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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