Gini Dietrich

Three Social Media Myths

By: Gini Dietrich | June 15, 2011 | 

A few weeks ago, Rieva Lesonsky was in town for an event and we got together for brunch. During that brunch we talked about running a business, social media experts, whether or not we’re facing a bubble burst, and solving all the world’s problems.

Rieva is one of the smartest women I know. If you don’t know who she is, I recommend Googling her. She’s kind of a big deal, though she would never, in a million years, give off that air. In fact, to sit and talk to her, you really have no idea how big of a deal she really is. And, I mean she’s not a social media big deal. She’s an in real life big deal.

But this isn’t a post about Rieva (as much as I love her). I did that in a #FollowFriday post last year.

This is a post about the myths she wrote about, after we solved them all.

Myth: You don’t really need a website. An online presence on Facebook or Yelp or “fill in the blank” site will suffice.

Reality: Rieva and I agree here. One of the things we tell our clients, all the time, is not to push customers and prospects to something they don’t own. Yes, you should claim your business on Yelp. Yes, you should have a Facebook page (especially if you’re a consumer-facing business). But, for heaven’s sakes, don’t use those platforms in place of your website. What happens when they die?

Myth: Follow your passion and build a business around that. Or, do what you love and the money will follow.

Reality: I half agree with Rieva here. She says you should build a business around something you can market; something people will buy. I agree with that. But I also think if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, you won’t make it. Take, for instance, all of the trouble we’ve had with Spin Sucks Pro. If I weren’t passionate about the vision, if I didn’t really believe we can change the perception of the PR and marketing industries through education, I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. But where Rieva and I also agree is that you shouldn’t build a business around something you love to do, just because you love to do it. I love to cook; it’s my stress release. But if I had to do it every day, I’d end up hating it.

Myth: Having tens or hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook means you must know what you’re talking about.

Reality: Unless you’ve had P&L experience (as Geoff Livingston extols in a recent blog post), unless you can translate your personal branding success to a business (most can’t), or unless you’ve stayed awake late at night wondering how the heck you’re going to make payroll, you likely have no idea how to translate your fans and followers to success for anyone but you. As Rieva says,

Remember social media is a two-way street. It’s supposed to be a conversation. There’s nothing two-way about people telling you they’re too busy to help you, and then turning around and asking you to buy their books or subscribe to their offerings.

She has a few other myths that she explores. You can read them by clicking here. And neither one of us covered every myth out there, including how many small businesses there truly are in the United States and how many books the social media “experts” really are selling. We could go on for days and days.

What myths and realities would you add?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Great insights, Gini and Rieva! I especially agree with the myth that social media will replace the website. I think we were on the same discussion board last week on this topic, but I feel it’s a point worth repeating. Social media platforms may come and go and evolve, so it’s worth it to have a website from which they can connect and redirect for more information.

  • ginidietrich

    @Krista That one makes me nuts. It doesn’t cost very much to build a website anymore and it’s a serious stall in a business if you don’t have one. WHY would you let Facebook or Yelp or Hashable or Foursquare own your customer’s and their data?

  • I agree with the two way street- sorta. More and more I am seeing Twitter esp. as a listening tool- sure for slackers like Gertie it is about conversation, but its not like she is doing anything else all day.

  • @ginidietrich @Krista That’s a good point and a scary thought! Thanks for the perspective on this! You never think of the possibility of Facebook or Twitter dying!

  • Rieva

    @Krista Thanks. It’s really about owning your content and taking responsibility for your own success. As easy (and inexpensive) as it is to build a website these days, I can’t imagine ceding your stuff to someone else’s platform.

  • I have a real life example. A few months ago, I put up a status on Facebook asking for a local hair salon. A friend recommended a salon right down the street from me. When I Googled them, they had no web presence. They have no website. They do have a Facebook page.

    I have been trying to convince them to get a website. I told them that they do not own their Facebook page. The reason? Money. Plain and simple. It is a shame, because they are a good salon that could be doing incredibly well if they were online.

    A lot of people see social media as a magic bullet, but this is not Field of Dreams. You can build it, and no one may come, especially if they can’t find you.

  • ginidietrich

    @Lori @Krista Oh but they will. They will. Twitter, especially. They STILL haven’t figured out how to monetize themselves. At some point the VC is going to cut off access to the cash.

