.
There was an app called Socialcam that really got hot by riding the wave of the Facebook algorithm, and amassed around a million followers. It was really hot for a few short months before it disappeared. DailyBooth was a selfie app; it wasn’t mobile but it was a precursor to Instagram. What Gary learned by being a first user on Socialcam and DailyBooth became the reason he was good at Vine, Snapchat, IGTV, Instagram, and ultimately TikTok.
He put in the reps that taught him on those earlier platforms. They didn’t go on to become Facebook or Twitter but Gary learned nuances of consumer behavior and content creation. He then used those lessons on Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok, which have benefited him greatly. If you can figure out how to create content in video, audio, or written form, you can find your voice and you can be ready to create new content on other platforms.
Another thing Gary feels he’s been very good at is understanding context—how video works on Twitter versus LinkedIn versus TikTok—because he respects the consumption behavior, the platform, and the psychology of the person consuming it.
The Key to Gary’s Staying Power
Gary credits ambition as the primary reason he’s remained a leader in the digital marketing field for more than a decade.
Gary has always had very big aspirations, as well as skills in entrepreneurship, marketing, and consumer behavior. That combination of talent, hard work, and ambition is why he’s still here. He looks back at the early days when he wrote Crushing It in 2009. He can see how the things he wrote more than a decade ago have become wildly true, especially regarding the opportunities that have arisen for everyday people to build personal brands via the internet.
At that point, Gary had already built a very large successful family business using search, eCommerce, and email. He has made consistent effort and has always outpaced the field in caring about his community and bringing value to them. He also has a lot of natural energy, confidence, and admittedly a bit of bravado.
But he also credits his humility. He remains truly appreciative of every follower, interaction, engagement, and person who comes up to him and asks him for a selfie, asks him a question, or pitches their business to him. He believes that humility has helped motivate him to continue providing value.
Gary has consistently created content and engaged with people, but around 2014, he put his head down and pushed to build the foundation of VaynerMedia. That’s when he went from 20 to 400 employees in a blink. During that time, Gary says his “personal brand” did not grow as much, although he was able to stay very consistent on Twitter.
But he was also able to put another win on the board as an operator and showed that he wasn’t just pontificating. He became the most interesting new entrant in organic growth in the advertising landscape—something that a lot of people didn’t think he had in him, and an achievement he’s extremely proud of.
Nowadays, Gary engages mostly on Twitter and via text. He estimates that he’s responded to tweets on 96% of the days of his life over the last 13 straight years. He’s pretty active on Instagram comments as well—Instagram is currently his most successful platform.
Additionally, he’s trying to be more thoughtful about LinkedIn and YouTube comments. The challenge is one of sheer bandwidth and cadence. He’s always aiming toward replying to more and more of his followers every day on all platforms.
Key Takeaways From This Episode:
- Find out more about Gary on his website.
- Follow Gary on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok.
- Watch the #AskGaryVee Show.
- Listen to Gary’s Monday to Monday playlist on Spotify.
- Read Crushing It.
- Text Gary at (212) 931-5731.
- Check out the Community app.
- Sign up for the Social Media Marketing Society.
- Watch exclusive content and original videos from Social Media Examiner on YouTube.
- Watch our weekly Social Media Marketing Talk Show on Fridays at 10 AM Pacific on Crowdcast.
What do you think? What are your thoughts on the social media platforms marketers should be using right now? Please share your comments below.