I had the great privilege to meet Gary Vaynerchuk last night at Powell’s books. If you don’t know who @garyvee is, get a Twitter account, already!

Vaynerchuk is one of the most influential social media thought leaders online today. He has used social media as a business strategy, building relationships the way small-town economies had relationships in the 1920s. This is the theme for his latest book, the Thank You Economy.

People sense inauthenticity, Vaynerchuk says. And nobody wants to do business with an inauthentic shill for a corporate profit margin. But they will pay more, and will be vocal about their experience, for people they have genuine relationships with.

What struck me most about the book was Vaynerchuk’s diagnosis of how we lost the relationship factor in American business. He attributes it to the exodus to suburbia (and later, exurbia). No longer did we need to meet with our local butcher or our grocer every day, we bought prepackaged meat from a huge box store. But as humans, we still have that need to connect, to feel that we are buying from the right person because we know them personally.

Social media gives us the opportunity to do this on a one on one basis.

Instead of engaging in ‘push marketing,’ blaring our message out on billboards and TV ads and cramming our message down consumers’ ear canals, social media gives us the opportunity to engage in ‘pull marketing.’ We can pull our friends and acquaintances into our circle by genuinely engaging with them, and making friends.

Given the choice, would you do business with a friend, or with someone who is cheap and faceless?

We are willing to pay more for genuine connection. By establishing genuine connections first, we lay the groundwork for a loyal customer base.