  • ginidietrich

    @faybiz True. I only tweet. Therefore I am.

  • ginidietrich

    @NancyD68 I LOVE that analogy. I use it all the time. Your example is a really good one. It makes me nuts, but think of the perception it leaves. You can get a really nice website for less than $3K now. There is no reason not to have one.

  • @Rieva & @ginidietrich – Would have loved to hear an audio of this conversation! Just love that you explored this as a conversation, period, particularly the two of you. OK, more myths: – It’s more important to “do social media” than it is to have any concrete goals or plans for it.

    – As long as I’m tweeting or using Facebook, I don’t need to do any other type of marketing or PR

    – Social media is just Twitter and Facebook. It doesn’t include blogging, YouTube, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Delicious, etc.

    Enjoying reading comments too for a change – love what happens when great minds converge.

  • @ginidietrich If they were not recommended by someone I grew up with, I would have kept looking. When I look for a company online, I better find you, or I am spending my money elsewhere.

    They are nice guys too. They just don’t get it. They also don’t see the harm because Facebook is free, and web designers are not. Some things though, are worth the money.

  • ginidietrich

    @NancyD68 Sigh…let me at them!

  • ginidietrich

    @Tinu @Rieva It was a super fun brunch! We definitely could create world peace, given a little time.

    LOVE these myths! They might have to be compiled into a part two. Love!

  • @ginidietrich @Tinu @Rieva I look forward to part 2! And can I join the world peace brunch?

  • ginidietrich

    @KDillabough @Tinu @Rieva YES!

  • KenMueller

    funny, I agree with your agreements (or half agreements) of @Rieva . I gotta stop that. You’re gonna get a big head if I agree with you too much!

  • @ginidietrich sadly, such a oneway street, we all listen to you, but where is the love…

  • @ginidietrich I love this post! I deal with small/medium sized business owners (the business, not the owner:), and it’s a constant conversation about the “why”…WHY are they doing, or planning to do something in social media? What’s the purpose?

    I was with a potential client yesterday who was talking about “getting on social media” (yuck, yikes, here we go again…), but when I asked, “What do you want to achieve?”…no answer. I then had them go to their computer, and asked them to check out some of their competitors, by typing in a keyword. No knowledge of keyword. No understanding of why they would do that. No ability to actually use the keyboard to type in some simple searches. And this is the owner of a very successful company.

    I’m a bit off topic here, but what really resonated with my about your conversation with @Rieva is this: Success is a two-way street. Regardless of the platform, mechanism or tool, we need to be conversing with, not talking at. And my own personal axiom: “We were given 2 ears and 1 mouth to listen twice as much as we speak”. Effective communication…of our brand, our message, our value is where it’s at, whatever the method of conveyance. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Rieva

    @Tinu @ginidietrich If only I’d taken notes while we ate, I could have created a book outline just from our conversation. And Tinu, I so agree with your myths. I go back and forth trying to decide if the business owners who avoid building their own sites and think social media = only Twitter or Facebook are lazy, insecure or merely uninformed.

  • @ginidietrich Get out here to Jersey then. We can go shoe shopping after you get them to agree to a website!

  • @Rieva @Tinu @ginidietrich There’s another book! Gini, you’re gonna be very busy in the coming months. Maybe you should put down Pro for a while… {ducks}

  • @NancyD68 @ginidietrich Some things are worth the money! I bet they believe their salon services are worth the money. They want people to invest in them and their services they need to show those potential customers that they are invested in themselves. Having the web presence is as important as how the salon looks!

  • @KDillabough @ginidietrich @Rieva Isnt it amazing how some clients do no research? We have clients who have told us “we want a new web presence” or “we want to create a web presence” but have no idea what that means or entails. They just hear everyone saying they need one. One of the first things we discuss in consults is competitor sites and web presence, it is totally scary how many clients have no clue where their competitors stand in relation to them.

    Companies need to realize its not just important to get on social media/web but it is even more important to understand it and know what you want it to do for your business.

  • Good myths, and ones that are important to keep track of. But I think the real origin of all of these myths is the idea that any of us really know what we are doing – that there is a formula that can be applied by rote to craft “success” with this new field. There is just no substitute for a clear, open mind and a commitment to strategic focus with clear goals.

