The dinner took place at the AT&T Conference Center in University Avenue and it was organized by Technology Entrepreneurs Exchange (TeXchange).It was a very well-organized event where the attendants had a chance to do some networking and enjoy a drink from the cash bar before the event started.
Gary started the evening by talking about his amazing story as a kid. He was born in Belarus and immigrated to the US as a young child. His entrepreneurial instincts took over at a young age, when he owned a franchise of neighborhood lemonade stands and made $1,000 a weekend selling baseball cards. Much to his dismay, his father Sasha pulled Gary into the family business, a local liquor store called Shoppers Discount Liquors. Before long, Gary recognized that consumers collected rare wines just like people collected baseball cards, and he was off to the races. Gary transformed himself into a wine expert, rebranded the store as Wine Library, launched a retail website in 1997, and by 2008 he had raised annual revenue from $4 million to $60 million.
In February of 2006, Gary launched Wine Library TV, a daily video blog about wine. As the audience grew and word spread of his informal and unorthodox approach to wine, Gary made numerous national television appearances as a wine expert. While developing the audience for Wine Library TV, Gary eschewed the traditional media tools he had relied on when building the retail store, turning instead to the social web. Gary joined the online conversation using blogs and forums, and then proceeded to utilize web 2.0 tools such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with consumers online.
After dinner and after he was done talking about the way we used some of the existing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to make his business successful, the attendees had a chance to ask Gary questions.
Some of the questions were “Why does a company needs to have a Twitter account? Gary’s response “Because if you were sitting next to people who are talking about your company, it will be crazy not to join the conversation”. I agree with this 100%. Twitter is very useful for all companies because it is a tool they can use to listen and respond to what people are saying about their company, product or service. One way to do this is to use Twitter search and search for tags that are related to your business, your product name, company name, etc… look for people talking about your business or perhaps talking about competitors and use that information to start building relationships with those people.
Another hot topic was Facebook. People asked why does my company needs to have a Facebook page, etc… the answer was because Facebook currently has half a billion users, companies pay large amounts of money to show their products in places with the most eye balls… well, half a billion eye balls is a pretty large number. One of my favorite comments from Gary was, do not love the platform, today is Facebook, Twitter, etc… who cares, if tomorrow’s hottest platform is something else… then just move your company and conversations to the new place, it is as simple as that.
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