Gary Vaynerchuk is a born salesman.

At 22 years old, he joined the family wine business, and grew the company, now known as Wine Library, from $4 million to $60 million in five years. But if there's one thing he's learned about being a good salesman, it's that it isn't always about selling. It's about storytelling.

"Everyone in this room could charge more for a service or product if they were better at storytelling," he told Inc. editor-in-chief Eric Schurenberg during an on-stage Q&A at the Inc. 5000 conference Friday. And according to Vaynerchuk, CEO of the brand consulting firm VaynerMedia, there's no better place to tell customers your story than on social media

To illustrate that fact, he asked the audience to stand up if they regularly DVR television shows and fast forward through commercials. A second later, nearly everyone in the audience was standing.

"About 80 percent of this room is not consuming commercials, and yet brands are spending billions of dollars trying to tell a story where you're not," he said. "We're living through ever changing times and communication's being disrupted. We need to communicate for our businesses to survive."

Of course, most business owners at this point understand the significance of social media. What they don't realize, Vaynerchuk said, is that they can't approach social media platforms as pure distribution. Instead, brands should be engaging in two-way communication with their customers, and deploying a combination of what Vaynerchuk refers to as "jabs" and "right hooks." A jab might be a simple Tweet that says, "Happy Friday," which acccomplishes nothing more than building a relationship with the customer. A "right hook," by contrast, is a Facebook post intended to drive a direct purchase. These days, Vaynerchuk said, it takes a careful balance of jabs and just a few well-timed right hooks to maintain a customer's interest.

"Advertisers have been in the right hook business for the last 20 years. You get people for a second or two or three, tell your story, and convert them," he said. "But when someone throws 15 right hooks in a row at you, you know what happens? You duck."

According to Vaynerchuk, to be successful at social media, brands need to think of it not as a sprint, but as a marathon. It's not about instant gratification, but about building up to an even bigger payoff.

It's also about taking risks. Vaynerchuk's approach to trying new social media platforms is to go all-in, regardless of whether those platforms are still unproven. When Vine, the video app recently acquired by Twitter, launched, Vaynerchuk said he signed dozens of clients up for the service right away, not knowing whether or not it was an effective marketing platform.

"I'm not scared if I'm wrong, because the alternative is scarier to me," he said. "Better businesses than ours have lost by not innovating."

Published on: Oct 11, 2013