AJ Vaynerchuk

AJ Vaynerchuk

Cofounder, VaynerMedia

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON May 18, 2016

Discussion

AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
* 2:03pm: Thanks guys, that was fun! Hey there, I'm AJ Vaynerchuk, co-founder of VaynerMedia and Partner at VaynerRSE. I have spent the last 7 years neck deep in the world of social media marketing & startups, and on many occasions, the convergence of the two. Excited to chat, ask me anything! Think it is also important to add that I recently left VaynerMedia and have no idea what's next. More context here: https://medium.com/@ajv/doing-so...
Dan Fennessy
Dan Fennessy@dan_fennessy · Founder at Party with a Local
Hi AJ. Are you coming to Amsterdam next week with Gary for TNW Conference? If so I wanted to invite you guys on a pre-conference event... on a boat, cruising the Amsterdam canals with my startup @partywithalocal & a bunch of local & visiting people from the tech scene. Would be awesome to have a couple of Vaynerchuk's on the boat :-)
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@dan_fennessy unfortunately I will not be going to Amsterdam, but thank you for the invite!
Patrick Onyekachukwu Udeh
Patrick Onyekachukwu Udeh@patrick_udeh · Digital Vigilante
1. How has your agency evolved over the past seven years? 2. What is the average tenure of your clients? 3. What is your talent acquisition process? 4. What is your vision for what the future of digital marketing and advertising will be in say five to ten Years? My sincere apologies, if it seems like I'm bombarding you with too many questions. It's okay if you can answer just one.
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@patrick_udeh 1. The agency has gone through many stages over the years. There is a huge difference between a team of 10, a team of 50, a team of 150, a team or 300 and so on. I would say the culture has evolved, but has remained with strong roots in family & communication. We have opened various offices around the country and now in London and the work has changed as the industry has changed. 2. I don't have the exact data at my fingertips, but our team tells me we are extremely strong in this regard compared to industry average. 3. We try a bunch of different things. We're also very fortunate that a lot of great talent comes to us. 4. Hmm, I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about this subject. With my departure from Vayner, I'm not sure if marketing/advertising will be a primary focus in my future.
Will Chou
Will Chou@willc · Personal Development: willyoulaugh.com
Top 5 pieces of advice for success and standing out when applying for a company?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@willc 1. Try to get a warm intro. Maybe a friend works there or a friend knows someone at the company. That always helps. 2. Research the company, important to show you have a genuine interest & understanding in the company and industry. 3. Use alternative means of contacting decision makers. I've had folks tweet me their interest and I've always rewarded that hustle. Not sure I have a #4 or #5!
Will Chou
Will Chou@willc · Personal Development: willyoulaugh.com
@ajv Thank you AJ
Will Chou
Will Chou@willc · Personal Development: willyoulaugh.com
@ajv Wow! Tweets still work? Heard it's been getting a bit spammy. Thanks
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@willc I see all my @replies
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What advice do you often find yourself giving to startups on how to better utilise social media?
Elizabeth V Novello
Elizabeth V Novello@elizabeth_v_novello · SISTER
YAY!!!
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
Alex Mulhearn
Alex Mulhearn@alexmulhearn · Creative, VaynerMedia
Oh hey AJ ;) As COO at VaynerMedia, you championed technology as means of improving internal communication and increasing efficiencies. Slack was one example of a product we implemented to take on tons of email and bring a company of 600+ closer together. What other areas of 'corporate' or agency life (like email) do you think are ripe for disruption?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@alexmulhearn sup bud :) 1. Meetings. Millions have tried, and I still don't think it's been cracked. 2. Reviews/Feedback. Lots to do there. Both things VM still needs to work on in my opinion!
Kim Garcia
Kim Garcia@kpop · SVP, VaynerMedia
AJ! <3 <3 <3 miss you!
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@kpop <3 <3 <3 :)
Brendan Hufford
Brendan Hufford@brendan_hufford
What is one thing you wish you would have done differently at VM when you started it?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@brendanhufford thanks for the question! I would say one thing I would have done differently is bring in an employee or two with more agency experience earlier on. I feel as if we wasted a lot of time in the early days on things that are routine to those with experience and if we brought in someone earlier with that experience, we could have ran faster.
Brendan Hufford
Brendan Hufford@brendan_hufford
Looking back, VM started as social community management and added creative later on. In retrospect, would you still have done the same thing?
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are the main reasons IYO for the failure (e.g.Secret) and decline (e.g. YikYak) of anonymous messaging/social media platforms?
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
If you had to design a new social media platform, what type of product would you build? Do you have any core features in mind?
Brendan Hufford
Brendan Hufford@brendan_hufford
What is your best advice for small digital agencies looking to get their first clients? Would you advice focusing on cold-calling, content, or something else?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@brendanhufford I would focus on your own network and try to get a warm intro. Maybe your friend's friend has a contact at company A. Or your cousins' best friend's father is the CEO of company B.
