Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) Answers Tough Questions

In the above video, Author of The Thank You Economy Gary Vaynerchuk answers five questions about his views on consultants and social media. These questions are a follow up to both his controversial TechCrunch interview where he said 99% of social media experts are clowns, and Gini Dietrich’s blog post questioning Vaynerchuk‘s similar opinions about PR Firms in his book.

Personal note to Gary: Thank you for doing this, you’re a champ! Bought and looking forward to reading The Thank You Economy.

Here are the questions posed to Gary.

  • OK, first there was the TechCrunch “99% of social media experts are clowns” statement, and now there is discussion about your book The Thank You Economy, and how 95% of PR firms will louse up your community relations. You seem to have some strong 90th percentile feelings about consultants these days. What’s causing your statements?
  • Why is this generation of marketers any more or less crappy than the marketers that existed before social media?
  • Have you consulted others outside of your company? How did those engagements work out?
  • Who are some online communications consultants that you like?
  • Kathy Sierra recently said on the Gaping Void blog that your work is great because you make others better. [How] do you hope the industry will improve as a result of these conversations and The Thank You Economy?
  • Anonymous

    Yes Yes… & YES! thanks for positing this man, love hearing Gary’s views on things

  • I am glad that Gary has come to the table. But he remains “the cheese stands alone,” and admits it. He might benefit from others in the space. And the fact that he is not paying attention speaks volumes. Still, this is the first time I can even say I respect him for his candor. 

    • Anonymous

      I am glad someone in this comment stream hasn’t completely gone ga ga. Gary gets props for answering the Qs.  A ton of respect. He is accountable where many of his peers aren’t.  None of us are infallible.

      • Liz I would love to expand on the not paying attention, I think I can expand on it in a way that would make sense :) want to yap?

  • Another great example of how to handle feedback from Gary. Well done to both of you!

  • I love listening to Gary speak. His passion bleeds through. 

    Glad he cleared things up a little more as he took a huge backlash from that statement.

  • Anonymous

    I freaking love you both (Gary and Geoff) Thanks.

  • He’s an honest guy, and thinks at lightning speed. Sometimes just like anyone else his words come across as “there’s only one sandbox, and its my sandbox” but I assure you he’s genuinely interested in helping the space. I also agree with him in that there are a lot of people who claim to be “Social Media” gurus…

  • Anonymous

    Love what you say about people chasing the next big thing, Gary. I see a lot of “social media marketing experts” who have zero marketing experience. Just because you know how to make posts on Facebook or tweets on Twitter doesn’t qualify you to understand or create a sound marketing strategy. Thanks for speaking about this!

  • Huge points bro. It’s not hard to see that you talk about the things other people won’t. Great way to be authentic about your communication, and other things. 

    A lot of people get you Gary. You have the chops, and some.. don’t. You’ve called a lot of them out. Pretty easy to see it all. 

  • Kathysierra

    Interesting… wow, good for you Geoff on getting him to do this. Whenever I make these statements a out Gary, I am talking about Wine Library Gary vs. Crush It / soc media Gary. So in my own way, I felt that his 99% comment was actually a Good Thing (call it “tough love”) in bringing back some perspective. I always felt that people who followed Crush It Gary vs. Wine Library Gary (I made that sound like action figures…) were sometimes a bit TOO enthusiastic about what social media could do for them while completely missing the underlying reason for Gary’s success via social media… That he really DID make people better at their next dinner party (and beyond) through the learning and community around his uniquely accessible approach to wine appreciation and enjoyment.

    So, I think Gary is great, but he and I have been arguing for years about exactly why that is ;). Same with Tim Ferris. He’s been giving interviews about his powerful social media and self-promo strategies, that has led to headlines like “How Tim Ferris made the bestseller list!” which is such utter nonsense. I know way too much about the publishing business *and* social media, for that matter to accept these interpretations… to understand why Tim’s recent book is a bestseller, for example, one should most definitely look at social media (which I believe IS a big contributor), but just not to the self-promotion aspects. What you find on social media is a zillion people talking about how they lost 10 pounds like THAT and had more energy than they could have imagined. His book is a bestseller because *it actually friction’ works* for a tremendous number of people, and Gary did this through both his extraordinary efforts in self-experimentation but, more importantly, in creating materials that were motivating enough to get people to do it.