  • @sydcon_mktg @ginidietrich @Rieva Jennifer, it’s scary, isn’t it? And the “why are you doing it,,, for what significant, beneficial difference…for what measurable results?” question that receives a blank stare…even scarier. My comment then is: “If you don’t know the “why”, there’s no way you can have a successful “how.” Cheers! Kaarina

  • BestRoofer

    Really like the cartoon and the last myth about the P&L experience plus wondering about how to make payroll!

  • ginidietrich

    @faybiz I’m too important to talk to you.

  • @KDillabough I am going to have to use your retort…If you don’t know the “why”, there’s no way you can have a successful “how.” Brillant!

  • ginidietrich

    @Sean McGinnis Oh I can write AND get Pro launched. Now that I have the A team working with me, things just got a whole lot easier!

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller Let’s find something to disagree on.

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller We could disagree about baseball, but I don’t care enough about it to debate. Hmmmm….

  • ginidietrich

    @KDillabough There are many reasons I love you, but one of them is because we think alike, in the way we work with clients. We ask WHY all the time, too! I want to get on Twitter. WHY? I need a Facebook page. WHY? I want to do videos. WHY?

  • ginidietrich

    @wabbitoid Exactly.

  • ginidietrich

    @BestRoofer Thank you for noticing the cartoon. I laughed out loud at it!

  • @ginidietrich @Tinu @Rieva Sign me up for part two and the world peace brunch. 🙂

  • We find ourselves leading with the why’s all the time. Why do you have a website? Why is there a dead man on a mattress on your website? Why do you need to blog? Why can’t I find you on a search? Educating on the why’s is what brings our value to the table.

    We do what we do so they can do what you do. Some meetings, my only comment is, “my brain hurts.” Those are the clients that need to stay on their own path and we’ll help those who are willing and engaged in being helped.

    I have enough stories to do a stand up routine! Seriously!

  • KenMueller

    @ginidietrich well, we both think I”m Muelleriffic, so that’s out. I’m not sure we can find much to disagree on.

  • We have the “why” conversations all the time. Why do you have a website? Why is it so out of date? Why is there a dead man on a mattress on your home page? Why can’t anyone find you on a search?

    All those whys lead to what can be done to help and how much help are you willing to except, ahem, contract for?

    Some meetings are left with me saying, “my brain hurts, I need a cocktail!” Cocktail clients are the ones we let fend for themselves.

    Why try and help clients who aren’t wiling to except the help? I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, this isn’t a ministry. We are in fact a for profit organization that has the ability to help and support our clients so they can do what they do best.

    My back up career will be stand up comedy on Clients from hell!

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller I’ll think of something!

  • ginidietrich

    @janbeery I’m sorry. “Why is there a dead man on a mattress on your home page?”

    W? T? H?

  • KenMueller

    @ginidietrich well dont go too far out of your way! you could be ruining a perfectly wonderful relationship! Oh wait, @BestRoofer is here on the porch. I gotta go!

  • @ginidietrich Yup. That’s right! guess it was supposed to be a sleeping man. Take a look at this blog! Said picture is there!

  • @ginidietrich is that irony? or oxymoronic? and yes YOU ARE too important to talk me

  • HowieSPM

    Wise Gini! Great advice. You once discussed the website thing in a Facebook Question of the Week I recall. And I say ‘Funnel from Yelp and Twitter and Facebook to your website’ not the other way around. And I was so smug and happy this week when Media Post, Business Insider, and YAHOO! all had articles on Facebook dying the slow death….like a year after I announced it but hey better late than never right?

    In fact during a client meeting I discussed good news that we have increased traffic to the fan page using Twitter and immediately after how I want to start migrating some efforts away from Facebook and even Twitter in preparation for what will be replacing them. What if they start dying before another platform emerges and we have to scramble? I would rather start that process slowly for them so we can see what works best now doing some testing vs later if panic happens.

    And Brand Pages are one of the biggest failures ever in marketing. Yes they happened by accident with users wanting to create them then brands saying hey we should own that property. But still the numbers support more traditional avenues.

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  • ginidietrich

    @HowieSPM Amen. I totally agree with all of this. Yes!

