Superheroes of Social Media

“Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super … no one will be.”

This quote from Syndrome, in The Incredibles, hits on an idea that’s been kicking around in my head for a few months now.  Whether on an individual or corporate level, lots of entities in the Web 2.0 world probably fit the “super” definition.  They are on the leading edge, engaging in customers, partners, employees, employers, and each other in exciting new ways.  There’s this feeling of being part of an “in club” when you meet up with a fellow employee who is also on Yammer, for example.  A feeling of camaraderie between two employees who connect on Facebook when nobody else on their team uses it.

There comes a time though when everyone’s in the club.  What happens then?

Think about the Web 2.0 tools you use and contribute to today.  Think about your habits and norms.  How do they scale when participation in the tools is as common as participation in email?

I’ve met some incredible people and had some very rewarding encounters with fellow EMC employees I would never have worked with in my “real” job, because we share participation in social media and enterprise collaboration environments.   But if the EMC participants in social media were scaled up by a factor of 10, I would probably never have met some of those people.  This is because the first instinct when faced with that level of participation is to filter by your day job … in other words, filtering by the same silos which you’re trying to break down by participating in social media in the first place!

I’m left wondering if part of the effectiveness of these tools is based on the very fact that they aren’t in wide use.  If 30,000 employees at EMC were all posting once every couple days on our internal platform, for example, most of us would have no choice but to wildly restrict our intake.

I think a valuable skill to develop now is to become adept at managing the firehose of information, before it’s truly a firehose, so that as participation ramps up you’re still able to derive more value from your networks than others are.  You want to maintain superhero status in a world where everyone can fly?  Develop a skill the fliers haven’t mastered yet.

I’m already losing ground, spending more time reading than interacting, and filtering out certain networks or subnetworks.  I’ve come to the painful realization that I need to overhaul my online habits if I’m going to continue to get sufficient value out of them.

There’s unfortunately no resting on our laurels here, folks.


#1 Obiwankenobie on 02.02.09 at 9:58 am

A big ten-four regarding your posts….so true. Hey..I’m one of those lucky bastards that doesn’t have to work anymore, so I have more time to play. Having said that, you still have to restrict your usage. Honestly tho, it’s always about seeking a balance. Can’t sit in front of a computer all day reading info even when you’re retired. My life is full to the brim and I enjoy ever minute.



#2 Alex P on 02.09.09 at 5:35 pm

Interesting post which put me in mind of a presentation I attended last week at the UK IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) meeting.
Keith Harrison-Broninski was promoting his new book which explains how we approach business problems in the wrong way (esp those involving customer service). He was promoting a new way of looking at problems that allows us for example to structure communication by its purpose. We can use this to filter communication by its purpose so that we can choose what we want to view and prioritise.

Not sure how easy this would be to achieve in practice but you might be interested in looking at his website ( or my account of his presentation (

Sorry if this is long winded and I hope it’s of interest 🙂