Did this blog make a difference?

At this time each year I reflect on what has happened on {grow}.  After 274 posts, did this blog and its community make a difference? Did it move ahead?

Here are some the aspects of {grow} that I hope had the biggest impact this year. You can be the judge if it made a difference in your life, your outlook, and your business.

Innovations

I pushed the blog in four new directions in an effort to create diverse, compelling and entertaining content.

1) Paid contributing columnists.  I put my money where my mouth is and took a stand by ending this practice of bloggers building their businesses on the backs of others by expecting free content.  I’m sure you’ll agree Neicole Crepeau, Stanford Smith, Srivanos Rao, Robert Dempsey and Steve Goldner consistently knocked it out of the park with their superb content. Neicole’s post “Are We Killing Our Customers With Engagement” was one of the most-viewed post of the year!

2) {growtoons} On May 6, the first of the weekly social media cartoons was introduced with Joey Strawn‘s  Desperate Measures.  A few months later, Kacy Maxwell joined the team.  This innovation adds an element of fun and unique social media commentary. After all, how else could you poke fun at Chris Brogan’s sycophantic fans and get away with it?

3) New perspectives.  I’m passionate about showcasing fresh, deserving voices on {grow}. I featured 40 different guest contributors this year, including some that I flat-out disagreed with! Probably my favorite contribution was Jon Buscall’s wonderful case study, How 20 High School Students Ignited a Social Media Success.  Celebrating others is the most rewarding part of blogging.

4) Video.  In 2011 I had twice as many video blogs as all previous years combined. It’s still not my preferred medium but it gave me the opportunity to shine the light on some incredible people I met throughout the year, including Helen Brown, who provided an interesting view of The Google Filter Bubble.

Darkness on the Edge of Town

In many ways, 2011 was a very disturbing year.  I unwittingly hosted a ghost post scandal.  My {grow} friends Steven Parker and Imad Naffa died. SEO tricksters continued to push past digital marketing ethical boundaries. Social media privacy problems made me wonder where all this is heading. A friend had her career destroyed by social media. And I am still struggling with the suicide death of my friend Trey Pennington.  All of this was getting me down and it was coming through in the tone of the blog.  And then something amazing happened.  Hope showed up in a most unexpected place!

Breakthrough content

As an educator, I try to use this forum to get people to think about social media and its context in new ways.  Ten posts that turned the thinking around included:

  1. The World’s Best Company Blogs
  2. The World’s Best Non-Profit Blogs
  3. Why the Economics of Blogging are Broken
  4. Turning PowerPoint slides into Social Media Gold
  5. How Social Media is Transforming Government
  6. Finding the Balance Between Personal and Professional on Twitter
  7. Marketing, Journalism and Truth as Competitive Advantage
  8. The Business Case for Facebook, In One Sentence
  9. A Process to Connect Social Media, Content Marketing and Sales
  10. Why Klout Matters. A Lot.

Five Big Favorites

As I scanned through the year’s work here on {grow}, I came across a few special posts that made me smile and think, “Yes, that was a good one.”  This year, I received nearly 10,000 comments on {grow} and many of them were generated by these five favorite posts:

Why the Social Media Elite Are Ignoring Us? — It started out as a simple question but 2,000 tweets and more than 200 comments later it stands out as a blog post that helped put social media success in a rational context.

The Making of a Social Media Slut — Sometimes blog posts come from the most unexpected sources. I had lunch with a friend who was looking for a job and in a moment of weakness suggested she should watch her Klout score. In less than 15 minutes I had written a post and ignited a debate!

For Google, the Party is Over Before It Starts — I went against the grain and predicted that Google+ would not be the Facebook killer all the social media geeks predicted. This is the only blog post I have written that received more comments than tweets. Earlier in the year I also went against convention by stating that Quora (and the Quor-gasm!) was not the salvation everybody was saying it was and that QR Codes are doomed.  Time will tell … but I still think I’m right in all three cases!

How Blogging Changed a Life — This was a difficult post.  I like it because it represents the biggest personal risk of the year.  Through my posts and speeches I challenge others to push themselves. In this one, I am taking my own medicine.

