Building Relationships that Matter

chris brogan, lucinda devries, suzanne varaWe are taught to build relationships from a very young age through socializing with other children at daycare, preschool or play dates with children who are born to friends of our parents. It is instilled within us to play nice with the other children as no parent wants their child to be the bad kid. As we grow and develop stronger socialization skills, we seek out friends with whom we share interests. My BFF in elementary school was Terry. She was the youngest of 10 children (8 girls and 2 boys) and  was the best friend anyone could have. When I think of my childhood, she comes to mind as there was more days spent together than not. She was and is truly an amazing person to know.

We cherish our friends and will do anything for them to make their lives easier. There is just something about certain people that draws us to them. We know in the first few seconds of meeting them that there is a connection and they are here to stay. About a year ago, I met Chris Brogan. He was speaking in CA, and as luck would have it, my very dear friend Lucinda DeVries (more on her later) invited me and my son to come to CA, go to the beach and for us gals to go and hear him speak and attend the book signing for Trust Agents. Andrew and I were very happy when we jumped into the car until 20 minutes into the trip, the freeway was a parking lot. We sat in traffic for 1.5 hrs.

The Relationships that Matter

Social media has afforded us the opportunity to meet a lot of people. We gain insight as to who they are through their profiles, blogs, with whom they associate and our interactions with them. When we are first starting out on Twitter, LinkedIn, forums, commenting on blogs and even Facebook, we look for that acceptance. We know that conversations are happening but yet there is hesitation to jump in. Once we are able to jump in, we find an entirely new world and start building relationships. There are some people we just click with and feel like we have known them forever.  We like them and look forward to seeing them each day on their blog, on our blog and in our platform streams. Chris Brogan is one of those people. My friend and I waited 1.5 hours in line to get our books signed. She and I entertained ourselves quite well as I spilled hot chocolate all over myself, we talked about everything and anything which made the wait seem not so long. We approached and he was tired. He greeted us, happily took a picture and chatted for a minute. I just knew that he would be my friend and it would be a friendship that I would hold near, dear and cherish. So many of us know how amazing he is, how he gives countless hours of himself to the on and offline communities, how he inspires us and challenges us to challenge ourselves. He is a thought leader, he has opened the doors up for us all to come in and experience social media and relationship building through his countless hours dedicated to the world of social.

Welcome to the Community

I have been welcomed into his community so much so that he dedicated an entire post to, well, me (that is a whole lot of real estate afforded to me). It is overwhelming to think about it. Not only is the post single handedly the nicest, kindest and most  powerful words that anyone has ever said about me, it literally left me speechless. Damn him as that does not happen with me. No, No, speechless is not something people would associate with me! My mouth was wide open, my eyes welled up and I sat in amazement. I refreshed to be sure that it was real and then just sat there staring at it. I naturally thanked him and then sent a DM to Marjorie as I was so happy that she was mentioned as yes we did speak about her, her blog and what a great person she is.

My Community of Greatness

This post is not to create a Vara-Brogan lovefest. Nah, he knows what I think of him and well I guess we all know what he thinks of me. It illustrates how we are able to build relationships by a brief meeting and support it with social media. We can stay connected despite being across the country from one another. I like Chris and he pushes me to be better and stronger. But he is not the only one … there are others that inspire me, some I have met face to face and others I have on my Must Meet list (yes it is a real list). If you have not connected with them,  I say run and and do so as they are incredible people that brighten my day.

Lucinda DeVries. This is one special lady. I met Luc 8 years ago as she was being interviewed at the ad agency I worked at. In the first minute of meeting her, we clicked. Our love of Jim Rome and football (she is a Denver fan, but I forgive her for that) was exposed and I knew that I would be lucky to spend my days with her at work. My boss made the right choice and hired her. She lives in CA now so we do not get to see each other as much but she is my go to. She is a wonderful person to know and is looking for work. Please if you know of anyone seeking a marketing manager/director she is the one. Trust me.

Marjorie Clayman. This ad maven is drowning in sports loss in Akron. The Indians, Lebron, it goes on and on. She has gained a fan though in me. Her blog posts are superb, the value she adds to the twitter chats and the online community are rock solid. Marjorie is so dedicated to her 3rd generation family agency, Clayman Advertising and her connection to the community of Akron gives insight to who she is and her loyalty. Follow her and talk to her on Twitter at RLMadMan. You will be glad that you did as this is one person we all need to know and associate with.

