How Gary Vee Hacks Your Attention

Paul Kovalski
Mar 8, 2018 · 8 min read
courtesy of

I have to admit- Gary Vaynerchuk is one of my greatest influences.

I first came in contact with his content back in 2013 after my boss at Bus2Alps gave me a copy of “The Thank You Economy”. 22 year old Paul didn’t know it at the time but that moment would ultimately change my life.

Fast forward to 2018 and I watch pretty much every episode of DailyVee (Gary’s daily Vlog). It has taught me about the importance of self awareness, emotional intelligence, and how a business can be grown on doing the right thing by yourself and your customers.

While Gary offers a lot of life advice, he also offers actionable tactics that businesses of any size can immediately implement.

One of the main ideas that he has continued to preach is the idea of attention hacking.

If you’ve ever watched one of his speeches you will notice that he often begins by stating that he “day trades attention”.

“It’s not how many followers you have, it’s how many care. It’s not width, it’s depth. It’s not how many impressions you get, it’s how much attention you get.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

He is consistently looking for the most effective way to get people’s attention in a meaningful way. And because he comes from a small business background, he is also looking for the most affordable.

That is where Attention Hacking comes in.

Everyone is a Hacker these days

The term “Hacking” has been recently popularized in our society.

It used to conjure up ideas of a programmer in a dark room trying to steal your credit card info. No longer.

Nowadays it simply means getting things done more effectively. There’s growth hacking, sleep hacking, and

Some people don’t like the term because it implies a quick fix. (You can check out this amazing talk by Rich Roll that further exemplfies this idea.)

Whatever your opinion may be, the reality is that people are just trying to get things done the best way they can and “hacks” can help them to get there.

CTOs want to know how to get more users, overworked execs want to know how to sleep better, and marketers want to know how to get more sales.

So what exactly is Attention Hacking?

Whether your goal is to sell more books or to win an election you need to capture people’s attention. Unfortunately, that can be pretty expensive!

Companies spend millions and millions of dollars on marketing every year. You can consider this “paid marketing”.

Paid marketing works but a scrappy start up that is short on cash needs to be creative with how they spend their money (and time).

Attention Hacking is creatively implementing strategies to get your message out there in the most affordable way.

If it is free, even better!

This may sound to good to be true, but it is (and I can prove it with specific examples).

Since we are already on the Gary Vee train, let’s use his personal brand as an example.

How Gary uses concepts of Attention Hacking to grow his personal brand


Google “Gary Vaynerchuk Podcast” and you will get a ridiculous amount of results.

I’ve personally listened to at least 50. He’s chatted with individuals in the business sphere, hip hop, and even health and wellness.

At first glance many business owners would think it was a waste of time. He’s not getting paid to podcast, why do it?

Podcasting is one of the easiest and straight forward ways to hack attention.

For an hour or two of your time you have the ability to connect deeply with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people.

You could spend money to advertise on FaceBook, but how deep is the connection you are building? Podcasting allows people to get to know you in a deep way because you have their engaged attention for an extended period of time.

The added bonus is that you make a connection with the PodCast host who you may be able to work with down the road. Even if it is someone just getting started just think about where they could be in five years :)

Actionable Advice- go on Apple podcasts and make a list of the 50 most well known podcasts in your industry. Reach out to them with a tailored message and schedule a time to chat. Tell your story and you will have thousands of potential customers listening in. If you can’t get on with the big dogs just yet connect with some people at your level. It’s free and can only help your business.

Interacting with your audience through Social Media

Back in the day Gary became one of the biggest “Twitter Celebrities”. Yes, that was a thing.

How did the owner of a small liquor store in North Jersey get millions of people following him?

It’s pretty simple- he added value.

Gary started in the wine world, and used twitter to help people learn more about wine. If someone posted about trying to find a good red to go with their steak dinner he would answer.

He did this over and over and his following grew.

You may be thinking to yourself “How is that attention hacking? Answering one person at a time would take forever!”

When you are responding to someone online, that response is public. Anyone can see it!

If you respond to a question on Quora anybody searching for that question can potentially see your answer. When you answer a question on Twitter it has the potential to get retweeted by that person’s audience.

You are developing a one to one connection with an individual that is publicized and creates a positive perception of you as a person/company that is helpful and gives a shit.

While this can be tedious and often feels like a waste of time, there are ways to standardize the process so it is part of your day.

Actionable Advice- Check out Gary’s $1.80 strategy for inspiration. Start with allocating a couple hours every week to interacting with your community. Only do it during the allotted time and then develop best practices from there. You do NOT want to be spending all your time scrolling down Twitter.

Human Connection

This one may seem counterintuitive with all of the marketing efforts that technology allows.

How can you “hack” anything if you aren’t using a computer?

Remember our original definition for Attention Hacking. “creatively implementing strategies to get your message out there in the most affordable way.”

Some times the most affordable way is to meet a potential customer for coffee.

Gary said it best:

“The internet is the gateway drug to one-on-one relationships.”

One of the most fascinating things I’ve personally observed through following Gary is his behaviors at big conferences like SXSW and CES.

He uses them to schedule back to back meetings with people that he would normally have to wait months to connect with.

He intuitively understands that the people attending the conferences are way more valuable than any content that will be delivered.

Remember- connecting with the right person can amplify your message. For a cup of coffee you can often make a connection that will end up serving you down the road.

Actionable Advice- Think about the people you are trying to connect with online. Where can you meet them in person? Maybe it is going to a MeetUp group or maybe it is sending a local prospect an invitation for coffee. You would be surprised how valuable of an experience it can be.

Amplifying your Efforts

Have you ever watched an episode of Ask Gary Vee? If not- you totally should. (I’d recommend his episode with Tim Ferriss as a good start).

If you are paying attention you will notice a couple of things:

  • Somebody is filming it to be posted on YouTube
  • Another guy has a phone that is transmitting to FaceBook live
  • Yet another guy has a phone that is transmitting to Instagram live
  • While it was still relevant somebody would be shooting on Periscope
  • He uses Twitter and tells people to put their phone numbers down and then calls them, prompting them to ask a question
  • He has a variety of guests that keep the questions diverse and allows him to prove his understanding of many areas of business and pop culture

Think about all the places that his content is showing up and the relationships he is building as a result.

Now think about how much it is costing.

It is true that Gary has a team and has automated a lot of these processes as a result. However, there is nothing stopping you from doing something similar in a much more affordable way.

Let’s go back to the podcast as an example. One hour long conversation can be turned into the following:

  • Podcast to listen to on Itunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and YouTube
  • Video to put up on YouTube
  • Blog Post or series of Blog Post
  • Quote that can be put in Instagram
  • Short videos to add on your YouTube channel
  • Content that your guest (or host) can repost

This is attention hacking. This is creative marketing.

Bringing it all Together

We live in a world of quick fixes and that is part of the reason that terms like “hacking” have become so popular.

However, don’t mistake attention hacking with easy work. It takes time, creativity, and elbow grease. Taking the easy road would be to say “let’s just throw money at this.”

Being scrappy requires tenacity. It’s also FUN.

When I watch Gary I’m inspired to do something differently. I’m inspired to embrace the challenge. Even writing this article got me excited!

I hope it did the same for you. If it did give that “heart” button a few clicks. I’d appreciate it :)

Paul Kovalski

Written by

I’m a marketer, a writer, and a meditator (amongst other things).Here I indulge my thoughts in business and philosophy

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