On Twitter No One Can Hear You Scream — This is my favorite post of 2011 because it combined all five elements of a perfect blog post: snappy headline, entertaining content, original thinking, crisp writing, and a personal perspective. Plus I thought the illustration was funny!

So there you have it. A retrospective of 2011.  If you’ve made it this far, congratulations and thank you … you are a true {grow} fan!!

As always, I would cherish your thoughts and observations on this community and how I can help push it forward in 2012. Thank you!

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  • Hi Mark,

    Firstly, Happy New Year!

    Secondly, thank you for sharing your thoughts through your blog. I have been following your blog for a couple of months, about the same amount of time since I finally realised my ambition of turning my fascination with communication and social technologies into a career. I am now working in a start up agency in the UK and trying to learn and absorb as much as my brain can manage!

    What really resonates with me about your blog, the reason I enjoy reading it more than some of the others I’m following, is the sense of your personality, passion and personal investment in what you do that comes through so strongly.  I write a personal blog and also now contribute to our company blog and my writing for both is motivated primarily by what interests me and wanting to stimulate conversation. I feel quite strongly that these are the best motivations for stimulating learning and thoughtful discussion.

    I’ve spent a few years staking my career and future happiness on figuring out what my unique contributions to the world can be rather than just following a pre defined path and it is heartening to hear someone else talking about what they do in a similar vein. I have a great deal of respect you for writing the post about the difficult place you were in a few years ago. About 4 years ago I was in a very difficult and dark place. Writing a personal journal that later morphed into my personal blog really helped me create my voice in the world.

    So I’m only one person, just one tiny voice among many, but I find your blog both inspiring and informative. Thanks 🙂

  • What a simply wonderful and energizing comment Louise! Here is the biggest enigma of blogging — I get lots of comments but very little feedback. There is a big difference. Every day people comment on the subject matter but it is not too often that somebody takes the time to say, “yes, this is making a difference – keep it up.” The vast majority of readers never leave any feedback at all. I don;t even know they are out there, let alone if what I am doing makes a difference. So thanks for being the exception and taking the time to let me know!

    I’m pleased to hear of your professional and personal progress. There is this wonderful pulse through the social web that ties us all together. We’re all kind of in it together, aren’t we? I love to hear how we connect and support each other through the {grow} community. Thank you. Your comment was the very best way to start the new year!

  • Mark,

    First off, Happy New Year!

    Your blog made a a HUGE difference for me. Without your help, my blog would not exist today. We never know who we will meet or who we will influence.

    Over the time I have been reading {grow} you have challenged me to think for myself and not just follow the crowd. I remember very clearly for example being on the fence about Klout. I told you I wanted to reserve judgement about it until I knew more. There was a time where I would have been running off screaming about it without doing my research.
    I learned to do that from reading your blog. There are plenty of blogs out there where readers are not encouraged to think for themselves and to even disagree with you.

    This is where I learned that disagreeing is not the end of the world.

    I remember sitting with you at lunch and just listening to you tell me about your friendship with Mitch Joel and it came to me that you are very different people with almost opposite points of view. Yet, you can disagree without being disagreeable.

    One of the other things I learned directly from you is that I need to always keep learning. I remember being very new to Twitter, and you directed me to some of your older posts and I sat and read through them and a lightbulb went off. It made sense why you handle your Twitter account yourself. Watching some “A-list bloggers” unfollow people on Twitter en masse, I thought of you and how since you control your feed, that is not an issue. All I could think then was “how stupid”

    My last point is this – reading your stories of how blogging changed your life gave me tremendous hope. This has been a challenging year to say the least, and knowing that others have been where I am and survived gives me hope for better days.

    Isn’t that what it is all about anyway?

    Here is to more learning in 2012!

  • Hi Mark, I think I say this a little too often to you but your work is amazing and it did make a huge difference in me. Your articles are often easy to digest despite the complexity of the topic which is definitely a gift. Once again, thank you and have an awesome 2012 ahead!

  • My husband always tells me, “If you make a difference for just one person, isn’t that enough?” And it is.

