‘Social media’ is the new craze because of how large sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are getting. The web has been social since it’s existence, it’s all about communication and getting information from one place to another. Forums were around way before MySpace. These concepts aren’t new they’ve just been implemented in a way that makes it easier for people to connect.
In real life, the more social someone is the more friends they have. The more connected and active you are in your community the more popular you are.
When thinking about search and how to get traffic to your site, the answer is simple … just be more social. Find people who share your interests on Twitter, reply to them and start a conversation. Find blogs that discuss some of the same things you do and comment on them, linking to your blog (with your name, not keywords). Post interesting and relevant content, often. Be active inside forums targeted at your subject of choice. Link to other bloggers from your site, trust me they’ll notice.
Search was originally strictly about content. Google changed that up and realized backlinks are a better indication of what a site is about and not the actual content contained within the site. But lets think about what exactly Goolge has in it’s database … EVERYTHING. They have link data, on-page site data, RSS feed data, email data, browsing history (via their toolbar and web history) and the list goes on and on. One of things we know Google takes into account when ranking content is freshness. It looks for when content on a page was last updated, and the newer, more active pages get ranked better than less active ones (considering everything else is equal). So, it’s not that far of a stretch to think that the more active a website is everywhere on the Internet, the better it will rank considering those places it’s active are relevant to the content it’s targeting, links or no links.
I guess what I’m trying to say is just get out there! Be social in a relevant context (in a way Google can index it) and a nice side effect will be improved rankings and more traffic.