Most bloggers take this approach. Unknown to the general public, they keep chipping away writing their thoughts on the subjects they love. So there's a lot of competition between them, particularly in popular niches. Even with backlinks accumulating fairly regularly it's hard for any one blogger to rise above the pack.
But there's one way to really get your blog firing in both social media and the search engines, and quickly. That's to blog about a particular subject that lots of people are interested in, and to be a primary source of information about it.
A perfect example of this is Michael Smith News. This is about something not only specific but topical: the AWU scandal involving Australia's PM Julia Gillard.
This blog was only commenced a few months ago but it has already attracted eye-boggling traffic numbers. One day recently, for example, it received 90000 hits. A basic backlink check reveals numerous links, particularly from other blogs.
Sure, the guy behind it was quite well known already, being a former broadcaster who lost his job with Fairfax as a result of his interest in the scandal. That high profile would have helped a lot ...
But the main reason so many people link to his blog is because it regularly includes previously unknown documents, as well as podcasts of interviews with protagonists such as self-confessed fraudster and bagman Ralph Blewitt. It is therefore primary source material. And Michael Smith is not just reporting on developments, but actually driving them as well. (For example it was his complaint to police that has prompted them to reopen the case, causing a lot of grief for the PM.)
Needless to say, very few bloggers would have the time, commitment or contacts to keep breaking news in the way Smith has been. But the success of his blog is something for all bloggers to keep in mind, no matter what field they're in.