    That they both *use* social media well and heavily is important for sure, but everywhere there are tens of thousands who have essentially tried to replicate the self-promotional aspects of Gary, Tim, and others, but failed because there was nothing behind it that genuinely made people *better*.

    Oh, sorry for the loooong comment. Thanks so much for getting him to do this. Excellent questions :)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Kathy.  Always a big fan of your work.

      Gary’s individual success at WineLibrary is notable, for sure. And his points about there being a dearth of so-called experts who market poorly is spot on. It is also notable that he says while he admires some people’s work from afar, he doesn’t know their work. I think that’s good he said that, frankly, because of some of the conversations I have heard on the back channel about this work.

      I found Gary’s comments to be out of left field, too, and wondered why he would say these things. Here’s why: In 2008, I wrote a post about the whole expert thing that was pretty popular, calling them carpetbaggers.  But I also think that the general conversation on the topic is a negative one and doesn’t help us as a sector grow.  So I’ve largely stopped participating in it, and with a lot of the “top voices” in the sector who foster it through their own positioning and “personal” branding.

      When real companies see this conversation, they see it as a dog eat dog move.   It’s an insiders conversation, and a trend that the larger market is already aware of, and good companies are actively vetting “experts” in rigorous acquisition processes, and frankly are doing a good job of weeding out the “Twinfluencers.”

      I recently did a training for one of the world’s top consumer product branding organizations in the company.  The whole purpose of the training was to learn how social media works from a theoretical level so they can better hold their vendors accountable, and know when they are being sold snake oil.  It was a fascinating experience, one of the best marketing conversations I have ever had. Point is that good companies know there are a lot of sheisters out there already. 

      What we need is better internal leadership and sharing of best practices to lift all boats. However until the “Twinfluencers” are held more accountable this won’t happen. Gary’s willingness to respond is a great example for his less grounded peers.

    • Kathy I am “great” because I was raised by amazing Parents ;) Miss u!

      • MattMarcin

        GV, you’re looking a bit tired, low energy. 

        • chris

          That’s how parents are supposed to look! :)

  • Kathysierra

    Oops — typing fail on previous comment. Apparently the iPad feels *friction’* is a more impactful lightweight swear word than *frickin’*, and near the end I wrote Gary (doing self experimentation) when I meant Tim. Apologies :)

  • “When you see a landgrab – you see lowest common denominator.”  – So true. This is key to what Gary has been saying (with inflated stats or not.) Thanks for owning the challenges people threw at you and still giving us stuff to think about. 
    Thanks Geoff for the questions and the conversation starter (again.)

  • cool vid

  • Jasen Bartlett

    .01 % of people innovate in an industry. 99.99% copy. Harden the fuck up and stop crying. Anyone using guru, master, or genius in their title, be for warned they are far from it. Gary is a straight shooter. I would rather do businesss with someone who is honest then the tongue spinning BSers in the Internet marketing realm.

    • Anonymous

      OK, tough guy. Comment edited for the eff bomb, please observe the house rules on the About Page.

  • Social Media Guru

    I think Gary is 100% absolutely right and I am glad he has called it. If your game is truly on then I don’t see how his comment could possibly rustle your feathers. I mean how secure are you in your skills and know how? All I have to say is keep “Crushing It” Gary and thanks for being kind and secure enough to share your insights (books etc) that show us some of the ways it can be done. And for everyone else if the fires too hot then get outta the kitchen.

    • Anonymous

      Interesting bravado about “kitchen fire” from someone who doesn’t have the hutzpah to publish their real name. Normally, I delete anonymous comments but I think the hypocrisy of this comment was notable.

