Social media is still quite a young idea, despite the fact that it can sometimes seem as though it’s been around forever. As someone who has been involved in online marketing since the days before Google, social media is still a very fresh idea, which is one of the reasons why it is proving so popular and being used so widely.

But there is a problem, because with so many people getting worked up about the latest trends, the latest tweaks and the latest integrations, more and more businesses and online entrepreneurs are taking their eyes off the ball and making a huge mistake.

The mistake people are making with social media could potentially be costing them a very great deal of time that could be spent taking care of existing customers or promoting the business in more successful ways, and ultimately could be costing time as well.

In order to know whether you’re making the classic social media mistake ask yourself one simple question. Do you see social media as a tool, or as a way of solving a problem?

Go on, answer the question as honestly as you can. Tool, or a solution to a problem you had? The truth is that a phenomenal number of people, even those who should know better, still see social media as a tool. They play with it, tweak it, have fun with it and tweet frequently about how amazing this new application is, how brilliant that new feature is and how wonderful the other new integration is.

Yet if you ask those people why they use it, they’ll look at you blankly before mumbling something about reaching out to clients, marketing their business, boosting brand visibility or other such nonsense. You ask them how it’s doing that, and most people are stumped for an answer.

Yes, social media is a fantastic tool, but just like any other tool, it’s only useful if you know how to use it properly, and you have a reason for using it. A three-eighths spanner is a great tool, but if you have no need for it right now, spending half an hour a day fiddling with it will get nothing done, and will simply waste your time and money.

If you use social media, which I hope you do, make sure you focus on the problems you’re trying to solve, rather than focussing solely on the tools available.