This has been a strange year of growing pains for the social web — privacy issues, cyber-bullying, gurus galore, and technical failures seemed to dominate the headlines.

But there’s something amazing and wonderful ahead.  Can you feel the hope and momentum building like I do? Here are three reasons to be excited about the next year of social media marketing and networking …

1) Creativity unleashed

We’ve spent the past few years establishing a technological foundation and distributing increasingly sophisticated smart mobile devices (I am including iPad in this category) and we’ve reached critical mass. At the same time, the cost of developing and distributing content has plummeted.  Something incredible is about to happen. The competitive focus is going to shift.  It HAS to. The battlefield will move from selling devices to unleashing them.

Have you tried this brilliant little game called Angry Birds? I got hooked on it a few weeks ago (damn that level 12) and this is the new standard for orgasmic creativity. The game is so stupid that you can’t let it go. You fling birds and blow up green pigs. Now why is it birds? Why not jars of peanut butter?  Why isn’t it called Angry Corn Flakes? Isn’t time great companies joined in the fun?

By the way, this game cost $100,000 to develop and has brought in $8 million in revenue, one 99-cent download at a time.

This is the year we move from mindless smartphone apps to mind-blowing apps as the competition for attention reaches a global frenzy.  Movies, television and online publishing are going to be more interactive, more personal and more exciting than ever. One of the most interesting developments is the level of innovation coming from the Third World.

Creativity has never gone out of fashion, but we are about to see something amazing stir in 2011 as the perfect storm of consumer access, social simplicity and technological ubiquity collide. 2011 is the Year of the Digital Idea.

2) New Voices, New Energy.

Social media marketing is rapidly moving from a siloed cottage industry to mainstream mojo.  Thought leadership is transferring from a few pioneers pontificating about “the conversation” to both fresh young voices and big company professionals armed with statistics, budgets and the ability to integrate social media with television, games and movies.  The blogospere is literally being flooded with new energy.

I see new blogs on a weekly basis and literally go “wow.” This is fresh. This is going somewhere. The echo chamber is crumbling.

I’ll give you an example — Steve Goldner (aka @SocialSteve). This guy is living it. He’s telling it.  He’s carving his own no-bullshit path on his blog with his real business experience.

Christina “CK” Kerley takes no prisoners. She doesn’t just march to her own drummer, she’s creating a whole new parade as she forces us to think about B2B marketing in a new way. Jacob Varghese is taking some interesting routes in his new Binary Perspectives blog.

I also love all the new students coming on to the blogosphere who don’t know the “rules” and are writing these little neutron bomb posts that deserve to be read.  These people also deserve to have a voice at the conference podium and I think we’ll see that begin to happen too.

3) A Focus on the Human Experience

There’s a lot being written about the isolation and bleakness that can come with a reliance on digital communication.  Certainly there is legitimate aspect of that concern but I choose to celebrate the astounding opportunities to connect meaningfully and deeply.

I recently had one of my marketing students tell me that Twitter had changed her life. She is a music teacher and within a month of her first tweet, she had been invited by her new connections to perform at a festival in Austin, TX — a dream come true.

I hear those stories every single day.  And sometimes I am the story — I’ve made more friends in the past two years than probably the last 20 combined. And I don’t mean Facebook friends. I mean people you would invite to stay at your home.

I was recently re-connected with somebody who used to be my best friend — in kindergarten!  Carrie Bond and I had been separated by thousands of miles and decades of living our own lives, but we now have such a supportive and fun relationship again through Twitter, Facebook and of course {grow}.

The social web has this random, synergistic majesty about it.  Too many focus on the growing pains. It doesn’t have to be an anonymous, snarky, Bieber-fied mind-muck.  For the first time in human history we have access to free, instantaneous, global communication. This is a breath-taking opportunity our ancestors couldn’t even dream about!

What are you going to do with this power, with this amazing moment in technology, in history, in your life?

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