In brief, Crush It! is about turning yourself into a brand and over time make a living doing whatever it is you love to do, specifically in this case using online outlets such as blogs and social media. Using himself as a case study, Vaynerchuk lays out a working model of how to start, grow, and build on an audience, with the underlying message that the internet has made this easier to do now than it ever has been before, so JUMP ON WHILE YOU CAN! (Vaynerchuk is a man who likes a lot of exclamation points.)
A lot of “self-help” or “get-ahead” books take enough content for a ten-page article and expand it into a 500-page book costing $40+; Crush It! does not do this. Crush It! is a slim volume with a lot of white space and a very zippy writing style (one chapter is only a single word long!), which cost me ~$17 with a discount card and would have only been $10 in electronic form. And Vaynerchuk is passionate about his subject, giving a lot of no-nonsense, straight-up advice about how to get out there and make a name for yourself.
Vaynerchuk is a classic hustler (in the Tom Sawyer sense, not in the sense of being a crook) — he’s all about finding out what people want and getting it to them, in a way that will make him a profit along the way. The archetypal merchant hero, as it were. While reading Crush It!, I kept being favorably reminded of Kerry O’Day, my own business partner (the gal behind Merchandise Maven and other such projects), who would get along with Vaynerchuk like a house on fire. In particular, when he related a story about driving a case of wine to a customer hours away late on a holiday weekend when he discovered his staff had screwed up the order, I immediately thought, “Yup! That’s Kerry all over.”
And in Crush It!, Vaynerchuk turns this “Kickass Schmoozer and Customer Service” mind to the world of blogs and social media, giving concrete and well-thought-out advice on how to turn things like WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter into the launchpad for your own career. His own enthusiasm also rubs off in the text, so if you’re flagging at the end of a long day and needing a little booster shot to keep you going, it’s a good place to look for that.
Of course the problem with a work like this is that, by its very nature, it’s ephemeral. While the core lessons of making yourself your own best product and your own best salesman are timeless, the particular vehicle he’s chosen to talk about in Crush It! is an always-changing field of technological change driven by both innovation and marketing. Sure, Facebook is hot right now — but in two years, if previous social media lifespans have been any guide, everyone will be somewhere else that hasn’t even hit the radar yet. At which point, the chapter in which he lists specific strategies on getting the most out of Facebook will be yesterday’s news.
Vaynerchuk knows this full well and is the first to tell you so; he also keeps driving home the point that the methodology of Crush It! is simply one path to take. “Be true to your DNA” is one of his core rules, whether that means being a texty-sort of blogger (like me) or more of a video-star blogger (like him). So once you get the underlying truths, the specific path you take doesn’t matter as much.
If I had to pick one thing that put me off a bit in this book, it would be how much of it Vaynerchuk spends, particularly at the beginning, telling his life’s story. A very standard “by your bootstraps immigrant makes good tale,” he goes into great detail about his father’s liquor store, which led to his own development as a wine expert, combined with his own adventures as a teenage baseball card dealer, which led to his status as big-time wine store owner and online wine guru, etc., etc. I understand why it’s there, and of course I’m painfully aware of the role this very book plays in Vaynerchuk’s promotion-of-self (and by extension, now my own role in his promotion by reviewing it) … but purely as a reader this is where I found myself tempted to say “Get ON with it! I picked up this book to learn how to toot my own horn, not to listen to you toot yours!”
This takes up roughly the first 2/5 of the book; and while it does have value as part of the big picture (teaching by example, essentially), it takes a long time getting there. It would have felt like less of a digression if Vaynerchuk had found some way to push it back and put a bit more “let’s talk about your needs”-type info near the front. On the other hand, it does establish Vaynerchuk’s bona fides as somebody who knows what he’s talking about, having lived it, so it may be that in the front is the only place it could go.
The Bottom Line
Crush It! is definitely a “right place at the right time” kind of book. If you’re looking for a handbook of self-promotion, particularly through online media, as well as a primer on how to get out there and hustle, this definitely should have a spot on your bookshelf, whether physical or virtual. And, since it is so economical, both in terms of price and wordcount, there’s very little overhead to going out and getting a copy. The price of two lattés for the electronic version, or three-and-a-half for print, it’s money well spent on useful advice. I don’t quite see it as the career bible that Mike Stackpole makes it out to be, but on the other hand for people who’ve never seen Kerry in action, I’m sure it’s an eye-opener!