Interesting article submitted by Fred Neil, Head of Consumer Marketing – Kindle Content, Amazon, entitled “Social Media’s Role Will Soon Shift From Driving Awareness to Creating Revenue” to answer the question “How can brands actually make social a sales channel, and with a real, determined return on investment?”

Short answer: “Brands need to start actively transforming their social communities from cost centers into profit centers, which begins with understanding your audience.”

Key takeaways:
1. Leverage existing data to drive advertising. Look to data-rich channels and analytic-focused companies such as Umbel, comScore and Insightpool
2. Activate social media as a sales channel. Hot tactics include referral programs and comment selling.
3. Use customer support to drive top-of-the-funnel leads. Turn fans and followers into advocates by using social media to quickly address customer complaints and interact tirelessly with those engaged.

The Result: “Social media has a 100 percent higher lead-to-close rate than traditional outbound marketing.”

Within the article is an infographic on this year’s projected holiday social spending – here are some factoids I found to be particularly interesting, especially given our social media manager’s push for Instagram (she’s 20-something too and right on target!):

“Today, establishing a social-media presence for your brand has become a checkbox item, a necessary part of building brand visibility and connecting with the 1.5 billion social-media users worldwide.”

“$602 Billion in Holiday Spending (2013) with an expected increase of 8% in 2014 ($650B)
* 1.32 Billion Users on Facebook
* 271 Million on Twitter
* 150 Million on Instagram”

“67% of Marketers will spend more on social during the holiday season than last year”

“Facebook is King…For Now: 92% of Marketers plan to spend their majority of their social marketing budget on Facebook”

“According to Marketers, 73% think the breakout social network of 2014 is Instagram”