Whenever a new medium explodes onto the scene, there are going to be misconceptions. When it’s a medium as complex, sprawling and ever-changing as social media, there are going to be a lot of misconceptions.

Some of these lies are perpetuated by well-meaning but wrong people; others are peddled by charlatans. Whatever the source, we’re here to set the record straight.

1. Social Media Is Free

Like most good lies, there’s a kernel of truth here. Most social media tools are free. You can set up a Facebook fan page or a Twitter account without paying a dime; Google+ might actually pay you good money to use your account. But even creating those social media accounts has a real, concrete cost: time. In economics, they call it opportunity cost. In the time it took you to make those accounts, what else could you have been doing? That time has a value. So every time you go hop onto LinkedIn to look up that old colleague, you’re spending time. Every time you create a quick image to throw up on your Facebook fan page, there’s a cost. You might choose to spend your own time, which doesn’t directly cost you money, or you may choose to pay an employee or an outside firm to help with the burdens of keeping those accounts up to date, but it’s still not free. Never has been, never will be.

In an even more concrete sense, social media is becoming more and more of a paid medium all the time. Facebook is only showing your content to about 15% of your fans. Want to reach more? You will need to pay them. Twitter is rolling out more and more promoted Tweets, and LinkedIn has always had a strong advertiser culture. Looking to the future, it’s more likely you’ll be spending time and cold hard cash on social media.

2. Social Media Is Here to Stay

Some form of social media is going to be around far into the future; there’s little doubt about that. The names may change, the tactics may change, but the strategy of connecting to people as humans and being helpful and likable before making a sale, that’s not going away. But businesses fail all the time; technologies fall by the wayside when they’ve outlived their usefulness. People are fickle and they leave–see MySpace, Friendster or even old-school AOL Instant Messenger for case studies. Social media in some form or another is going to be a fixture in your future. But will Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, et al be where we’ll be spending our time? Harder to say. Avoid the urge to pin all your hopes on any one social network. Which leads us to…

3. All You Need Is Social Media

This is perhaps the most dangerous lie of all. “Oh, yeah. Just throw up a Facebook page, people can find you there and you can have a digital footprint without the hassle and expense of building your own website. Your community’s already there, so it’s perfect.” This is a dangerous, dangerous idea.

A social network is not your friend. They are not a trusted adviser who wants to see your business grow. They are corporations looking to make their own money. They create arbitrary rules. They own every piece of data you put on their site–in perpetuity. And at any time, they can delete your account for any reason or no reason. As we’ve seen with Facebook, they can hold you hostage to get your hard-won fans to even see your updates. And they can disappear entirely.

No one marketing tactic has all the answers. To be successful, you need to diversify and most importantly, own your own website and your own place on the Internet. Do not rely on a social network to look out for your best interests. They won’t.

Does this all sound scary, a little gloom and doom? Maybe. But as we keep saying, social media is here to stay. Be smart, be skeptical and stay ahead of the curve, and great things can still happen.