    I am not a regular enough visitor to have recognized all the intentional shifts in your blog this year, but I’m a big fan of the {growtoons} and I appreciatethe strategy behind the other changes you made. As always, there is teaching in everything you do. Thank you for sharing in just that way.

  • Anonymous

    Happy New Year Mark.  I don’t get over here nearly as often as I should…when I clicked back on some of the posts you’ve written I hadn’t read yet, I shook my head in amazement.  There are a gazillion bloggers out there.  There are only a few that are consistently intelligent, insightful, informative and enlightening…you are one of those.  I have not read one single post of yours that I lost interest in halfway through.  Your skillful writing style keeps your readers (at least THIS reader) completely engaged.  Did this blog make a difference?  No question about it.  You know how sometimes you watch a movie or a TV show and you see the actor and you think to yourself, I think I could like to get to know this person…to sit down with them and have coffee or a drink?  And the only thing you can base that feeling on is how they present themselves? Well, that is how you present yourself.  You are a sit down and chat over coffee kind of guy (my interpretation)  It is no surprise to me to find out that 175 people Googled hope and found you.  There is something comforting and compelling about how you present yourself.  So, that said, I will continue to stop by as often as I can (I can’t make unreasonable promises 😉 )  And you?  You should know that you do, indeed make a difference.  You are right, comments are not necessarily a barometer for impact but, speaking for myself, consider yourself impactful.
    Have a wonderful New Years Day and may 2012 bring you much joy and an awareness of peace in your life. 
    Claudia

  • Anonymous

    Happy New Year Mark.  I don’t get over here nearly as often as I should…when I clicked back on some of the posts you’ve written I hadn’t read yet, I shook my head in amazement.  There are a gazillion bloggers out there.  There are only a few that are consistently intelligent, insightful, informative and enlightening…you are one of those.  I have not read one single post of yours that I lost interest in halfway through.  Your skillful writing style keeps your readers (at least THIS reader) completely engaged.  Did this blog make a difference?  No question about it.  You know how sometimes you watch a movie or a TV show and you see the actor and you think to yourself, I think I could like to get to know this person…to sit down with them and have coffee or a drink?  And the only thing you can base that feeling on is how they present themselves? Well, that is how you present yourself.  You are a sit down and chat over coffee kind of guy (my interpretation)  It is no surprise to me to find out that 175 people Googled hope and found you.  There is something comforting and compelling about how you present yourself.  So, that said, I will continue to stop by as often as I can (I can’t make unreasonable promises 😉 )  And you?  You should know that you do, indeed make a difference.  You are right, comments are not necessarily a barometer for impact but, speaking for myself, consider yourself impactful.
    Have a wonderful New Years Day and may 2012 bring you much joy and an awareness of peace in your life. 
    Claudia

  • Hey Mark, Happy New Year!
    Thank you for the wrap up of your favorite blogs for 2011.  I’ve been following for a while and yours is one of the only blogs I read from start to finish every time.  I even went back to some you’ve listed here and re-read them (especially the one “On Twitter No One can Hear you Scream.”  You sure did kick up a flurry of comments on that one). You’ve inspired my blogging goal for 2012…to inject more honesty (and maybe a little more controversy) into my blog and to weigh in on the discussion more.
    Thanks!
    Anne

  • Anonymous

    arrrggggg….I am SO sorry about the double post….I am a dork….

  • Nancy you are a constant inspiration. I’m so glad we connected in 2011. I think you very well summed up the important themes of this blog. Thanks so much!!

  • Thanks for being such a loyal reader and supporter Jan!

  • Thanks for the feedback on the growtoons Mimi. It has been a lot of fun having Joey and Kacy contribute to the cause! Many thanks for commenting today!

  • Wow thank you for that awesome comment. Very humbling.

    It’s quite interesting that you read me so correctly as a sit down over coffee kind of guy. That is certainly my preferred type of human interactions. I love having one on one conversations and get to know people more closely. Here’s looking forward to the day we do that for real. I haven’t kept count but I woud guess I have met at least 200 of my readers in real life. Thanks again for that comment!

