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I'm a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuck for the passion he brings and how much he cares.  A year ago at SXSW, he shrugged off the comments people made about how one person doesn't scale.  His point was that it was better to try instead of getting hung up worrying about it. Effort goes a long way. I agree. If you don't at least try, you don't know.

This year, his tune has changed a bit. He's still trying to talk to as many people as possible, but he does admit that people don't scale - brands do.

Before heading to SXSW this year, I made it a point to pick up Gary's latest book,The Thank You Economy, with the goal of reading it in advance of the conference. I was also hoping for the opportunity to run into Gary at one of the many events taking place during SXSW and wanted to be able to discuss the book if I got so lucky.

I tweeted about reading the book a few times and even got a response from the person monitoring the @TYEbook Twitter stream. That's terrific, but I wasn't really interested in connecting with a brand. I was infinitely more interested in connecting with Gary. My point: people can feel connections to other people. But when that connection - the person, or the human part of the interaction, is replaced by the brand, there's not really any feeling. And, as a result, the connection is significantly weaker and less impactful.  This is a huge part of why people are drawn to social media.  They want to feel that connection.

So here's what I think: People build real relationships with other people - not with brands. While Gary is correct when he says that brands scale and people don't, the other part of the equation is that people connect and oftentimes, brands don't. Interaction between brands and people isn't typically what marketers like to call "sticky." Interaction between people is. Interaction between people is the beginning of a relationship. Interaction between people and brands doesn't seem like very much of a relationship at all.

To my way of thinking when you're dealing with community building or CRM or any other part of the social media communication channels for a business, it's important to understand the roles people play and then build relationships of varying depth based on those roles. Understanding your network, who is connected to whom, who is talking about what with whom, what the context of those conversations and those relationships are and the underlying meaning - those are all

People build real relationships with people, not brands.  Gary is right that brands scale and people don't but brands don't really connect with people.  If I mention a brand and they respond to me, great.  I feel good about that brand but there is not much of a relationship there and it is not very sticky over time.  Granted there does not always have to be a personal relationship but if you are dealing with your the core group within your market then you should understand the roles people play and build relationships of varying depth based on that.  This is where understanding your network and why you should approach it strategically is really important.

What do you think? Do you feel differently about having a conversation and/or building a relationship with a brand than I do? I'd love to know your thoughts.