“Social” is a bubble. Trust me on this. I urge all consultants on “social ______” (fill in the blank) to make hay while the sun shines. Even as the current depression deepens, lots of companies are starting to realize that this “social” thing is hot stuff and they need to get hip to Twitter and the rest of it. (Just ask the Motrin folks.)

And it is hot. But much of that heat is relative to its absence in other areas. “Social” has sucked a lot of oxygen out of the online conversational room.

Meanwhile, here’s the challenge: make the Net personal. Make relationships personal. Equip individuals with tools of independence and engagement. That’s what VRM is about.

I bring this up because I just ran across this post by Tim Kitchin, in which he calls VRM a “reductionistically-named discipline” (never thought about it that way, but I suppose he’s right), and sees it as a “form of social brokerage”. Which it might be, if by social you mean just two parties.

Tim writes,

Now there will always be tensions in VRM between those who approach it from a values-based standpoint of individualism and those who see it merely as a source of efficiency gains – the value perspective. Clearly, for it to work, both perspectives must fuse together…and both are also a red herring in some ways.

He’s right — up to that last point. Because the individualism of VRM is about its point of origination: the individual.

At its base VRM is simple: it’s personal. It’s me or you and the vendors (or other organizations) with which we relate — whether that relating is deep or shallow, enduring or transitory. It’s how individual demand drives and relates to supply.

It’s hard to explain that in a world where conversation drifts easily to “social” everything. And where there are aspects of VRM that will become social. Also in the absence of working code. (Though there are some things with VRMmy qualities, and may actually qualify as VRM. I hope to meet some at this afternoon’s VRM Event here in Amsterdam.) And there are individual matters, such as one’s “social graph”, that pertain. But VRM remains primarily an individual matter.

One more thing, and this is personal too. I am not anybody’s “capital”. You or your company may call me an “asset” or think you have “acquired” me, or “own” me as a customer. But I am and wish to remain a free, sovereign and independent agent of my own soul. There is no price on that. But there is far more value in it than anything you can measure with the economics of transaction alone.

Free customers are more valuable than captive ones. That’s the point of VRM. Proving it is our challenge.

Hat tip to Adriana for the pointer.