Brandon Rubinshtein
Brandon Rubinshtein@brandonshtein · Founder & CEO of @Verrehere
@AJV thank you so much for doing this! I know in your medium post you spoke about stress and how you left Vaynermedia because of the damage it was doing to you. Would you ever take a role as a startup advisor where stress would be minimal? If so what startups would you like to advise?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@brandonshtein Hey Brandon, I'd like to clarify that while stress is an aspect, in no way was stress the driving force of me leaving. In fact, I was more stressed 3/4 years ago than I was in my last year or 2 at Vayner. Re: advising, absolutely something I'd consider amongst other things. As far as which startups, haven't thought about it, trying to not think about it for a few months.
Brandon Rubinshtein
Brandon Rubinshtein@brandonshtein · Founder & CEO of @Verrehere
@ajv Thanks for the response. Would love to help in any way possible, maybe I can have my chauffeurs take you to the best golf courses around new york?
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
If you had to swap lives with a tech CEO for a week, who would it be and why?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@bentossell I don't think there is anyone I would switch with. The role of CEO of a tech company is something I don't strive for, and think my decision to leave Vayner was a decision that moved me further away from that type of reality than closer. That being said, to give you something besides a non-answer, I have massive admiration for what Travis Kalanick has done with Uber. Again, I would never want to switch with him and be the CEO of Uber for a week, but it's an amazing company that I still think is just getting started. Also, in full disclosure, I am a small investor in Uber.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
If you could only use one social media app what would it be and why?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@bentossell Twitter. Gives me the best balance of content relating to news, sports, tech, business, and a means of connecting with friends/family.
Justin Novello
Justin Novello@justin_novello · Loving life and forward bound!
1 more.. What is the greatest impact someone other than your family has impacted your life?
Anthony Liang
Anthony Liang@liangtfm · Co-founder, Hand & Terry
Hi AJ! Have you read, watched or listened to anything recently that has inspired/helped you in any way? Or maybe something you just really enjoyed :)
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@liangtfm sup bud :) I'm a HUGE believer in "Zigging while others Zag" - I apply that to my work life as well as my personal life. A good listen that recently touched on that for me was Chris Sacca's appearance on the Bill Simmons podcast - https://soundcloud.com/the-bill-...
Sarim Haq
Sarim Haq@sarim_haq · AI Whisperer
Hey AJ, big fan of your work at VaynerMedia. My questions: 1. Have you ever used Reddit as a marketing platform to get organic traffic? If yes, what strategy worked for you? 2. What are your thoughts on Cold Emails? Do they work? 3. If you were to create a list of top 3 ways of getting organic traffic to a website, what items would you put on the list?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@sarim_haq 1. Yes, we have played around with Reddit ads for very targeted campaigns. We have seen nice results. Otherwise, haven't done enough with it. 2. I am not a fan of cold emails personally. I think they actually do work (there's a reason people still do them) but I ignore the vast majority of cold emails I receive. I feel bad that I don't reply, but I justify it by saying to myself that I am just a metric to them, so if they don't take the time to personalize their outreach to me, I'm comfortable not personalizing a reply. 3. Not sure I'm the best person to answer this one. This is a field I haven't spent any time work on in years!
Umi Hussaini
Umi Hussaini@umihuss · Learning...everything.
@sarim_haq I see you work with AI. Would be interesting to see how AI & Machine learning plays a role in automating PERSONABLE cold emails and creating a SAAS business around it. What do you think?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@umihuss @sarim_haq I tend to believe that we need to be careful to try to remove all of the human interactions. While I think that is viable, and would work, personally something I wouldn't do or invest in.
Sarim Haq
Sarim Haq@sarim_haq · AI Whisperer
@ajv @umihuss We dont actually use AI to send out cold emails, we use it to increase user engagement with customers and leads. The AI part doesnt write the email, it just pings you when a contact is drifting away and at most creates a template based on the context of your last conversation. The cold email idea was inspired by Matt Epstien interview on TWIS where he said something along the lines of spending first couple of months just optimizing cold emails and figuring out what worked and what didnt...
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@sarim_haq @umihuss "The AI part doesnt write the email, it just pings you when a contact is drifting away and at most creates a template based on the context of your last conversation." - this part I can buy into
Umi Hussaini
Umi Hussaini@umihuss · Learning...everything.
Was college worth it?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@umihuss YES! Not so much the education but the life experience. Living away from home and taking responsibility for how I spend my time and actions. Also, I met some wonderful friends and best of all, my beautiful wife at college.
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@umihuss also... it was a ton of fun!