  • ginidietrich

    @janbeery Wait. This is your blog. I don’t see it!

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller @BestRoofer Wait for me! Skype me in!

  • HowieSPM

    @ginidietrich I agreed with you first!

  • HowieSPM

    @ginidietrich @janbeery I don’t see a dead sleeping man just @EricaAllison leaving a @Griddy length comment.

  • HowieSPM

    @KDillabough @sydcon_mktg @ginidietrich @Rieva Haven’t people learned how to use Google yet? Funny everyone knows the term. The website has just a box. Type anything and click Google Search (does anyone ever use I’m Felling Lucky? Anyway it gives you back a list of links. If people can’t use Google how do they tie their shoes or even eat food. Or even eat food that someone cut up into little pieces so they can chew it easier. With a bib no less.

    They can’t make the damn process any easier than it is! They can’t I tried. I came up with ZERO ways to make it simpler at least until ESP works.

    We come back to this over and over. Whether me discussing interviewing PR people, people interviewing for jobs which Gini you have given tips on, to @DannyBrown ‘s last post on local marketing and not even seeing who is doing good work to compare to your own.

    I want a GOOGLE stamp. And it goes on foreheads. And the stamp says GOOGLE backwards. So we stamp their forehead and say ‘No go look in the mirror you silly goose’ In fact it will be in Henna ink so it lasts for at least a week.

  • Rieva

    @HowieSPM @KDillabough @sydcon_mktg @ginidietrich @DannyBrown

  • Rieva

    @HowieSPM @KDillabough @sydcon_mktg @ginidietrich @DannyBrown You’re all exactly right. I was stunned last month when I asked a room full of successful business owners how many had signed up Google Alerts about their companies and their competitors–and most hadn’t!! Seriously, that’s such a easy thing to do. I still can’t figure out why.

  • @HowieSPM @ginidietrich @janbeery @Griddy Why thank you! So nice of you to notice! 🙂 I’m sure Jan appreciates my story-telling abilities!

  • @ginidietrich Let’s try this one.

    Great idea for website design. Incorporate your near dead father and put it on your home page! Then, sell mattresses!?

  • @EricaAllison @HowieSPM @ginidietrich @Griddy I LOVE your story telling Erica!

    Here it is again. Sorry! Enjoy!

  • Elias_Shams

    Social media is here to stay for good. Given vast variety of the existing channels to choose and stick with, it’s time for such a hot space to enter into a new category.There is a need for a portal to provide a quick and intelligent decision for both the consumer and the enterprise about their online connections. A Platform to Help us to Distinguish Our Quality vs. Quantity Friends, Fans, Followers, and Companies.Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Flickr and others have been doing a decent job of providing additional marketing exposure and even in some cases, additional revenue. However, as more and more social networking sites pop up, the task of picking the right channel getting more challenging.This reminds me of the early 90’s when WWW was adopted broadly by the general public. Every company rushed to have a presence, to the point it became literally impossible to find the right information on the Web. That’s when yahoo and google where born and helped us find the most relevant information by just typing simple keywords.

    Then came Web 1.0 & 2.0 – Youtube, Flickr, myspace, Facebook, Twitter and countless others have turned everyday people into content producers, influencers and experts. We basically tripled down on the information overload How do you know which channels to select for deploying your social media strategy?That is why I built to accomplish such a mission – the portal to all your existing social media channels.EliasCEO & Founder

  • MARLdblE

    Hey Gini!

    You totally nailed it her woman! I have nothing to add except to say that I totally agree with your fact v. fiction analysis.

  • ginidietrich

    @janbeery HAHAHAHAHA! LOL!!

  • ginidietrich

    @Elias_Shams Thanks for stopping by Elias!

  • ginidietrich

    @MARLdblE I really should write a blog post about this perception vs. reality thing in the social space. It’s quite shocking. How are you, darlin??

  • @ginidietrich Did I tell you?! This is up in the Wall of fame for sure!

  • HowieSPM

    @janbeery @ginidietrich did @sydcon_mktg design the sleeping man landing page?

