If social media is the darling Cinderella of the current marketing world, then link building might be the u___ (unrecognized?) stepsister. When I describe link building and its important role in creating a company’s Web presence (see SEOmoz’s What is Link Building? for a definition/details), most people furrow their brows and say, “Sounds like you’re talking about social media.” (Cinderella gets all the glory!)
So, we’d like to end, once and for all, this unnecessary cause of forehead wrinkles by tackling the FAQ: What’s the difference between link building and social media?
Stoney (@StoneyD): Link building and social media have a lot in common and, in many cases, share similar goals. I would say that pure link building is a sub-set of SEO. The goal is to get keyword rich links on external sites pointing to your keyword-optimized pages. There are a lot of link-building methods, several of which cross over into social media: building relationships, creating great, linkable content and broadcasting it to bring eyes (and links) to that content.
Social media is an outlet for link building, but it also has its own goals, one of which can be getting valuable links. But social media has concerns far greater than just getting links, and any social strategy that doesn’t look beyond links is bound to fail.