  • Good for you! Look forward to hearing of your progress!

    I am not intentionally provocative, although sometimes I suspect a post will be! More often, I think the right word is courage — courage to say what you believe in and. Courage to take the heat over your views. A subtle difference but a key to good blogging I think! Thanks for your very kind comment.

  • Cve4me

    Hi
    Tweetdeck flashed you twitter post just as I turned to click it.  So here I am reading your post.  So far so good.  I am curious enough to save and return later.  Thinking about writing a guest post later this week.  So I’ll send it to you for approval re content and other etc’s.

    That is how your blog is changing my life.  I like your writing style and persona.  So I am willing to take the next step.

  • I just found it today, thanks to @PamMktgNut who tweeted the link. And it made a difference to me. 🙂

  • Thanks for letting me know!

  • Thank you.

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  • Happy New Year Mark

    I am looking foward for every singel post in this blog in 2012

    Kind regards from Germany

    Hansjörg

  • Thanks for being such a kind friend and loyal reader
    Hansjörg !

  • Mark, thank you for the 2011 blob, I mean, blog 😉
    Do you have a major 2012 goal that readers can help you achieve?

  • Hi Mark,

    I don’t visit here as often as I would like to, but have noticed many of the changes you’ve mentioned. I also enjoy the writing of Neicole, Srini, and Robert, here and at their respective houses. I do need to check out Stanford and Steve more often though. And I do learn a ton from your writing.

    I enjoyed many of your posts, especially “How blogging changed a life” and will plan on hanging out here more in 2012.

  • Thanks Craig. I enjoyed learning from you in 2011.

  • I hope everyone will think about commenting now and then. For most blogs, about 2 percent of the readers comment. It’s a little higher here, but I still don’t know who is out there unless folks comment. So I would like to see greater participation so I can connect with more people. Thanks for asking!

  • I enjoyed being part of the {grow} community throughout all of 2011. Thanks for this recap and all the great links. I am really looking forward to your thoughts in 2012 and seeing how your blog continues to push the envelope.

    The release of your next book and the second annual SOSLAM event are also big things ahead for 2012. I’ve pre-ordered books for our staff and we’ll have a team at the 2012 SOSLAM too (wouldn’t miss it!).

    Thanks in part to the inspiration and advice that you’ve provided to our B2B agency, we’re very optimistic and excited about our business this year. And I’m hoping we have lots of opportunities to collaborate again with you again too.

    Here’s to a very Happy, Innovative and Successful New Year to you, Mark and everyone that’s part of {grow}!

  • Hey Mark, thanks SOOOO much for mentioning the post I wrote. Appreciate it enormously. The important thing for me about that whole case study was that I found that teaching others about social media marketing taught me just as much. Learning never stops!

  • Karey

    The short answer: yes. Yes, your blog makes a difference. I’ve been a fan for several months, taking precious time to read each of your posts because they are worth it: informative, inspirational, thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. Marketing, social media and humanity — what a great combination. Looking forward to learning a lot from you in 2012 and beyond.

  • Mark,
    Yes, {grow} had a positive impact on my continuing Social Media education.  I read most posts and actually gave them real, honest thought.  No other blog has made me think that much before.  
    Thanks

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  • Hey Mark,
    As far as your 3 predictions.

    I think Google+ will be a success for Google, but not as a Facebook killer, after all it was never designed to be a Facebook killer. It was designed to create a network effect in search, and I believe that through heavy product integration Google will have that happen.

    Quora is one of the few sites/apps that I think is incredible useful, much in the same way that I think of Wikipedia. Quora is going to win the Q&A game, hands down. I don’t believe that it is a threat to blogs in any way.

    QR codes are doomed in their current state, but will come back in a far better incarnation as augmented reality thanks to human wearable computers like Google Glass.

    So we kind of agree on all three, but for different reasons.

  • Ishtiaq A Khan

    I would say this blog has gone a long way into my understanding of what possible sections could be which could give a breakthrough to a particular post. How a informative and well-researched blog could make a difference into our lives. Keep on giving us your good thoughts and chunks of your experience.

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