Why Brands Still Screw Up Social

Gary Vaynerchuk is known to operate at a whirlwind pace. It’s not surprising he’s running late — flight delay — but he took the time to talk to Digiday about where brands go wrong in social.

It’s not easy to pin down Gary V., as he is almost universally known. The social media whirlwind and wine e-commerce pioneer is constantly jetting off to see clients, writing  books, updating his blog, running Vayner Media or keeping his over 1 million Twitter followers informed.

Here’s what the he told us about brands as publishers, cheesy brand social tactics, why agencies need more people with retail experience, and the best cheap bottle of wine. Excerpts:

What are the biggest mistakes brands make when it comes to social?
There are lots of cliche things and marketing jargon that gets thrown around – like social media as a two-way conversation – however, there is some borderline truth in those things. But the thing is you can’t just use these social platforms in the way we used to use TV spots. Brands don’t contextualize social media. They aren’t respecting the contexts and nuances of Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and how they are all different. Also, they are greatly underestimating the power of consumer insight on these platforms.

Can brands be human on social? Should they be?
I think so. People are clearly interacting with them as if they were human, but brands shouldn’t be crippled with getting their voice down, because people have lots of different understanding of what a voice is — and personality is subjective.

Do brands need to be publishers?
I do believe that every brand and human is a media company. I just think that most people suck at it. But once they find their voice, they can win. The problem is most brands talk about their brand and service, but they need to talk about the genre they play in. For example, as a wine brand, you can talk about your wine brand or you can talk about travel in wine country. People get too black and white about what they talk about. Brands have to spread their wings a bit and get creative.

Still, you must cringe at some brand tweets. 
I’m very scared to look back, but in 2009, I started doing a fill-in-the-blank for the NHL. But back then, it was all really new. And yes. I do cringe, and I do think they need to move away from these tactics. But every one in 100 tweets, it’s OK to ask for a retweet. Places that are taking social seriously, it happens less. But we definitely see a lot of bad microcontent.

What is a social platform brands are underrating?
I think Pinterest is underrated, even though brands are all on it. I think potentially, for brands with younger audiences, SnapChat. And believe it or not, Twitter. Everyone uses it as a push-pull platform, and that’s underestimating its power. I think everyone is moving so fast to be on every platform though, so it’s hard for platforms to be underrated.

What’s surprised you most about running an agency?
I didn’t realize that people that have worked in the advertising industry would be so scarred. I come from the wine retail industry. My core team has worked with me for 15 years. Now I’m just mad at agencies for not caring about their people.

I saw your post about realizing that you like hiring people with retail experience, can you tell me a bit more about that?
I love people that think about the customer first. They have a skill set of knowing how to react to people. That’s what marketing is about. You have to pay attention to the zeitgeist and ride it. And not just during the Super Bowl, it’s every day.

What’s a great wine for under $15?
2010 Celler De Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica ($11.98).

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