We know that…
1. Social media signals (FB Likes, Tweets, G+s, comment volume) influence search results;
2. The more signals there are, the greater weight is given to a specific page,
3. Search engines like Google know how pages, topics and clusters of site relate to each other.
So let's say you have two B2B companies that rely on thought leadership to attract clients and talent. Both have 100,000 employees. Both have an equally compelling point of view on their industry and an awesome internal communications program that has every employee able to articulate it.
Company A has takes a "command and control" approach to social media. It has 10 channels publishing five pieces of original content a day. The content is fully SEO'd and their team rocks at engagement.
Company B uses the "distributed" model. It offers social media training, technologies and support to all employees. Not everyone takes advantage of it, of course. Some employees don't know or don't care about social media. But 10% create one channel, let's say a Tumblog. Another 10% are really enthusiastic, using two channels a day, Twitter and Google+. That's 30,000 social media channels, each of which gives off an SEO signal when it creates content or links to it. Just for fun, let's cut those numbers down, and assume that half the people with channels are out sick every day (all those icky keyboards), and half of those who remain have the time and inclination to post. We're down to 7,500 channels.
In one 24 hour period
Company A does its social media thing perfectly = 50 SEO signals
Company B does its social media thing perfectly = 7,500 SEO signals
With search results like Company B's, it won't just be dominant on search, but terraforming it. That's the kind of influence that changes minds, shapes debates and ultimately gives a company leadership status.
Quantity truly has a quality of its own.