There is no shortage of “gurus” out there. If anything, they've seemingly multiplied since COVID, as everyone seems to have “the answers.” That's why I always perk up when Gary “Vee” Vaynerchuk shows up on one of my screens…or even in person. You may remember he was a featured keynoter at last year's Radio Show in Dallas.
Gary's a fascinating character. It would be easy to just call him an “internet celebrity,” but that handle greatly discounts who he is and what he's all about. Aside from building real businesses and being a truly electric speaker, Gary has made a reputation for demystifying technology, especially social media, with a style that is blunt, disarming, and refreshing.
One of my favorite Gary Vee rants is his reaction to a corporate executive who relentlessly asked him to define “the ROI of social media. WARNING: This 3-minute video is NSFW (but it is spot on).
So when I saw this story in The Drum earlier this week – “3 actionable insights from…Gary Vaynerchuk” by Kenneth Hein – it jumped out at me.
Not surprisingly, Gary's pronouncements are all in the “roll up your sleeves and get a little dirty” category. That's because he is a believer that marketers and content creators need to experience media and technology for themselves. The are no “best practices” if you don't put them into practice yourself.
Since the virus, oddly enough, many of us find ourselves at a strange moment on our journeys. We may actually have a little more time on our hands to do more than just answer email, and take care of routine tasks around the house.
I love these three pieces of advice from Gary Vee because they involve doing – the best way to understand how our audience is thinking and behaving all the time.
1. Download and listen to 500 podcasts – OK, just play the very beginnings of them. Why? Because Gary wants you to hear those live reads that dominate most of the pre-rolls.
His theory? That only old school marketers know what great radio live reads actually sound like. And because they can be make a difference in marketing results, Gary Vee's advice is solid and smart.
But since most of you reading this post actually know what makes for a great host-read spot, try this: listen to the first :60 of each podcast (after the pre-roll), and grade them on whether you want to keep listening or whether you'd rather be elsewhere.
Which ones draw you in? Which seemingly take forever to get rolling? Which quickly make it clear what the podcast is all about and why you should listen?
Every piece of data we see reminds us that consumers make the “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” decision in the first few seconds of a radio benchmark, a song, and yes, a podcast.
For the time being, podcast popularity is measured based on faulty download data that tells marketers nothing about whether an episode was actually listened to, and if so, for how long? In radio, we call that Time Spent Listening, and it's a dynamic way to understand whether our content is good enough to grab an audience's attention.
The day will come when podcasts are measured based on whether anyone was actually listening. It is important for producers to figure out how to draw in listeners – and keep them tuned in.
2. Actually sell something on Shopify – Gary makes the point that e-commerce is “the thing.” After watching the richest person on the planet, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, testify before Congress yesterday, he'll get no argument from me.
Gary's point is that down and dirty e-commerce and direct-to-consumer marketing are where the money is being made and will be made.
His suggestion? Find something at home or in the office, and learn how to market a consumer product or service.
Learn the dynamics of social ads, landing pages, and content marketing. What does it take to move consumers to clicking “purchase?”
It's how so many things will be bought and sold. As Gary remind, “It's just a big deal.”
3. Read all the comments about your brand on social media – No, not just on Facebook and Twitter – but everywhere. YouTube videos, Instagrams, LinkedIn entries – everything.
What people are saying about you socially isn't always fun to read and experience. But as Lori Lewis always reminded us, they will talk about us whether we're actually part of the conversation or not.
There are insights to be gained – sometimes painful ones – while perusing social media. But oftentimes, they'll spur ideas about how you can create a a better experience, while being attuned with influential listeners.
And don't just go to your pages where people had to use your correct address, handle, or hashtag. Gary believes that searching your brand across these platforms yields important consumer insights – the feedback you won't get from consultants (ahem!) or focus groups.
As always, I came away inspired by Gary's advice, and started thinking about that spare time we might have, and how it could be used introspectively to help our stations and how we earn our livings.
So, forging ahead – and rolling up my sleeves – I've taken the liberty and added three insights of my own:
4. Take a MasterClass – Or some other online, tele-learning class – not necessarily about radio or media. I like MasterClass – they're well-produced and organized. These web tutorials cover myriad topics, and are hosted by some of the biggest names in the business.
Learning some American history from Doris Kearns Goodwin, photography from Annie Leibovitz, or negotiating from Chris Voss will round you out, and perhaps turn on a light or two. And chances are, even these off-topic sessions will find its way into your everyday work routines.
I talk to people in our business who tell me, “Radio is my life. It's the only thing I know how to do.” It doesn't have to be that way. And you'll end up being better at your craft by expanding your horizons and rounding out your interests.
5. Spend a day with Alexa (or Google Home) – If you've held off on buying a smart speaker for whatever the reason, get over it and accept the fact the growing voice platform isn't just here to stay. More and more, it's how consumers get stuff.
I get the privacy concerns – “I don't want someone listening to my conversations” – but the fact is, your smartphone or your TV is likely doing the very same thing. Get over it, and experience how people are using their voices to retrieve…just about everything.
An Echo Dot or a Google Home Mini is under $50, and you will quickly learn about how your audience is accessing your content on these devices. (Or are they?)
Are you promoting them correctly and concisely? Is your marketing clear? Do you have opportunities to create custom content for this platform?
Your listeners are likely using voice command technology on myriad platforms. Learn to speak the language.
6. Drive your market – Even if you've lived in your place of residence for several years, decades, or your entire life, you may not have taken stock of how the place looks six months into COVID-19.
What businesses are still open, how are people gathering (or are they?), are the usual freeways, thoroughfares, and streets as crowded as usual? In short, how has the pandemic changed the dynamic of people's lives – and in the process, how they may be consuming your station's content.
Getting in the car and just driving for a couple hours in the metro not only gets you safely out of the house, it puts you in the position of experiencing your station, your competition, and non-broadcast content in the #1 listening location.
Pay particular attention to how your station's RDS/HD Radio content looks on the screen – as well as what other stations are displaying. Is the content consistent, clear, and attractive? Is it choppy, confusing, distracting, or just inaccurate? All of this can be easily fixed.
Extra credit: If you don't drive a vehicle with a full-blown infotainment system, rent one for a day. Bonus points if it has HD Radio. Better yet, you might find a car dealership that will let you take one of their vehicles for an afternoon.
Pair your phone (you can easily delete it later), and experience the dashboard system. They're all different, of course, but there are commonalities. Learn how drivers (and passengers) can access content of all sorts from their smartphones or dashboard apps.
Experience Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. How do these ecosystems change the in-car dynamic? And how do they impact access to AM/FM radio?
Hopefully, Gary Vee's recommendations – and mine – provide you with a to-do list that will open you up to different ways of thinking about your mission, your audience, and your career.
And maybe use some of that COVID-19 time wisely.
Roll up your sleeves.