  • @sydcon_mktg Thanks Jennifer: use away! I probably use that statement at least once a day with clients/potential clients. Cheers! Kaarina

  • @ginidietrich Aw shucks Gini, you just made my day…and I’ve had a few tough ones lately, so I’m REALLY looking forward to a wine o’clock Skype. WHY is the basic question I seem to ask ad nauseum…greeted often with blank stare. Love you right back! Cheers! Kaarina

  • Leon

    G’Day Gini,

    Myths in business don’t only relate to social media issues. Here are a few more:

    *employees always resist change”

    *staff aren’t interested in the big picture

    * I have to check everything they do

    *they can’t be trusted to make really important decisions

    etc., etc., etc.

    And many businesses are driven by myths simply because they don’t count.

    And, of course, they’re not determined to have fun!



  • @HowieSPM @janbeery @ginidietrich Watch it, Howie! LOL!

  • al.pittampalli

    Myth: you HAVE to use social media. Reality: of course you don’t. Of course we’re living in an age where the companies that are using social media well are winning in extraordinary ways…but that certainly doesn’t mean every business has to use it. Social media is a set of tools, but offline businesses or just those that utilize offline traditional marketing tactics can still thrive in the right environments.

  • janesheeba

    I would never think about replacing FB page for my blog. I cannot establish my business and brand myself with a third party app. People won’t trust me if I don’t have an online office (even though I have online presence). My blog or website is the place where people can know about me and my business, get help and continue with me in my business.

    Well put Gini.

  • xmetow
  • Gini,

    You’re right about a couple of things;

    1. Rieva IS a big deal

    2. You need a website

    Rieva is a great lady; she’s a giver. She’s full of ideas. She’s a very positive person, and has turned into one heck of a friend.


  • BojanDjordjevic

    Once you get too big you tend to live off social proof, hence I only follow those who are on their way there, cause they provide most value.

  • @sydcon_mktg @HowieSPM @ginidietrich I don’t for a second believe Jennifer would do such poor creative!

  • @janbeery @HowieSPM @ginidietrich Why thank you, Jan! @HowieSPM still cant take that the Blackhawks are better than the Islanders, so he acts out sometimes! 😉

  • @sydcon_mktg @HowieSPM @ginidietrich Deep sigh! God Bless our Blackhawks!

  • @HowieSPM @ginidietrich @sydcon_mktg Now your thinking! Brilliant!

  • Excellent points Gini.

    I’m not very familiar with Rieva – but I’m definitely gonna’ get to know her a little better now :).

    I agree with all the points you made here.

    I’m a firm believer of profiting from passion if you can. But some hobbies should be left as just that…hobbies.

    As for the folks who thing they can replace a website with Social Media platforms such as Twitter, Yelp or Facebook – huh?! Really?! Like you said, what happens if and when they die out?

    Which leads me to another question. When those platforms die out – what happens to folks like Mari Smith and others who’s entire business revolves around these platforms. If you’re a Facebook expert now – what are you when Facebook no longer exists?

    Just a thought.

    Thanks Gin

  • Rieva

    @Griddy Thanks Griddy. Interesting question you pose. I suspect, if need be, the experts will stake their claim wherever the “gold” is at the moment.

  • Rieva

    @FranchiseKing Thank you so much Joel. I appreciate your kind (and generous) comments.

  • I agree whole-heartedly about the website.

    I know so many local businesses who say: Oh we have a facebook! And I ask, what about a website… “Yes, I already told you.We have a facebook!”

    Marketing fail.

    So hard to get people to understand the importance of their brand, whether it be a sandwich shop or a personal blog.

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  • Wow! The comments are nearly as informative as the post! That’s wonderful. I definitely agree about having a website rather than just a Facebook/Yelp/etc. page. Having your online presence solely on social media platforms really limits the ability to brand, track, and analyze your marketing efforts. It always surprises me when people don’t think they need an actual website!

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  • And if we’re in a consultative role, we need to respect the inherent wisdom that resides in experienced business owners and listen more than preach.

  • NancyM.

    I agree with all these myths, specially the last one. Businesses do think that they can just keep tweeting links and marketing material and that people will run and buy their products when the truth is, when it comes to social media, you have to give a lot before you expect to gain anything. I personally feel more brand loyalty to businesses that gave me before they ask me to give them. It build a somewhat personal relationship which is the whole point of using social netwokrs as a marketing tool.