      • Just have to say, that was a brilliant reply…kudos to you for turning an asshat comment into a teaching opportunity.  

    • Do you sell unicorns and fairy dust? :)

      • I have cornered the fairy dust covered unicorns… back of off my niche…

  • Great answers by Gary. I messed up, I didn’t express myself correctly, this is what I mean to say. 
    Thanks for putting this online  Geoff. I remember reading that page in the TYE, sending it to Gini and thinking this doesn’t sound right. Gary is a very smart man, why would he write this.

    I saw him in NY last month and he is right, he has a flair for the dramatic, perhaps he is a classic example of do not write as you speak. In any case, kudos to him for facing the music and answering your questions.

  • very interesting post and also this conversation in comments! very cool) thanks!

  • I found your post really helpful. Thanks for posting such informative content. Keep posting.

  • Thanks for putting these questions to Gary. I’ve always seen him as a guy who truly cares about the space, but like many of us can get carried away with the bigger bolder statements that we make. Kudos to him for owning that and wanting to improve. Hell of a video and a hell of a group of questions. Nice work on both ends.

  • I really hope they can get Joe Pesci to play Gary in the movie.

  • NickEggleton

    Gary. You are the Social Media Honey Badger. #HBDC

    Say what you see – passion / authenticity / care.

    You were right. Professional marketers add value. Whatever the medium. 

    The charlatans that pretend expertise are frauds.

    How is it possible to be an expert in something so fresh and so flexible and so innovative and so likely to change tomorrow.

    Values. Vision. Rule.

    – Love you man!

  • I think there’s a general sense of panic in the social media world. Those who are closest to it don’t quite see it yet, but I think Gary sees it. Social for business came up very quickly between 2006-2008, and for a long time the only people “winning” were the marketers.

    After graduating from college in 2007, I started immediately working as an online marketing consultant, building websites and helping businesses plan for marketing online. I wasn’t very good at it, but as I researched tirelessly, I found out neither was anyone else. I was vaguely taught about online marketing on college, but that wasn’t until my final semester as the curriculum changed. I had an eye-opening moment when I was soon “promoted” as a social media manager in 2008 because I was the only one on Facebook.

    What I’ve noticed is that traditional marketers and advertisers had no where to go to learn about social media and how to utilize it effectively. So they started making it up as they went. Suddenly, those people were “thought leaders” and we all read their blogs and attended their seminars. Heck, I even have a presentation on social media marketing that has been viewed and downloaded over 35,000 times! Trust me, it’s nothing groundbreaking.

    I think Gary has a good sense of our industry because he builds businesses. It takes someone who’s failed a few times, and had to learn to communicate using basic business principles. Good responses, Gary, I always appreciate your dedication.

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  • Martin

    Yes, but 99% of social media experts ARE clowns. :D

  • I have been completely and totally impressed by the way Gary has handled himself through this. I love that he says he’s sorry, that he made a mistake, and that he’s learned not to generalize.

    The crazy thing about the social media world is you get Internet famous and you forget to say “I’m sorry” and “thank you.” Gary is one of the few who hasn’t forgotten this and I think it’s something we all need to remember.

    Even though I don’t agree with his generalization about PR firms botching social media campaigns, he has gained my utmost respect.

  • Fantastic article. Thanks for the great insight

  • very cool Q&A.  Thanks Gary and Geoff.  

  • Anonymous

    Any time you use clowns to reference other people you deserve what you get. How you can justify calling basically everyone in your space a clown but yourself is beyond me. ( joke or not you put it out there) The market will take care of the pretenders, no need to have it policed by Gary V …. at least that’s the way I see it from afar. 

    • I agree pro and I hope u saw the context where the words were used, it wasnt joke it was the slang I was using, I had and have never had any intention of policing anything, I agree 1000000000% the market will do its thing, I was answering questions honestly and making a point in another spot, again I agree with your point!

