Objectives that tend to fall into the category of direct marketing, such as lead generation and sales conversion, are second-tier expectations. You might expect the revenue-producing goals of direct marketing to rank higher than branding during a recession. The conversational and relationship-building nature of social media, however, is more synonymous with PR, which is more likely to help accomplish branding goals.
Improving internal communications is often the goal of companies in the early experimental stage of adopting social media. Indeed, internal communications is a desirable social-media training and proving ground because the risk of exposing confidential information to the public is far less likely to occur in a self-contained environment.