In the rush to gain subject matter credibility in the eyes of anyone who's paying attention, PR firms, advertising agencies, marketing organizations, application service providers, and consultants and consultancies in nearly every business vertical are all publishing reports, studies, white papers and more about social media-related marketing. But in nearly every case, they're either repeating what someone else has already said or, worse yet, they're wasting everyone's time by pointing out the obvious.

Take, for example, Social EQ, a "first-of-its-kind study of social media effectiveness, identifying six key factors that drive successful online campaigns." Long story short, the geniuses over at APCO Worldwide and -- no, this isn't a typo -- The Huffington Post, can now tell you with absolute certainty (because they have a model, an "advanced statistical analysis" of an "extensive qualitative and quantitative research study among Social Informants") that dialogue, customer service, quality of content, platform diversity, engagement/interaction and optimization all play a role in the effectiveness of your social media marketing. Duh!

Come on, folks; is there really anyone out there who doesn't know this stuff by now? Let me answer my own question ... of course there is. There are hundreds of thousands of decision makers and communication professionals who are truly lost and confused. I submit, however, that what they're slowed down by isn't what makes for good content; rather, most are intimidated by the technologies used to power social participation (i.e., content management systems, social networking platforms, micro-blogging services, video production tools and sharing outlets, RSS feeds, APIs, etc.), along with compelling arguments for why they need to participate in the first place.

Social media is not just another outlet in which companies need to establish a presence. It truly is an entirely new way of marketing. With social media, for the first time ever at this scale, prospects and customers play a greater role in marketing, advertising and branding. Yet, social media marketing is still marketing, and my advice to businesses entering the space is that they shouldn't abandon everything they already know about marketing. If, for example, you didn't know that the quality of your content and customer service matters, then you've got bigger problems!

Everything you need to know about social media marketing, you already know. You know that you need to apply your marketing savvy and expertise to the space, and that everything you do in the space must be aligned with well-conceived and realistic business-related goals.

And you don't need another study to tell you that.