Social media and links, in my opinion, has been misunderstood. I include myself in the ranks of those who have misunderstood what is going on with social. There have been some recent studies that have been changing my mind about social media and the role it plays in brand building, traffic, building a fan base and ultimately detaching from Google and becoming a destination independent of Google.
Becoming Google independent is tricky because a popular way of doing it depends on topical subjects that have no search query footprint in the past, present or future. And the reasons why people share the content (as opposed to read it, simply share it) is to obtain social validation through Facebook and Twitter. Many people aren't reading articles, they're simply sharing it to obtain social validation. The same people don't care about the content. For them, the utility of the content, the usefulness of the content, exists solely to impress others in their Facebook feed to generate personal validation through the likes their sharing receives. It's a parasitic form of traffic. The content itself is not useful. It is useful for what it can do for the site visitor's personal validation or more often, simply as ammunition in the daily war against boredom.
So we have to (re)define the role of social media and link building because the reasons people use social media have evolved in a manner that may or may not be consistent with our goals. How do you tie this in to building traffic? How about tie this in to making money? At bottom, link building is about making money.