Social and Valor Levels
Besides just normal levels, swtor has two different ways for players to progress their character past normal means. These two ways include Social and Valor levels. Valor levels are like the PvP levels of Swtor, you will gain Valor Points by killing players of the opposing faction and participating in PvP Warzones. Valor levels benefit you by allowing you to buy better pvp gear the higher your Valor Level. Players with the highest level Valor Level will be able to buy the best PvP gear in the game.
Now keep in mind that leveling up normally and gaining normal experience will not benefit Social or Valor levels, you can only increase each of these by doing the specific things required for both. As for Social Levels, you can increase your Social level by participating in conversations with NPCs while in a group. You will gain social experience for every option you choose during a group conversation and the player that chooses the best option, or however it works, will get the most social experience.
An easy way to gain Social Points is by participating in group quests with other players and doing 5man dungeons together. After you finish the quests or at any point where you and your group participate in a conversation together you will be "rolling" on the conversation choices. The player that wins and his choice gets chosen will get the most XP, but even if your choice was not chosen you . According to a source I spoke to in beta Social Points can be spent on cosmetic, vanity and group items. In other words, don't expect to get decked out in some uber gear just because you were nice enough to talk to people while grouped.
Below is a picture of where you can keep track of your Social and Valor levels. To bring up the window in the picture just hit "C" (Default keybinding)
You will be able to keep a close eye on your Social and Valor levels in the character window, as you gain Social or Valor points these bars will increase until you level up. There is not really much more to say on this subject, if I forgot to add anything or learn more when the game releases I will be sure to update this page asap.
Additional Valor Guides
I figure most people come to this page looking for more information on the Valor Points system more so than the Social Points. So, here is a section to give you exactly what you're looking for! Now that you know all about how Valor Points work and how you can level up your Valor level you're probably looking for more information on Warzones and PvP in Swtor. Well look no further! Below are links to all the guides you'll need to become dah Masta Jedi!