Those life stages can be thought of as toddler, teen, young adult, adult and senior. However, the important point here is that these are the life stages of the BRANDS on the social platform, not the platform itself.
When a social platform is young, brands are in the toddler stage and they are learning to walk before they run. What makes the toddler stage unique is that brands can get away with almost anything. And, if a brand makes a mistake, it is quickly forgiven as a "growing pain" of being a toddler.
The opportunity in the toddler stage is that if a brand is brave enough to try something unique or different during the toddler moment of a social platform, they are photographed, talked about and extolled -- where media, pundits and advocates take the place of parents, family and friends in the toddler metaphor.
The challenge is the fear of trying something new. Like a real-life toddler, brands face the risk of falling and fear of the unknown. It's more of a psychological risk at this stage, as opposed to a practical risk.
As a social platform grows over time, brands must enter the teen stage. At this stage, brands can continue to experiment with the different and unique, but will be faced with higher expectations. Stumbling is permitted, but stupidity is not.
As an extension of the toddler stage, brands can stand out by being a bit different and showing a bit of brains. A little more thought has to go into these initiatives, because simply trying isn't enough anymore.
Minus a MAJOR foul-up, however, brands are still easily forgiven for their hiccups -- and sophistication is not expected. Just don't be hurtful, arrogant, crass or destructive -- the same qualities that would hurt the public persona of a teen.
Exiting the teens, expectations ratchet up considerably. Stupidity in public environments is not accepted. As through all stages, creativity is still exalted, but the standard is higher.
People will start to expect a brand to be finding its place in the world – aka, its identity on the social platform. The brand must start to solidify its voice, position and what other brands it associates with.
At this stage, hiccups and mistakes are more likely not to be forgiven and to be seen as indicative of the brand’s future performance. As a young adult, the brand should have learned from its years of study and be performing with purpose.
As an adult, expectations are now officially high. Everything you do is remembered and previous work performance definitely affects future opportunities. If you’re not in the A-League, you need to reinvent yourself, or take a lot of time to make your way into the A-League.
Learning also becomes more sophisticated. And learning most definitely never ends. In the adult stage of social media, brands must embrace learning from data, as well as from experience. But you damn well better embrace math, or else you aren’t going to get far in the world.
As a senior, you’ve found your place on the platform and you aren’t likely to have major personality shifts. There are going to be new adults that enter into the mix with you, but as a senior there are certain expectations about you.
You can’t rest on your laurels or else you’ll be passed by. Age and experience give you a major competitive advantage, but you must still perform with excellence and speed.
Keep in mind that through all these stages, just as in real life, the different ages will co-mingle a bit. However, there are definitely more appropriate spaces for specific ages. A playground will have toddlers playing, teens looked at oddly, and young adult and older looking in and only playing if playing with a toddler.
So take a look at the social platforms and determine your life stage before jumping in. Knowing the consumer expectations of your maturity will help you know the sophistication and performance level you must bring.