Before I address the question in the headline, let me ask you this: what would you do if you were not allowed on any social websites for a week? Would you be annoyed and frustrated, and feel out of touch? I know I would. Like me, you check Facebook and Twitter many times a day. It’s become an essential part of the daily routine of millions of people the world over.

As mobile overtakes desktop computing, it’s pretty much a given that anyone you pass on the street, anyone sitting next to you at the doctor’s office, and anyone on any form of transportation is on the social web.

Maybe they are checking email, but they are probably not doing research walking (or driving) down the street. That’s pretty meaningful. Because desktop computers are about to share space in that great warehouse that stores all the outmoded technology. Move over, VHS players. We’ve got a whole new set of boxes coming in.

So let’s consider this future, in which people prefer to be fed links from trusted connections instead of proactively seeking answers to questions. According to recent research by Searchmetrics, Facebook shares enjoy the greatest influence on Google search rankings, followed by backlinks. So while chasing Facebook Likes can be an exercise in futility, the bigger picture is that social media is very necessary to engage and attract the audience you’re looking for. I can tell you that traffic to ScribeWise that comes through our social media channels is from what we consider to be higher quality, ready-to-buy readers.

A recent blog post from Openview labs posits that 2013 is the year that social finally overtakes search traffic. The article links to a report from MarketingProfs and The Content Marketing Institute that indicates 87 percent of marketers are now using social media to distribute content, a 13 percent increase year over year. The top social distribution channels are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google+.  Pinterest and Tumblr are based on link sharing.

So it appears that social media is becoming more about work and information, and less about kittens and babies. Ok, maybe kittens still rule the day. But information is gaining.

Where does that leave SEO and SEM? Some believe the ship is leaving the dock; maybe it hasn’t sailed just yet, but gaming Google algorithms doesn’t work anymore without stellar content.

On a purely anecdotal level, the great majority of my own social media postings are links. Take some time to observe your social media behavior, and know that your habits don’t exist in a vacuum. Whatever it is that you like and do, chances are a whole lot of people agree with you.

The question still remains: once they’ve clicked, what happens next? Do they read the content and go away, or do they stick around and become qualified leads? Ultimately, your marketing strategy will need to incorporate both social and search, to capture the strength of both audiences and hedge your bets as the crowd moves forward.