Amber Naslund. I had a brief meeting with Amber at BlogWorld last year. She, I believe, has created and paved the way for Community Managers/Directors of Community through her guidance and leadership at Radian6. Her blogs at Brass Tack Thinking are top notch and her contributions to the overall online community do not go unnoticed. As a single mom, I can relate to the time restraints, the switching of gears from a business person to watching the Elmo DVD 5x in a row. Amber is a role model.

Tom Martin. My fav! We all know my admiration and #1 man crush for Tom. He is good people. He has inspired me countless times as not only did he do something that was never done before in livestreaming Mardi Gras, he, like Marjorie, has strong ties to his community. Tom and his family stayed in NOLA after Katrina; yeah, he was the guy that when they were allowed to go back in to retrieve some items from his home brought the police and rescue workers water and Gatorade (I think). Simple right but yet he was thinking of others when he had no idea what condition his house was in. He writes for AdAge, his blog Positive Disruption that never disappoints, loves sports and beer so we fit into each others communities just fine.  I probably could write a book on how great I think Tom Martin is.

DJ Waldow. DJ is on my must meet list. He, like Amber, is has helped to define and mold the role of Community Manager/Director of Community through his work at for Blue Sky Factory. He by far is one of the happiest dads I have ever seen. DJ is real and makes us root for him in getting his inbox to a manageable level. He says Dude which makes him even cooler and more likable.

Jim Mitchem. Jim is not your usual copywriter. He is such a great, funny and yet oh so snarky guy. He gives me the business about the Mets which I welcome from him. He is a family guy that keeps me laughing regularly with his way with words. Jim is brilliant and his blog Obsessed with Conformity shows us really how brilliant he is.

Dan Perez. He is new to my community but as a Mets fan and friendly with Tom Martin, I welcomed him with open arms. He is an award winning film maker in Florida, formerly NYC, who is always there to lend a hand. He has found his way around twitter chats and is one to keep a watchful eye on.

Tee Riddle. Tee is my fav gardener. He is a part of the Skype chat group that I was invited into. He is a southerner who is always ready to compliment but also to get in some cheap shots.  He is a die hard VT fan but also a Braves fan. We manage to make that part work. He shares some very valuable gardening tips and tools over at his blog

Keith Bloemendaal. Keith like Tee is a part of the Skype chat group. I have been fortunate to be a guest blogger on 2 of Keith’s blogs, Hot Blog Tips and also Extreme Social Media. He is a good guy who is there to answer questions and also make me laugh. He is good people for sure.

Patrick Petruccello. Oh Patrick is one of my oldest friends. Patrick, the famed Kahuna of KahunasFoodWine on Twitter and I went to elementary and HS together. He comes from a good italian family that lived across the street from my grandmother. Despite living a block away, it was always a good excuse to go over there and see if Patrick was around. Patrick’s cooking vids at clearly show the life of a family man-artist-turning chef. He is not around all that much on Twitter but you can catch his articles on Cork’d. The guy knows his wine.

Beth Harte. Beth is best said one spectacular lady. She did amazing things while at Marketing Profs (if you are not a member, join now) and now at Serengeti Communications. I did spend a little bit of time with her last year at BlogWorld which was by far one of the highlights of the conference. She moderates the IMCchat 8pm EST, Wednesdays and responds to questions with such well thoughtout answers. She is one to be sure to get to know and talk to.

Andrew Kolyvas. Andrew is also a part of the Skype chat group but he also is the reason this blog is still here today. A few months back when I was infected 2x with a virus, he took care of it. I am indebted to him as he was kind and patient the first time and walked me though the entire process to rid it of the virus. When it came back, he practically rebuilt the entire site and I remain virus free. He is an Aussie so ladies, if you have site problems and you dig the aussie accent, he is your guy.

There are so many more people that inspire me each day and light a fire under me. I welcome all new members to my community and cherish my relationship with every one. I am so very lucky to have such wonderful people around me that care and are role models.

Chris Brogan has set the bar really high here for me and while I am incredibly grateful and could thank him a gazillion times, I am channeling that energy into the community I have created and want to create. I am so very fortunate to have him as my friend and he is so dead on that my mind does work faster than I am able to get out. I never did realize how I am viewed as to me, I look in the mirror and see just me.  I just try and share in my community members’ happiness, sadness, stress and hits to the preverbial wall.

  • Thanks for the mention Suzanne, you have always been there for me when I needed you and I am truly honored to know you!

