Book Review: “Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuk

I recently read Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk and I enjoyed it enough that I thought I’d post a short review.

For those of you who don’t know, Gary is a very successful entrepreneur who has really pushed the limits of social media and proven that you can build a powerful brand in a short period of time with nothing more than hustle and imagination. Gary started his social media empire with Wine Library TV, an online video show about wine that helped grow his family’s retail wine and liquor store into the beginnings of an empire that does tens of millions per year in revenue. Nearly 100,000 people watch the show. He later expanded into blogging and videos on social media and personal branding. He has hundreds of thousands of fans on Facebook and nearly a million followers on Twitter. Impressive, to say the least.

Crush It! is the first book of a 10-book deal that Gary signed with HarperStudio and covers how to get started with social media and personal branding, no matter what your interests are. It’s a short read, maybe an evening or two, and it’s more motivational and strategic than tactical, though there’s definitely some practical advice. The three primary points of the book are:

  • Find your passion and talk about it, relentlessly
  • Build an audience, which may take time
  • Be yourself

Gary’s primary point in the book is that social media has broken down the traditional barriers to building an audience so that now anyone can make an income off their passion, no matter what it is. This claim seems dubious, but he illustrates it with the example of worms. Say you love worms more than anything…you could do a blog and podcast about worms, and you could do so from several angles: fishing, the study of worms, worm farms, whatever. His point is that you by being passionate and authentic and creating an audience of other worm-lovers out there (and they are out there), you can make a good living off of it.

I tend to agree with him, partly because I’ve seen an awful lot of bloggers making a lot of money over the last few years writing about tiny niche topics, and partly because there are more than a billion people online and more joining everyday, and it just stands to reason that for almost anything you can possibly be passionate about, there’s a market-size group of people out there who care about it too.

Gary talks about how Wine Library TV only had five viewers when he started, but he just kept creating good content and engaging whatever fans he had, and today you can see the results. Another of his big points is that you may have to spend years working at it to really build the audience you’ll need to live off your passion. This might sound like a long time, but if you’re doing it because you love it and you’re having fun, does it matter?

One of the points he comes back to most often is the idea of just being yourself. Users can smell people being fake from a mile away, so the only way to build a valuable audience is to be honest and authentic. The only real question I had that the book didn’t answer was: what if you’re not the type of person who a) has a passion, or b) enjoys developing an online personal brand. However, I don’t fall under either of those categories, so I enjoyed the book. However, if you’re not really into Twitter or Facebook or blogging or online video or whatever, then maybe the book won’t appeal to you like it did to me.

The book has inspired me in several ways: first, I’ve renewed my efforts to stay engaged in the current communities that I participate in. Second, I’m going to be revamping my personal brand and making this site simpler and more expressive this year. Finally, I’m going to relaunch, a site I started almost three years ago to talk about personal finance, investing, career development, and entrepreneurship, all from the perspective of young adults in the 20-35 age bracket. Unfortunately, I let the site languish and haven’t done anything with it for the last 18 months or so, which I really regret. I wonder what it could be right now if I had really focused on it. Maybe more like this. However, there’s no time like the present to turn things around, so stay tuned.

And buy this book.