These (quite good) Five Organizing Principles for Social Media by Judy Shapiro have us thinking… how did social media ever get so complicated in the first place?

Part of it is the vast number of tools we have at our disposal.  Since most of them (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, etc.) are free, it’s easy to start using each of them… but that makes maintaining your ever-growing web of communications more difficult.

Part of it is the conflict between personal (customers, individuals, community) and business (corporations, marketing, sales).  Social media tools are designed to facilitate the exchange of information between consenting parties, but the limitless kinds of information being exchanged further complicate our conversations.

And then there’s the ongoing debate about which social media metrics matter most.  Is it the size of your audience, or the quality of your engagement?  Is it inciting action or increasing awareness?

Our advice?

Shrink your focus.

First, re-examine your goals and your needs.  (Maybe you need a new social media strategy?)

Then, instead of aiming too wide, narrow your attention to a handful of channels — maybe even one — and maximize the impact you can create there (or the feedback you can obtain).  Then, once you have a true understanding of how your brand is perceived within that channel, start applying those lessons to other channels, if it makes sense for you.

There’s a presumption that companies have to be involved in social media.  And while we here at Creative Concepts are sure that social media can benefit almost any company, charity or brand, we’d never advise anyone to bite off more than they can chew.

So don’t waste an opportunity to connect with your customers by spreading yourself too thin, or your valuable feedback will be reduced to a stream of white noise.

Need some help simplifying your social media efforts?  Check out these tips from Mashable.

Photo by tjstein