A good friend and leader in her own field, asked advice on starting her social media engagement. I quickly found myself overwhelming her with new ideas. It occurred to me there was a better approach: to lay out stages for her social media engagement. Here are the stages I proposed for her:

Caterpillar to Butterfly - Lifecycle


Like the infant, this stage is about exploration. Trial and failure. You’re not yet steady on your feet. Not to worry, you’ll bounce back. Look for role models to guide you. As the infant learns to speak and walk by listening and crawling, so should the infant social media adopter focus more on listening and crawling than speaking and walking.


Playtime is here. The child’s work is play. Most of their time is spent with friends and family, not colleagues. So the discussion focuses on personal interests rather than business. The child social media adopter should do the same: focus on friends, family and personal interests for a while.


That first kiss and heartbreak. Playtime is over, but that doesn’t mean there’s no fun. You’ve picked up a part-time job and your not as naive to the world as you once were. In fact, you may think you know it all and that could get you in trouble. So you’re a bit more careful about what you say and do. Your image and the perception of others matters, as you begin to get work done online.


Professionalism. You hold yourself to a higher standard than you did in your youth – as do others. You can still have fun of course, but before you play hard, you work hard. If you’re good, you align your business and professional life, so your social media efforts do the same. At this point, you are a professional leader in social media and your communications and actions align to that standard.

As with human nature, some individuals will mature faster than others. However, few will mature without first hitting every stage.