I was fortunate to be on holiday recently and enjoyed the luxury of reading 4 or 5 books, something I haven’t done much over the past 12+ years (since becoming a mum). One of the books I read, no, absorbed, was Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Crush It! – Why Now Is The Time To Cash In On Your Passion”.
Gary is a force of nature who has successfully built his family’s wine business into an industry leader and taken it online using his unique “Wine TV” video blog. The secret of his massive business success? Gary has built (and totally smashed) his personal brand using social media. He is a unique and inspiring character and one I would love to put on my dinner party invite list (Gary, if you’re ever in the UK please get in touch).
Side note: I first came across Gary in a video where he was cold-calling potential sponsors for a new beer blog TV business. Well worth a watch. I love his refreshing “just pick up the phone and do it” mentality, and consequently ordered his book as soon as I became aware of it.
Crush It With Your Personal Brand
In Crush It! Gary shows how you can do what he has done (if we can be even a tenth as successful that would be sweet). That is, to use the internet to turn personal interests into a huge and profitable business, and transform your life by leveraging your personal brand. The book oozes inspiration and I imagine Gary jumping up and down in the background saying “make a plan and just do it. Crush it, just do it, you know you can, nothing is stopping you”.
The Key Messages
The key messages of the book for me are twofold: Build your personal brand using social media (it’s not rocket science but you do need a plan); and follow Gary’s fearless leap into the “just do it” school of action marketing.
Side note: I also read Michael Masterson’s Ready, Fire, Aim on holiday and expected the same “school of action” marketing philosophy. However Ready, Fire, Aim is more textbook Marketing 1.01, invaluable but solid. I recommend both books for entrepreneurs but for very different purposes. Start with Crush It! for inspiration and motivation, and then shore up the basic marketing foundations with Ready, Fire, Aim.
The Measure Of Success
Gary measures his success by how happy he is, not how big the business is or how much money he’s made. It is well received wisdom that starting a blog, or any business, to make money is much less likely to succeed than doing something that makes you happy. Gary is living proof of this (or so it seems as I don’t know him personally).
So, time to reflect. Are you living, or just earning a living? Follow Gary’s advice to learn how to use all the social media marketing tools to take whatever it is that rocks your world and build it into not just a business but a powerful personal brand that makes you all the money and, more importantly, brings you all the happiness you could ever want. The advice helps also if you’re already living your passion but want to boost your business even further.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
The tools available will spread your ideas and give your personal brand more traction in far less time and for far less money than you might have able to do otherwise, but they are only as powerful as the person who uses them.
Learn to navigate the digital waters of social marketing to build a business and promote your personal brand based around what you love most, and you will only be limited by how far you want to sail. Social media tools – Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc. – are modern-day galleons that will carry you to the new world, allow you to share your passion, differentiate yourself from your competitors, and deliver your brand to the broadest possible audience.
Developing Your Personal Brand Is Key To Monetizing Your Passion Online.
The thing that most people don’t realise is that in today’s world your business and your personal brand need to be one and the same. To assess the effectiveness of your brand, look at the quality of the interactions you have with your readers and customers, instead of the quality. Having thousands of people visiting your site is worthless if they’re not qualified traffic interested in your brand and what you’re selling. Better to have a few hundred visitors that are high quality and evangelical about your brand and products.
How To Stand Out From The Crowd
Many of you may be wondering how you’ll make yourself heard above all the noise and clutter on the web? How you will stand out from all the others in your niche? “Quality is a tremendous filter. Cream always rises, my friends, no matter how many cups of coffee you pour”. This is a resounding message for anyone hoping to make an impact on the web: write good quality content that provides value for the readers in your niche, stick with it and you will stand the test of time. As long as you’re creating content and building your brand you’re building future opportunity.
What Makes Great Content, And How Can You Provide It?
So, how do you create great content? Great content is a result of passion plus expertise. Great content is also about telling stories. Story telling is a powerful way to engage with your readers and get your point across in a compelling way. Gary sums it up beautifully in a way that, if you followed only this advice to launch your blog or refresh your website, you will be onto a winner: “If your passion is sales, talk to me about why you love it, your favourite persuasive technique, your most interesting clients, and your biggest challenges. Tell me your story and if you’re good, I’ll come back for more”.
Talk about things that get you excited, that allow your personality and passion to burst through and demand people take notice.
Use the right medium for you. It might be writing essays, blogging, videos, podcasts or interviews but find a medium that suits your personality and weave that into your personal brand. Know yourself. Choose the right medium, choose the right topic, create awesome content, and you can make a lot of money being happy.
How To Be Successful Online, Really
To be successful online you need to be constantly reaching out and engaging with the online community of people interested in your passion who are your potential subscribers and customers.
Social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon etc.) are tools to get you closer to the people and places you need. Twitter, for example, is a great way to lure people to your blog. Make your tweets compelling and insightful and quality enough to convince people to find out more about you and consume your content.
Each social networking platform gives your personal brand strength and reach, but if you use them together properly they can turn you in to a force to be reckoned with. However, you need to differentiate yourself. Many people have good content and access to the same tools you do. What they don’t have makes all the difference. And that secret ingredient? Authenticity. To stand out, be true to yourself and be yourself. If you want to dominate the social media game, all of your effort has to come from the heart.
