What's a better social media goal: customer loyalty or brand awareness? If you're a top digital marketing executive, chances are you're focused on brand awareness first and foremost. That's what I found when helping to put together The Future of Social, a report Firebrand Group developed in conjunction with Social Fresh, the leading social media education company.

Every business should define what their goals are in each of their business' departments, and social media is no exception. Defining your social media goals, whether we're talking about awareness, conversion, or something else entirely, helps sets the stage for better strategy.

Some businesses have a barrier to measuring conversion because they're not engaged in ecommerce, or they do not directly manage distribution of their products. For example, imagine a beauty brand whose primary mode of sales comes through Sephora. Still, there is always a way.

In The Future of Social, we learned plenty about how brands think about their top social media goals, along with plenty of other topics, including where marketers are investing their time and resources, where they are seeing the best ROI, what types of social media roles they think they'll be hiring for in the next year, and more.

The report features high level insights from our survey of 551 social media marketing professionals and includes research support from executives from such venerable brands as IBM, Amazon, Laura Geller Beauty, Microsoft, and many more. Download your free copy of the report here.

Our data found that many brands--in fact, over 3 in 4--consider awareness to be their top social media goal. As part of the expert analysis in the report, we discussed the benefits of investing in other areas--specifically customer service--and shifting away from only prioritizing awareness in your social media goals.

While many top brands primarily focus on awareness, some digital leaders, like IBM's Digital Marketing Community Leader Jason Eng, aren't so sure.

"The more each brand focuses on awareness, the more noise we'll have in social," says Eng, "and it's already noisy." Rachel Sacks-Hoppenfeld, Global Ecommerce Senior Product Lead at Anheuser-Busch Inbev, challenged social marketers to completely cut awareness out of their social media goals list. "It is highly unrealistic to gain awareness from most social channels," she shared. "Social media is flooded with brands trying to rise to the surface and it is extremely rare and difficult to rise above."

Using social media marketing as an awareness builder can still be somewhat successful, but requires targeted social advertising campaigns that allow you to get the right series of messages in front of a very specific audience.

How much does it cost you to engage a new customer? As Jay Baer, the President of Convince and Convert states in the report, customer service and customer loyalty are much bigger opportunity areas for brands.

The people most likely to pay attention to your brand in social are current customers. Customer loyalty and customer service objectives are vastly under-embraced," maintains Baer. "Embrace that organic social functions more like an email newsletter, and think strategically about how you can use social to take people who like you and make them love you."

Even if your primary social media goal is not a sale, but focuses on awareness or loyalty or customer service, there are metrics you can put in place that help you define a conversion of that goal. You just might have to spend a little more time and creativity on the strategy side to put that measurement system in place.

Click through and check out the report, and let me know which of our findings surprise you--I'd love to hear from you.