My opinion and thoughts surrounding Social Media have really changed in the last 2 weeks primarily due to the revolution in Iran and the role that thousands of people played communicating the issues and letting the world know what was really happening in Iran.
Up until a month ago, I saw Social Media as a Marketing tool and often referred to Social Media as Social Marketing, however, I can see now that I was wrong. The combination of Social Media tools like Twitter, YouTube, and Flicker, and the engaged Iranians using these tools, kept the message coming out of Iran which helped to raise awareness to the rigged election and the beatings, arrests and murders that followed the Iranian election. This stream of information was flowing out of Iran at great risk to those folks sharing the information and as the community of Social Media adopters embraced this and started blogging, tweeting and communicating the message, hundreds of thousands of people from many countries got involved and started covering and communicating this story. This message may have come to light in another way, however access to Social Media tools like Twitter, YouTube and Flicker allowed Iranians the opportunity to share their experiences with us as they happened.
As an active user of many social tools like Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and Friendfeed, I saw my activities as Social Networking and the activities of the Marketing and PR folks as Social Media. The fine distinction that I have come to realize is the Marketing and PR folks are using the same Social Media tools that I use, however, their message is different and their desired reach and results are different, however, they are still using the same powerful medium that I am using and therefore I will stop refereeing to Social Media as Social Marketing.
In my opinion, the message of the Iranians and the reaction and support from all non-Iranians proves the legitimacy of Social Media.