      • Anonymous

        I believe you. Good luck with all your ventures GV. You do an awful lot for free and I for one really appreciate what you do. Not doubt you will carve out your fair share. ;-)

      • Good to see you active out on here. Still a card player? 

  • Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post!

  • Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post!

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  • Anonymous

    I really like Gary’s energy, and his repetitive focus on a couple of key concepts (social bringing us back to small town business principles, and lead the discussion that will inevitably happen about your business) is an effective technique that makes things easy to digest for the today’s information overloaded business person. 

    On the flipside, I really wonder why Gary feels it is necessary to enter this space – a dog-eat-dog, fast-moving, noisy business consulting/advice role.  Wouldn’t it be better to keep quiet and run Wine Library until it OWNS the wine world? 

    From a pure business perspective I have been part of (and even led one) business where our attention became to spread out — it never works, trying to target two completely different markets each with their own unique business models…not sure this is headed in a good place.

    Believe me, I’m not saying this because I don’t want to hear more Gary – I do…but my “spidey sense” is tingling, and I’m not sure he can continue to straddle two markets (Wine, Business Advice) at the same time?  Any thoughts Geoff?


    • Jeff I have the team in place at WL and I wanted a new challenge, I have little interest in consulting long term, I wanted as an business enthusiast to get more corporate learnings, that is what Vayner allows me to do!

  • I think if you get offended by the 99% statement you are scared. True lasting entrepreneurial success is a natural extension of your own personal growth. This video is really The thank you economy in action. 
    Fail fast fail forward.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t always enjoy Gary’s attitude…but I often agree with his points. I’m a little divided on this one though. 

    I do agree that the C-Suite hiring bad apples can seriously hurt the industry. However, criticizing across the board is a little harsh. The space is new. People have to learn somehow, and all the reading and studying in the world does not replace “doing”. So I welcome some amateurs and “average” work because the space needs time to mature. It’s not that I enjoy seeing bad work, it’s that I don’t believe any industry should be so protective that it doesn’t allow fresh blood a chance. 

    The problem Gary and I would likely agree on, is that people can “seem” to be experts when they are not. THIS is what is harmful. I think it’s important that Gary be very clear, and I’m glad he admitted his fault in communication – but his comments may still be hurtful to some truly great consultants out there. 

    -signed, a non-expert

    • KP I really believe that words cant trump actions, companies aren’t going to stop hiring or trying consultants and the ones that can bring it, will! 

      • Thanks for the input. You may be right. As long as execs can distinguish between “we hired the wrong team” vs thinking “we hired right and this social stuff is a letdown”. Otherwise no one wins.

  • Isn’t it human nature to attempt to knock people down that are doing so well? Is it jealousy? Gary’s a solid guy. He’s a thought-leader and someone I follow because he truly brings value and insight to the table in this space. His communication style is ‘east coast’ and rubs some peeps the wrong way. No matter what, his heart is always in the right place.

  • Mccartykj

    Gary just caught the disease that 84% of facts are made up on the fly, that’s all….

  • how would one then balance charging cash vs. giving stuff away for free, in the thank you economy? i guess it’s on a case-by-case basis.

  • There are a lot of gushers here :) How many of you have actually spent one on one time with him and just not seen him on stage/bought his book?

  • I’m a fan of Gary and always enjoy his no BS, straight up way of talking. He makes a valid point about having to be careful in using specific numbers, but at the same time I think the guy knows what he’s doing. He’s a good marketer, and this is all evidence of that. At the same time he learns like the rest of us.

    Regardless of how you feel about him or his comments, what Gary is showing is a great way of handling controversy head-on. How many people today do that? Very few…

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  • wow – mountain out of a mole hill. Are people really this sensitive? 

    Thanks for the lesson in language Gary. I’ll be changing my “90% of…” comments to; “most of / mostly / commonly / often / more often than not” and other less potentially hot language!

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  • I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work.

  • Very good Q&A . I just think “this space” could benefit so much more if bigger brands did this type of interaction.

