This year flew by and the sheer number of new social networks and applications is simply stunning. Keeping on top of it all is definitely a full-time job, and for those of us who learn new stuff for fun, it’s been fantastic. I wanted to take a moment to thank just a few of the people I’ve learned from this year and I asked them to share an answer to the following question: What was the most important thing you learned about social media this year?

FYI profile images link to Twitter and names link to blogs or websites. If I were you I’d spend some time getting to know these folks. They’ve made my life a whole lot more interesting and they really know their stuff.

Michael Martine
The most important thing I learned about social media this year is that it’s not important. It’s not anymore important than a phone, or a computer, or a software program. None of these are important in the sense that they only exist to let us talk to each other. Any tool that makes that easier (makes it easiest, I should say) will thrive, and any tool or effort that makes human communication and sharing harder or impedes it (hello, RIAA) is destined for destruction. Go with (and create) what makes talking to one another easier, and avoid what doesn’t. The tools themselves are ephemeral and temporary: don’t get attached to them.
Chris Brogan
The most important thing I learned about social media this year is that it continues to give me the biggest rewards by letting me connect brilliant people to wonderful causes.

Sarah Durham
The most important thing I learned about social media this year? Perhaps it’s the diversity of how people use it. Some treat social media as a news feed while others use it as a life line to stay connected to people and causes they care about. When crafting a strategy for nonprofits, don’t assume the folks who ‘like’ you in Facebook are also going to follow you on Twitter or take the same type of actions.
Denise Wakeman
While it’s important to be on the major social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it really hit home for me in the past year that it’s important to cast a wider net since your target audience may be hanging out on other sites as well. Since time is precious, it’s essential to create a system for repurposing your best blog content so you can syndicate it to multiple platforms in multiple formats (text, audio and video). Don’t recreate the wheel for every site; use each significant piece of content many times and use auxiliary platforms to engage new people and entice them back to hub site with more opportunities to connect. While I don’t do this for every blog post, I do implement a system for content I feel is particularly rich and it’s paid off this year in more blog subscribers, more opt-ins to my free reports and a lot more people “liking” my Facebook page which has resulted in a significant increase in revenue.
CJ Brasiel
This year I learned that 160 characters is only the first step. It is a spring board but needs just as much commitment as any other networking activity if you want truly create virtual or face-to-face relationships. I also learned the LIKE buttons can get quite annoying. Wish there was a way to say I like your content without being spammed. Finally, I learned that being a social media early adopter can mean having a lot of login information out there in cyber world without seeing any real benefit. It is very tough to predict which systems have sticking power.
Jason Falls
The one thing I learned about social media this year is something I’ve been learning for several years, it just gets more crystallized with each passing day: Social media is about conversation, engagement and community. Social Media Marketing is about business. Yes, the two can blend beautifully, but when you add “marketing” to the phrase, you’d better bring your big boy pants if you want to sit at the table.
Sudha Jamthe
I work in PayPal as the Social Media Strategist for PayPalX Platform and 2010 was an amazing year for us as we learnt a lot from our customers – technologists, entrepreneurs and developers disrupting the world of payments.All of us in the social media world know social media is about listening to our users. The big learning for this is the lesson that that ‘Its not social if it is not a conversation”. Customers don’t want us to listen quietly and not engage in a conversation with them. They love a 2-way conversation even if we disagree with them.

I want to share this with every social media manager who sets up listening posts and monitors what customers are talking about a brand, produces reports on tone and sentiments, top topics of conversations and trends. All this is not ROI. Each customer wants you to listen, engage and converse. So let them know you are listening, let them know you care, share your opinion on what you agree, tell them what is not feasible to do this year, or what are the limitations of your product. Ask them for help to solve problems with you. You’ll be surprised at how your customers team up with you and you will get more ROI than you can show from all your reports.

Chuck Hester
The same, basic principles of Marketing Communications still apply to social media: know your customer; have a strategic plan; listen, learn, adapt.
Ari Herzog
My word for 2011 is endeavor. Using NASA space shuttle names as inspiration, I’d like to think next year will be a year of learning from each other, taking the best from existing case studies and best practices, and creating new endeavors in social media marketing.
Jason Sutherland
Community matters. Creating a marketplace and or community space that is designed around what your community believes in, stands for or is just simply interested make a huge difference it response results.
Chrystal Bougon
The most important thing I learned this year is that a fan page (biz page) is a fantastic way to create community and develop customer loyalty. My fans LOVE to lurk, but I also get a ton of great ideas and information from my fans. When I ask them questions, even very sensitive and intimate questions, they answer. I often get fans who will sent me their answers via face mail for more privacy or who will DM me their input to the conversation.Once I started posting 3 times a day at different times a day religiously, I started to really see my fan base grow and started to see the interaction really grow. All of that translated to more pleasure parties, more blog comments and most importantly – more orders and conversions. (Different times of day for different audiences .)

I have always had a great following who are very very loyal. But, the fan page has made the connection even more personal and easier for my fans and followers to share. I have been blown away that some of my blogs have been SHARED by up to 80 people. Some topics REALLY resonate. (Two that were shared the most – one I wrote on 7″ Tips for How Not to Eat Her Cookie” and “How to Negotiate Successful Threesomes.”) My fans took the time to SHARE and tag or just SHARE. And these topics are not FLUFF! :)

Melanie Notkin
Social Media enables me to act on my innate sense of curiosity. What I learn from the diverse group of people I engage with not only helps me become a more effective leader, but a more empathetic person.
Janet Fouts
As passionate as some of us are about it, not everybody is as involved in “social media” as we might like to think. Don’t be arrogant about why they’ve just gotta use _____. Listen and consider their needs and abilities, then give them what they need instead of selling your ideas. As more companies start to really use this stuff they’re tired of being sold on concepts. They want actionable information and training.

SO, what was the most important thing you learned about social media this year? Share your answer in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.