Ever thought what would happen if social networking died, rather prematurely...aka NOW?!?! Well having just read the Google SEO Guide - PDF (again) I am now living in a little fear, at least with Google they could be about to significantly reduce the inpact Social Networking links have.
Sites built around user interaction and sharing have made it easier to match interested groups of people up with relevant content. Avoid: • attempting to promote each new, small piece of content you create; go for big, interesting items • involving your site in schemes where your content is artificially promoted to the top of these services
Although Social Networking has not been around for many years, it was quickly adopted by search engines as being very important. If a link became viral through these portals surely it was the crowds that wanted to see it! and this means it should be top of the rankings. However this was based on the ideal situation that no person would ever buy votes or anything like this. (This ideal shows what kind of sheltered life people at these search engine companies can live). So maybe this shows that at least Google are noticing this can and does happen (and it will never stop).
So what does this really mean? why should this bother the average website owner? Well in truth, immediately I believe it means very little. Right now you should continue to social network, and share links with the world. This at least for the majority means you are encouraging good content. However at the same time you should consider that it appears as though the search engines are moving trends back towards real links from websites it considers to be "good". This does not mean that social networking is or will ever be blackhat. However finding the next big craze that search engines like may also be key.
I think I found it in Twitter