Jacques H. Bastien
Jacques H. Bastien@jacqueshbastien · Creator | Founder of shade.co & nappy.co
Hey AJ, I own a 10-person digital shop called boogie based in NY and LA. I assume nowadays, clients come to you guys, but earlier on, what were some of the top ways you guys acquired new business for Vayner?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@jacqueshbastien In no particular order: 1. Personal network / Warm intros 2. Word of mouth created by the good work we did for our existing clients. 3. Gary's personal brand was the largest driver of new business for VaynerMedia in the early days. Whether it was a keynote, his books, or a video, a lot of our business was driven by organizations who discovered Gary and in turn wanted to work with him and his team.
Jacques H. Bastien
Jacques H. Bastien@jacqueshbastien · Creator | Founder of shade.co & nappy.co
@ajv Awesome, thanks man!
Jacques H. Bastien
Jacques H. Bastien@jacqueshbastien · Creator | Founder of shade.co & nappy.co
@ajv Being greedy by sliding in another question but how has that changed in recent years, if at all?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@jacqueshbastien frankly, it hasn't changed much. The one thing I would say is that nowadays VaynerMedia has built it's own brand as a company, so that has helped drive more opportunities as well. In addition, now that we are up to 600+ people, our team's network is bigger & stronger as well
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
1) How has the relationship between you and your brother Gary evolved from when you guys first started VM to now? 2) What was the best and the worst about starting a business with a close family member?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@tomstocklein #1 - I think the biggest thing that evolved was a better understanding of each other in a business sense. Prior to Vayner we obviously knew each other really well and were/are best friends, but we hadn't really done anything in the realm of business at the scale of Vayner. So I think it took a couple of years to really hit our groove on what mattered and we really got to a great place in terms of communication. #2 - Best - spending time with each other. Worst - a good chunk of that time being spent on things that are not the most fun to discuss (client issues, HR issues, etc)
Thomas Stöcklein
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
What are you superpowers that complement Gary's skills at VM?
Greg Williams
Greg Williams@greg_williams · IBD Natural Health Specialist
Hey AJ. I met with Gary at an event in London recently and he mentioned you had Crohns. I specialise in helping people with Crohns to naturally beat their symptoms. I'd love to have a chat with you and give you some help. Just let me know! My site is (the self indulgently titled!) www.iamgregwilliams.com. Thanks
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@greg_williams Thanks for reaching out Greg. I've been very fortunate to receive many offers of this like but I'm already in great hands. Thank you again
Corey Hubbard
Corey Hubbard@corey_hubbard · Founder - DreamHighr
Hi AJ❗️ Big ups for being here today and I wanted to ask what were you two most important milestones when your startup was at the pre-seed stage?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@corey_hubbard 1. Our first few hires. Gary and I are big believers of starting with friends & family and our first few employees were friends of mine from high school & college. That was crucial to have folks who we knew we could trust and knew were talented. 2. Landing our first client. Having one client and building case studies from that enabled us to go out and get more great clients.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi A,j thanks for joining us today! How have some of your life experiences shaped the way you approach decision making?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@ems_hodge 1. Growing up with a family that is wildly similar yet so different really helped shape my decision making. It enabled me to understand that everyone is different and that certain things can matter or less depending on the individual. 2. Running an eBay business during high school taught me a lot about balancing work/school/life etc. 3. Spending a summer in San Francisco in 2008 gave me some great perspective on how different a tech city like SF could be compared to a city I was more familiar with (e.g. NYC or Boston) 4. Being a Jets/Knicks fan... taught me a lot about patience :) 5. Crohn's disease taught me a lot about perspective. Both within the confines of work, but also, life in general.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@ajv Thanks Aj!
Snah Desai
Snah Desai@s_haverford · Operations Analyst, ServiceTitan
Hello AJ! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. If I am not mistaken you have taken a leave of absence from Vayner Media. If that is still true do you find yourself going back to the office or even checking e-mails to stay filled in on whats happening at the company?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@s_haverford Hi Snah, that is correct. For those who want to learn a bit more, here's my post on the subject - https://medium.com/@ajv/doing-so... As of now, I have taken the approach to mostly being disconnected. I have taken maybe 1 or 2 quick calls about work in the last 2.5 weeks and I check email 1 or 2 times a day. Re: email, the team has been really great about respecting my time/space and not emailing me much at all re: work!
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical day look like for you?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@jakecrump These days? Breakfast with my wife Ali, taking my dog Enzo for a walk, Golf... lots of golf, and then making dinner with Ali and catching up / watching tv or a movie Guessing you may be asking more-so about my time at Vayner! If so, I would say there was no typical day while at Vayner. Part of being a founder is wearing many hats. I would do whatever was best to help the company move forward. Some days that was operational, some days it was more HR focused, some days it was client or platform focused. Honestly, that variety was one of my favorite aspects of my 7 years at Vayner
Mike McAllen
Mike McAllen@mmcallen · Media Producer Grass Shack Events Media
In all seriousness have you tried cannibus oil for your Crohn’s Disease
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@mmcallen I haven't, but I'm open-minded to all options!
