Of course, outreach to blogs and gaining traction on social networks is a necessary and productive endeavor. That's all about driving traffic. But that's not SEO, that's outreach. Getting a higher search ranking is a natural byproduct of outreach and marketing. And developers aren't necessarily the best people to do that.
It sounds like you're defining "SEO" as "The parts of SEO I don't like." Link-building is integral to a campaign like that. If you call it "outreach," that's fine, but there's still a big difference--you can target sites that rank well for your target keywords, which will net you more effective links than you'd otherwise get.