Gary Vaynerchuk is a 35 year old self-trained wine and social media expert who has revolutionized the wine industry. Vaynerchuk is the Director of Operations of the Wine Library, his parents’ 3-story, New Jersey-based wine store. His webcasts attract over 90,000 viewers each day and his email queue typically holds 1,000 messages from die-hard fans, self-named “Vayniacs”. Vaynerchuk’s cult-like following is the result of his unconventional, often irreverent commentary on wine, combined with his business acumen and foresight to use social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to reach an untapped audience. Recently, Vaynerchuk’s podcast became the most downloaded show on iTunes in the Food category, beating out venerable names in the industry including Martha Stewart and Jamie Oliver.
Known as the “King of Social Media,” Vaynerchuk is one of the first Facebook users that maxed-out his friend limit, with over 17,000 requests pending. He also has close to a million followers on Twitter and was included in BusinessWeek’s list of the top 20 people every entrepreneur should follow. He has been the keynote speaker at notable events such as the 2009 South by Southwest Interactive conference and the New Media and Web 2.0 expos. Vaynerchuk is regularly asked to consult on social media for some of the world’s largest and most recognizable companies like Google and Domino’s. As a result of his social media expertise, Vaynerchuk recently landed a 10-book deal with HarperStudio. The first title, Crush It! Why Now Is The Time To Cash In On Your Passion launched in October 2009. The book maps out Vaynerchuk’s road rules for how to “Crush It” in today’s business market by following your passion and building your own personal brand.
Vaynerchuk broke down the barriers in the wine industry, attracting followers from ages 12 to 90, all with one thing in common: an eagerness to learn about wine. Vaynerchuk’s key goals (after owning the New York Jets) are to get people to try different wines and trust their own palates to buy what “brings the thunder.” One of the hallmarks of Vaynerchuk’s show is appealing to the Average Joe through comical expressions like “Sniffy sniff” and “The Oakmonster”, encouraging straightforward wine tasting and debunking wine myths. In the name of “expanding one’s palate”, Vaynerchuk convinced Conan O’Brien to lick salted rocks and shared samples of dirt and grass with Ellen Degeneres.
Vaynerchuk’s interest in wine started while he was working the liquor store owned and operated by his Russian immigrant parents. He began reading The Wine Spectator and wine books, realizing collecting wine offered an allure similar to his previous hobby of collecting baseball cards. With a wealth of knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit, Vaynerchuk spent every weekend of his college years at his parents’ wine store. He rebranded the family business as Wine Library and grew it from $4 million to $40 million.