As you’re planning for next year and thinking about how social media is going to be part of your marketing strategy, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

The conversation has expanded from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to include the likes of Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+. And you can bet that 2013 will be filled with continual changes to these existing networks along with the introduction of new networks looking to gain ground.

In the end, you may suffer from a fear of falling behind if you’re not on all of these networks.

So, first, take a deep breath.

Because maybe, just maybe, you don’t need all of those social media networks.

Taking a very social step back

As you look forward to 2013, it’s time to take a step back and look at the big picture.

Social media works, but only when you have the resources and the time to invest in it. And when you don’t have a marketing team to help you, managing multiple social media channels can feel almost impossible.

Know that it’s okay to start small. Focus on one network. Spend 90% of your time with this primary network and figure out works for you there. Then, use the other 10% to investigate another network that may complement your overall strategy.

So how to you decide where you should focus your time and energy?

How to evaluate which social media networks to focus on

Think hard about your goals and who you’re trying to reach:

  • Are you looking to reach new and potential customers?
  • Are you trying to connect with existing customers to increase loyalty?
  • Do you want to build an audience beyond your typical demographic?
  • Who uses each social network and what do they use it for?
  • How are similar organizations using each social network?

Make a commitment to establish a community on your chosen social media network

Establishing yourself on a social media network is a commitment.

Don’t get caught building up pages and profiles if you don’t have time for the “social” part. If you’re sacrificing customer relationships just to be more places, then something may be wrong.

To build an engaged community, you need to post great, compelling content on a regular basis. You also have to be willing and able to respond to inquiries and complaints from followers and fans.

That’s often the trickiest part: one survey found that 79% of consumers who shared complaints on social media were ignored. That’s pretty bad, considering the same survey showed that 89% of consumers choose a competitor after a bad customer experience.

Take time to build without spreading yourself thin

Don’t rush to what everyone says is the next big thing when you haven’t gained any ground on your existing social networks.

Instead, work hard to establish yourself among the social media audiences you already have. Make your existing social media networks work before moving onto another one.

That way, you can take what you know succeeds for your organization and apply it again and again as more social networks come out over next year.

And, if you’re not ready … don’t do it.

What about you? Do you feel overwhelmed by social media? What’s your plan to make it work for you in 2013?