  • My take on this is a case in point. I’ve just completed the ‘Skills’ section of my LinkedIn profile where you have the option to assign yourself as a Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced or Expert for each skill listed. Even though a fair percentage of loyal followers and clients call me their social media ‘guru’ or an ‘expert’ in social media, I’ve resisted the temptation to rate myself that highly on LinkedIn.Sure, I’ve put in the hours (well over 10,000) researching, developing, delivering and honing my own social media model as a means to raise profiles and GROW businesses but I’m not up there with the likes of Gary. I do, however, call myself an expert when I’m talking to those who haven’t a clue where to start and need my help (why would they hire me otherwise). I believe I have the right to use this term in my marketing to differentiate myself from those who have only been doing it for a couple of years on a part time basis – there’s the rub.

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  • Anonymous

    If you get offended by something Gary says then you don’t know Gary. It’s that simple. He’s not offensive. He’s on the guy 100% of the time. He thinks it and says it. There’s no time to filter it for the sensitive people in the crowd. People need to grow up and understand that Gary isn’t citing hard data. We throw percentages around all the time to illustrate a point.

    Look at his attitude about being the best and his competition. He doesn’t worry about them. Doesn’t even know them. He just does what he does and tries to be better than himself constantly. Clearly, it’s been working.

    The truth is that his numbers were probably right anyway.

  • Love what you say about people chasing the next big thing, Gary

  • Charles Causey

    Gary–love you 100% man!  Keep up the great work.

  • erinsings

    Hey Gary.  I am a new fan of your Podcast … a California girl (and wine lover) currently living in Germany and looking to learn more about Eurpean wines, not only for their ‘local value’ but because my beloved california wines are hard to come by here.  Just saw your Thanksgiving show and wanted to give you a little tip (if I may) on how to pronounce Spätlese.  the two dots over the a are called an umlaut (roughly pronounced oomlaut), which basically means there is an ‘e’ after the ‘a’, so you would say (again, roughly) schpate-laze-a  (as in late).  Again, loving your show!  Erin Perry, Munich, Germany

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  • Thanks for posting the video, Geoff…I followed the link from Gary’s site, and just subscribed to your blog.  I’m glad that folks like Gary are shining a light on the social media “carpetbaggers”; at the same time, I agree with both of you that the market will eventually take care of them, just as it has in real estate and is starting to in SEO.  I just hope it’s not as painful for the small businesses who get fooled by these unscrupulous guys and gals as it was for the homeowners who got taken by them during the RE boom.  

    • What interests me is how much Gary seems to drive traffic to his site simply by generating a ton of buzz with comments like his 99% one… Could it be that he makes said comments just to drive that traffic? 
      Also, I can see as much a need for Social Media companies as I can for firms that contract out payroll services, HR, answering services, etc. Many small businesses cannot afford full time help running these services so contracting them out makes more sense. This isn’t to say that they are all on the up and up but there are legitimate ones out there in the biz to help companies get a leg up.

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  • Gary, I love that you are so incredibly sharp and real that you can seriously tackle any question that is thrown at you. And you know when you’ve made a mistake, and know when to step back, so you don’t alienate people along the way. I know you might believe in your heart that most Social Media “experts” don’t have the smarts that they should have to be in their position, and I think saying this, only helps the discussion, and moves those “experts” to up their game. Love watching your videos. You’re a quick witted machine, that never stops running man.

  • Peter Boshuis

    At the very least Gary reinforces the concept of ‘buyer be aware’. I find his directness appealing. Too often ‘experts’ are placed on pedestals. Gary acts contrarily by reaching through the cloud. 

  • Great interview! I love the self introduction and bio.

  • Great interview! I freaking love you both (Gary and Geoff) Thanks.

  • great post…thanks for sharing it with us

  • Gary, please don’t apologize about your 95% statements! We love you because you aren’t afraid to be controversial. Its obvious you tent to exaggerate and that’w what makes you such a colorful character. People need to stop being to literal and get a sense of proportion and sense of humor. Don’t let anyone pressure you to change!