Hustle Your Way To Success
How to hustle, the Gary Vaynerchuck way (he’s manic, loud and overexcited – his words not mine! – but it works for him). Hustle is working harder and longer than anyone else. In fact, the only differentiator in the game is your passion and your hustle. You can compete, and win, against your competitors, if you’re willing to outwork them. Expect this to be all consuming. The good news, if you’re living your passion you’ll want to be consumed by your work. And working for yourself will be a lot harder and more demanding in the early days, than having a job. But you won’t feel stressed and tired, you’ll be relaxed and invigorated.
The Secrets To Success
“As hard as you’re going to push yourself, don’t plan on seeing results right away”. Crushing it and making a ton of money being happy won’t happen overnight. It may not happen in six weeks, six months or six years. One thing entrepreneurs need buckets of is patience.
So, the secret to success is to work with passion, to hustle like no-one else, and to be patient. Of course, if you’re happy doing what you do, patience shouldn’t be a problem.
Leveraging Your Personal Brand Through Community
In some ways creating content is the easy part of starting an online business. Next you need to create community by starting conversations. Gary compares it to moving house and going round to meet the neighbours. To create an audience for your personal brand and business you need to get out there and start conversations and join every single conversation in your topic.
Over time your community focus will change. As traffic starts to grow your focus will need to shift from initiating contact with anyone who might have an interest in your passion to spending more time responding to the people who have responded to you. Building and sustaining community is a never ending part of doing business.
Build It And They Will Come
So, building your online community is a combination of two strategies: Firstly creating killer content and distributing it far and wide using tools such as ping.fm, youtube, and onlywire. Second, paying attention to other people’s content and commenting on every blog, article, forum post and tweet you can find in your niche. Your comments and contributions must be thoughtful and insightful if you’re to have any credibility.
Conversion or “Capture”
The next step is conversion (Gary calls it “capture”). Once you have people visiting your site you want to capture their details so you can engage with them on a longer-term basis. Popular ways to capture visitors include having various Call To Action (CTA) on your site. This could include an opt-in box, subscribe option, follow me (keeps people apprised of your tweets), “like” my Facebook page, “Share” buttons for social media sites, “Tweet this” or “Email this”.
Side note: If you’re using WordPress this is easy as there are social media plug-ins that automate all of this for you.
Your long-term goal is to get sticky and create more and more opportunities to communicate. Once you have at least one person engaging with you on your site you have started your community. Remember, what’s important isn’t the number of visitors to your site but the quality and intensity of their interaction with you.
The day you see that one person is reading or watching or listening to you is a day to celebrate. Gary’s wine TV blog started off with only 5 viewers, but by applying the lessons here, the rest is history. From one reader you will get the power of their word of mouth, their networks and contacts, and so the momentum builds.
The Best Marketing Strategy Ever
This is the shortest chapter in the book and is mind-blowingly simple, but powerful. It is? CARE.
How To Make The World Listen
Incorporate some personal stories into your posts. Use anecdotes from your own life to illustrate concepts. Let your personality shine through. This is all part of being authentic, and if you’re passionate about your subject that will infect and inspire your audience.
Putting it all together
Any topic can be turned into a profitable sustainable social media driven business. Here’s Gary’s step by step method (which will work for any topic, subject, industry or niche):
- Register your domain name
- Start a WordPress or Tumblr account to host your blog (using the domain you’ve just registered)
- Design your website or hire a designer (although I don’t think this is necessary with the tools available today, such as WordPress, Artisteer etc.). I would start with a basic WordPress blog using one of their free templates and then invest in professional design and navigation once you’ve got some traffic and are making some money.
- Buy a flipcam or video recorder if you plan to use video on your blog
- Create a Facebook Fan Page for your business
- Open a Twitter account
- Open a TubeMogul account if you’re using video or Ping.fm if your blog is written
- Create content. Write articles, blog posts, create videos, podcasts, whatever medium you feel most comfortable in. Be unique, informative, educational and inspiring and weave some personal stories and anecdotes into your writing to make it vibrant and personal and brand it with your unique personality.
- Post your content using Facebook, WordPress and other blog sites, and distribute it using Ping.fm and Twitter.
- Use search.twitter to find topics relevant in your niche. Follow them and start conversing with them, retweeting good content and engaging in conversation.
- Next use Google or Technorati to find blogs in your niche. For every blog you find, leave a comment with your name and a link to your site.
- Search within Facebook and LinkedIn for groups in your niche and start participating.
- Rinse and repeat.
Gary adds two additional steps:
Include your social media links on your email signature and business cards
Add a “Want to do business with me?” button on your site for potential sponsors
Rome wasn’t built in a day
Build your community one email, one comment, one tweet, one status update at a time. Once you have regular visitors who are engaging in a meaningful way with your blog you can start to actively create revenue streams. Ideas for monetizing your blog include advertising (Google AdSense, Sponsorship), affiliate marketing, books and information product, TV, video, training courses, subscriptions, membership sites, the list is endless.
Continue building your personal brand
Join the speaking circuit, this will build interest in your site within a larger audience as well as giving you bucket loads of credibility
Are you ready to be reactionary?
Now you have all the pieces in place and you’re busy interacting with others in your niche and building community and your personal brand. However, the internet and social media are changing rapidly so as committed, obsessed and goal orientated as you need to be as an entrepreneur you also have to be willing to be flexible and adapt to change.
Keep a close eye on your industry, niche and social media strategies (without getting information overload, mission impossible?) and be ready to adapt and react as things change.
Are you ready to start building your business and your personal brand? Follow the steps here and Gary’s lessons and tips and you’ll be well on the way to a life of happiness and success.
I highly recommend this book and will be reading it again, for inspiration as much as for the excellent advice. It’s a short, punchy read and easily digestible.
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