Mike McAllen
Mike McAllen@mmcallen · Media Producer Grass Shack Events Media
@ajv You should do some research. I was watching https://www.viceland.com/en_us/s... and they had some pretty compelling information on it. (great show by the way) Worth a look. Good luck!
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@mmcallen thanks, will do!
Justin Novello
Justin Novello@justin_novello · Loving life and forward bound!
AJ - You are the man- What is the best TV series you've watched?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@justin_novello The Wire - unbelievable story telling & character development
Mike McAllen
Mike McAllen@mmcallen · Media Producer Grass Shack Events Media
@ajv @justin_novello I rewatch the wire constantly. The scene where they just say "fuck" 45 times is genius.
Justin Novello
Justin Novello@justin_novello · Loving life and forward bound!
@ajv thanks!
Sam Couch
Sam Couch@samuelcouch · Engineer // People Person
What is the biggest thing you struggle with and how do you fight it?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@samuelcouch Crohn's disease. Have been living with it for 10+ years. I fight it with a mix of perspective, healthy eating, and exercise. I've also have utilized medication and even underwent stomach surgery a couple of years back to improve my day-to-day (with great success!)
Dave Zhang
Dave Zhang@davidzhang · Media Manager, VaynerMedia
What resources do you use to prep for fantasy baseball besides roto and fangraphs?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@davidzhang I plead the 5th ;)
Mrs Christina Faith
Mrs Christina Faith@christinafaith · Funky Fresh Entrepreneur
Can I have the intros to clients whose budgets are two small for your company? Hey! I gotta ask.;-)
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@christinafaith love the hustle :) I'm no longer involved in the day-to-day at Vayner, so wrong guy to ask! Nonetheless, we've traditionally avoided that type of arrangement with other organizations.
Johannes Herzer
Johannes Herzer@joe_herzer · CEO, DOORBOOST
Hi AJ, any tips for an awesome startup (great tech, great team) in a not-so-hot market (Ad-Tech)?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@joe_herzer focus on execution and build a great business. That'll work no matter what market you're in!
Gabriel Anderson
Gabriel Anderson@gabriel_anderson · VaynerPublishing
Of all the emerging technologies (VR, AI, bio-tech, 3D printing, etc) which is most exciting to you and why?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@gabriel_anderson hey bud :) As a consumer I'm personally most excited about VR. Really excited to see the means in which it is utilized for entertainment, communication, and how it can integrate with other real world experiences. One example of a real world experience blending with VR - https://www.sixflags.com/magicmo...
Levi Sherman
Levi Sherman@thelevisherman
Hey AJ, I have 3 siblings with chrones (it's a Jewish thang) so I have a small idea of what comes with it. I think it was smart to take a break and focus on your health. My question is this: When you were working how did you manage your chrones and be able to get work done? Also do you plan on staying on at Vayner In a Supportive role, something less hectic? Lastly, what was the hardest thing about starting an agency from scratch?
AJ Vaynerchuk
AJ Vaynerchuk@ajv · Founder, VaynerMedia
@thelevisherman Levi, sorry to hear that such a larger portion of your family suffers from Crohn's :( re: #1 - Honestly a part of it was sheer will. A willingness to ignore what your body is telling you and utilizing ambition and "hunger" to push through it. In addition to that, Gary was massively supportive throughout the whole time if there was ever a need for me to take a day off to focus on my health. #2 - Yes and no. Nothing formal, but at the end of the day my name is on the door and I am still an equity holder. So I'm here, but at the same time, I've decided to step away from day-to-day and do not want to step on anyone's toes from the sidelines. #3 - The hardest part was not knowing how the industry worked! Mentioned it earlier in a comment, but I regret not adding a bit more agency experience to our team earlier on. Lots of wasted time and effort in those early days on easy stuff!
Levi Sherman
Levi Sherman@thelevisherman
@ajv thanks for the reply! I was lucky, the chrones passed right by me. I'm going through the Q&A now reading answers, sorry if I asked something that was asked already. :0
Joel Sprechman
Joel Sprechman@joelsprechman · One Great Gut
Hi AJ! I read your medium article about how Crohn's has a daily impact on your life. Thank You for your vulnerable share. We're in similar boats. I have UC(Also, IBD), and am the founder of One Great Gut, about to launch my podcast. Our mission is to heal the 81M guts in the US suffering from IBS and IBD. We've researched safe and effective natural treatments with good effectively to reduce or cease medication through a whole systems integration approach. If you're open to a conversation(We can talk shit all day. haha) on how we're planning to reverse the trend, please reach out. Wishing you ease in your transition,great health and vitality!