  • A really great idea to publicly state those that have stood beside you through your journey. We often talk about how we should pick up the phone. Your blog takes it one step forward. Excellent approach.

  • And now you're making me want to cry AGAIN!

    Somebody buy me kleenex, would ya? These people are being too nice!! 🙂

    I will definitely meet you soon. Consider that a threat, a warning, whatever, but it *will* happen. 🙂

  • Marjorie

    I cannot help but say nice things about you. You being 3rd gen in an ad agency is such a great story and your blog we know I love.

    OH it is a threat as I go a million miles a minute so you have been warned. I look forward to being able to meet you so I can hear more about you and your life in Akron.

  • Kathy

    I really owe it all to Chris as when we do get to catch up and have a drink when he is in town we do spend a lot of the time talking about people we know in common and those that one of us has met and we want to share with the other. He is amazing and he inspires me constantly.

    Thank you for reading and also commenting with such kind words. I am going with instinct here as there are so many great people that social media has allowed me to meet. I am the lucky one by far.

  • Where you find the time to be so generous is astounding. You are truly one of my heroes. You teach people how to be better people — a rare gift but one I'm glad you share with me often.


  • Tom

    Everyday I am reminded by people like yourself how to be a better person. What you and your entire local community has endured and how you have done all that you can to rebuild the city of New Orleans is inspiring. In 1983 my family had a very destructive house fire but it was isolated to just the displacement of 1 family and the folks around us rallied to be sure that we were well taken care of. In your case it was every family and you all pulled together to help one another when you were all feeling a sense of loss and displacement.

    It is people like you that make the world a better place. You give so much and your writing in your blogs, articles and also speeches leave us walking away with something. Not many can say that. I look forward to your blogs, tweets and always catching up on the Martins as we know there are a lot of them. Plus it never does get old seeing Chris and gushing about you. He has not even hit the point of nodding nicely with a smile like alright already. I look forward to the day when the 3 of us are together as the ideas and thoughts that come out of that meeting will be priceless.

    Best to your family and also the children as they start a new school year.

  • It's no accident that you have connected with a such wonderful people Suzanne. You're a warm, talented and fun person to be around (even if only on a skype chat). I'm honoured to be able to call you my friend.

    Thanks so much for the including me in this list of such amazing people.

  • Andrew

    You hold such a special place with me as not only for what you did by wiping away the tears (and you know there were lots of em), you spend countless hours in the chat helping people. We all know that you never back down to the challenge of helping. You are a wonderful father to your children as they would not interrupt you if you were not and have a quality that so many do not. You help so many with expecting nothing in return (ok pay the aussie!).

    I love our for me late night chats as it keeps the brain going and going.

    Thank you for taking the time to come over here and comment. Means a lot.

  • y'all should both just come down here for a weekend and bring your families — during crawfish season obviously — we'll talk over beer and mudbugs.

  • Hi Suzanne – Thanks for listing these great Web resources, most of which I had not come across before. You had mentioned that your blog was down twice due to a virus, how did this come about? This was the first time I had heard of that happening and wondered how it could occur and take the necessary precautions.

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  • John

    I defer this to Andrew (he is @AndrewKolyvas) as it is a bit above my head. I do know that I had an injector virus and this was when I was hosted with godaddy, I am with hostgator now and whatever Andrew did, I have been a-ok. He can elaborate more as that is really his area of expertise.

    Sorry I could not be or more help but I had to take a step back and let him do his work.

  • No need for you or Andrew to go out of your way, but I do appreciate the offer. The question was part curiosity and another part shock as I couldn't imagine having my blog brought down by a virus, especially with all the hard work put into it! Glad you survived the experience!

  • AmberNaslund

    Suzanne –

    I'm SO late getting over here to thank you…but sincerely, thanks. I'm so glad Chris gave you such a well-deserved bit of attention, and that it meant so much to you. Those things together make me happy.

    As for you, I'm so very glad we've had a chance to meet, chat, and correspond, and hope that only continues as time goes by. Thank you again for the kind words, and I'm very much looking forward to the next time our paths cross.

    Best to you,

  • Amber

    Thank you for reading and commenting. You have a very full plate but I hope others that are reading this see how despite being up to your gills sometimes with work, you continue to be that leader in SM by taking the time to comment.

    Chris, is, well you know as you have known him longer and have had the opportunity to be at many conferences with him. I cherish the friendship I have developed with him as our conversations are never at a loss for words from either of us.

    Look forward to catching up with you at blogworld this year and also on your blog.