Crush It! rough draft

Gary Vaynerchuk speaks from his experiences throughout his how-to guide on creating your own personal brand in Crush It!. Gary’s purpose throughout this book is to guide everyday social media users on how to take the creative concepts they have and turn them into successful and very realistic business entrepreneurships. The audience he’s speaking to is thus not necessarily very tech-savvy individuals, but more so average people interacting with the media around them. However, he makes it clear that the only type of people who will attain successful results from Crush It! are those who have a passion to turn their dreams into their real lives, even if they have some reservations about how to get there. Without passion, he says, you have nothing (Vaynerchuk 8).

Gary doesn’t specify what types of personal brands users may want to establish because he has the same business model for all types of people. The entire book revolves around this idea of passion – everything he mentions relates back to the importance of individuals taking advantage of the best marketing strategy there is out there: caring (Vaynerchuk 90). He breaks the book up into a number of sections, including the importance of family, utilizing social media, monetizing your brand, maintaining authenticity, and leaving a legacy behind (which is more important that gaining monetary capital). Yet all these bits and pieces tie into one overarching theme: passion can get you anywhere.

While I can’t say I completely agree with Vaynerchuk that passion is all you need for success (I mean come on, this guy is a little too optimistic to think money means nothing!), Crush It! was certainly an interesting take on how the average person can really turn themselves into an entrepreneur with no past business endeavors. This being said, it’s clear that Gary believes in the social construction of technology as a discourse; he believes that the technology users create responds directly to their already existing social influences. The idea and creativity that those trying to create their own brand have didn’t come from the technology, but rather social media is a tool that can be utilized to expand and develop that brand. Your creativity and passion is what gets the ball rolling and the technology is just there to speed things up (Vaynerchuk 21).

Vaynerchuk also makes it clear that it’s important to not only be true to your clientele and brand, but also (and more importantly) to yourself (Vaynerchuk 33). He stresses the importance of maintaining authenticity when monetizing and marketing your brand (Vaynerchuk 73). The worst thing you can do is lose sight of your original goals; that’s when you lose passion and stray away from your true intentions of being happy (Vaynerchuk 10). That is when you let the currency get ahead of you, and it’s clear that Vaynerchuk believes it’s more important to leave a legacy of yourself behind than make money and lose your enthusiasm (Vaynerchuk 110).

This is very reflective of a number of concepts we’ve discussed throughout the course. His ideals about authenticity very accurately reflect different types of taste within social media that Bourdieu analyzes. If you’re the type to have an “authentic” profile on social media, you are presenting your true self to an audience, suggesting you are trustworthy and reliable. These are foundational concepts in Crush It!, as Vaynerchuk believes you can’t maintain a successful brand without being true to yourself and your customers. This might mean that those who identify with other types of taste, such as “prestige” where users feel a need to identify their tastes in relation to a certain type of hierarchy, may not be able to receive the same results from Crush It! as to those who would construct a more “authentic” social media profile like Gary Vaynerchuk.

Somewhat along the same lines, the author discusses the importance of marketing and branding yourself through the creation of a community. He makes note that sometimes creating the content is a lot easier than creating the community because you want to get users hooked and not lose them after one glance (Vaynerchuk 86). This all relates back to having passion and a vision: you need to create an environment, a practice, and an identity that users will trust and build a relationship with despite the fact that this will all be through social media. This very much relates to ideas and problems of community within online spaces in general.

Baym discusses how it was once assumed community would disappear with the coming of the Internet. However, this isn’t true – there are just different ways of communication online. These ways are through a sense of space, shared practice, shared resources and support, shared identities, and interpersonal relationships. These are the exact same types of necessary components of building your own online brand that Vaynerchuk discusses in Crush It! Both authors note the problem with maintaining a sense of community in an online world, but make it clear that while it may be a bit more difficult there is certainly something to gain from this, such as Ellison’s concept of social capital.

How Should We ‘Follow’ Social Networks?

In his article “Social network(ing) sites…revisiting the story so far: A response to danah boyd and Nicole Ellison,” Dr. David Beer provides a criticism of boyd and Ellison’s article on Social Network Sites. Some of his main issues with their initial analysis of Social Network Sites include that using the term Social Network Sites as something similar and yet distinct from Social Networking Sites is problematic, as it is too broad a category for such a topic. This, he argues, leads to a limit on how closely the SNS can be studied. Another issue Beer finds is that boyd and Ellison consider the online and offline worlds as two separate arenas, whereas he feels that the two are continuously merging together more and more. Along with this, Beer finds that considering situations in the ‘offline world’ to be unmediated, whereas all interactions are mediated in some way. Finally, Beer goes on to discuss how SNS should be studied in the future. He feels that researchers need to become more involved in the SNS to have more of an understanding of who is using them and how, and believes that SNS need to be understood as a player in the world of capitalism above all else, as the data these companies collect is highly valuable.

While boyd and Ellison’s article is quite thorough, Beer makes several valid observations here. For instance, the idea of taking the online and offline world as two completely separate concepts is a fairly bold concept from boyd and Ellison, and Beer’s point that these two worlds are actually quite connected is very much true. While I think it is still important to consider differences in how people present themselves in online versus offline situations, researchers should also think about those in between times, such as when a person is at a concert with friends and uploading a picture to Facebook. Should this be considered an online or offline moment? Regardless, Beer does make a very valid point that there are essentially no interactions that are in some way mediated. The great sociologist Erving Goffman would certainly agree with this, as he points to the metaphor of the ‘self’ as something represented on stage for the public in his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. With this in mind, it is quite surprising that boyd and Ellison would consider such a claim that there could be ‘unmediated interactions.’

Since this response was written in 2008, the iPhone had been released just a few months earlier, and Twitter was just starting to catch on. Along with a slew of other new products and platforms, these clearly changed the way many people interact with the offline world. Nowadays, people are constantly checking their phones to see what their friends are up to and to share their own thoughts and experiences online. In fact, the urge to Tweet or check emails has been found to be more addictive than smoking or alcohol. While this may have been the case with email back in 2008, the penetration of smartphones in the US, although still not the majority, has undoubtedly led to an increase of this. I think this blur between the online and offline world should be something that scholars should focus on while studying social networks: how people act when they are participating in both ‘worlds’ at the same time.

Another important discourse I think scholars should pay attention to when studying social media is that of the capitalist nature of SNS. As users become more and more concerned about what is being done with their data and how these sites are making money (Facebook even released a page explaining how it all works), the privacy anxiety that comes with the capitalist aspect is very interesting. Aside from the methods Beer, boyd, and Ellison mention, I think a study of why people migrate between SNS can reveal a significant amount about why people use the sites, and what they expect from them. For instance, a recent study has shown that many teens are leaving Facebook for Twitter, often for privacy issues. A more in-depth look into this could show why these shifts among networks happen, and how popular culture decides which ones are ‘cool’ (we all remember what happened to Myspace).

Obviously social media will continue to change, but studying the types of networks people use and why should provide an insight into how social people really want to be with their SNS. It will also shed light on how big of an issue privacy, authenticity, and other matters are for users.