A report from Awareness Networks found that companies' goals with social media marketing are changing, as many are focusing on broader benefits of engagement over direct social sales.

The 2012 State of Social Media Marketing report from Awareness Networks found that marketers active in the channel are focusing on several different components of their presence moving forward. With businesses at different levels of adoption and focused on varying goals with social, their budgets are shifting to reflect the areas in which they want to succeed.

According to the report, 76 percent are actively looking to boost the visibility of their brands on social networks with more followers and fans. Additionally, 67 percent said driving more traffic to their website is a key focus of their social efforts.

Those looking to drive social traffic should consider sharing industry headlines from their websites. Recently, Brafton highlighted a report from Buddy Media that found sharing brief Tweets with links to site content compels followers to click and share the content more frequently. With 53 percent of marketers telling Awareness they want to boost social mentions on these platforms, shared site content can also help drive the social engagement they’re seeking.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said driving more traffic to their website is a key focus of their social efforts.

Of course, some social mentions merit response and marketers must improve control over social conversations. According to STELLAService, 56 percent of engagement in the form of questions posted to brands go ignored by the companies. Among the businesses hoping to improve their grasp of social conversation and engagement on social networks, there’s a chance many are simply missing existing opportunities.

While brand awareness and traffic are leading social goals, there are some companies hoping social contributes to more traditional metrics. Thirty-eight percent of respondents want to increase leads generated through their social media marketing strategy, and 26 percent believe that social must play a greater role in increasing sales from the web. Presumably, even the companies that didn’t list leads and sales as top goals also want to see more prospects land on their sites and convert. Social has proven a strong provider of conversions, but the channel is most effective in terms of assisting conversions and driving prospects through a sales funnel.

Brafton recently reported that Target improved conversion rates by investing in Facebook content. The frequency of conversions grew when users interacted with the company’s Facebook content. Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute recently said building new entry points to conversion funnels, whether with social media or other channels, is a competitive necessity given the frequency with which consumers research purchases on different channels.

Joe Meloni is Brafton's former Executive News and Content Writer. He studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has written for a number of print and web-based publications.