Is social media important? Even though there are still some who believe it isn’t, today few dispute that it has at least some value.

Instead, the debate has largely shifted to another question: how is social media best applied to deliver meaningful results for businesses?

When it comes to that question, there is no shortage of consultants and firms offering to help companies find the answer.

As revealed in SEMPO and Econsultancy’s recently-released State of Search Marketing Report 2011, companies are increasingly outsourcing their online marketing functions to third parties.

In the social media sphere, 62% of companies were keeping social media in-house last year, but that has dropped to just 55% today. Clearly, providing services around social media is a growth industry, even if the days are numbered for the worst of the social media ‘gurus.

But a recent conversation I had with an old friend who runs a digital consulting firm in Brazil provided an interesting perspective on the market. When I asked how his business was doing, he was pleased to report that it was doing very well, and that he had picked up a number of big clients this year.

I asked him how he was doing that and he replied, quite bluntly, “I am not offering any services related to social media.” The reason? During a meeting with a prospective client last year, the subject of social media came up, and the prospective client’s president spoke very bluntly: “If another person tells me we need to be on Facebook and Twitter, I’m going to jump out of the window“.

It wasn’t that the president of this company thought Facebook and Twitter were useless, my friend explained; rather, it was the fact that every individual and firm pitching him on improving his digital presence was selling Facebook and Twitter, and few were actually asking about his company’s biggest digital pain points.

By focusing exclusively on client pain points — something most of his competitors aren’t doing — my friend’s business is booming.

This experience highlights something that consultants and firms alike may want to keep in mind: social media is big, but the non-social media world is even bigger.

From analytics to technology platforms, companies of all shapes and sizes face a lot of challenges. Many look to outside partners to help them address these challenges, but in many places the market has been flooded by providers selling little more than the idea that social media is the end-all and be-all of a successful online presence.

That isn’t the case, because even where social media is desirable or required, there are a lot of other things companies need to get right to succeed on the internet.

From this perspective, the greatest opportunity to cash in on the rise of social media may be to ignore social media altogether.