Is Social Media A Marketing or PR Tool

I am forever trying to get my head around this social media thing. Some days I think I understand it and then other days I am dumbfounded by what I see. Just yesterday I was in a discussion with a friend if social media was marketing or PR. Coming from the world of PR I instantly said PR, my friend, coming from marketing said it was a marketing tool.

Being rational adults sitting over a nice dinner of burgers and beer we decided to give each other one chance to convince the other of our argument and a rebuttal statement could be made by each. I looked my opponent square in the eye and knew I was about to have to make one concise and convincing argument.

I began as such: Social media is PR at its purest form. Social media allows poeple and buisness to build third party credible at a direct target level. The targets then become either evangelist or nay sayers of a company, product, or service. All credibility and comments are earned through creating relationships with targets.

I was proud of myself, I had summed up my argument in one concise paragraph that made sense to me and to my opponent. My advisory took a bite of his burger, took a sip of his beer and smiled. I was frightened by this look because I knew I would soon be bested.

He began as such: PR is based on targeting experts in a field, typically journalist and editors, with a secondary focus on targeting the general public. I will give you that most bloggers are experts. Marketing positions itself by creating exposure through placements and creating a need out of a want. I show people that since their friends have something, they not only want it but need it to be on the same level as their friends.

I started to think about what my friend had said and how it pertained to social media. A good deal of connections and networks were based on the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ model of friends. Could I have been wrong this whole time about the focus of social media? Could it all be based on making people feel like outcast for not participating.

The argument continued for several courses of dinner and round or two more of ale. While we couldn’t come to agreement we both saw the merit in the others argument. It left me with an unsettling feeling about what social media really was. I was convinced I was confused on social media again.

I was wondering what all of you out there thought about social media as a tool. Is targeting social media the next step in PR or just a faster route for marketers to hit their targets? I know the answer isn’t simple but I would love to hear all your thoughts on this topic.