Social Media Emerges As A Business Communications Tool

Back in Oct. 13, 2010, I stated in this space that staying under the radar is a dated approach to operating a vending business. I now believe this approach is becoming even more harmful as the business world embraces social media as a form of communication.The use of social media services such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked In by businesses to connect to customers, employees and partners has grown so much in the past year that an entire industry has emerged; specialists who help businesses develop their social media.The Automatic Merchandiser State of the Vending Industry Report noted that 22 percent of vending operators used social media in 2010. This might be an old number by now, but it still indicates our industry is lagging other industries.When asked about social media, many vending operators raise several concerns: they dont have the time and resources, they are concerned about inviting negative comments from customers, they worry about competitors finding out what theyre up to, and they dont want to bother customers with information they dont want.These are all valid concerns. But operators need to understand that there are many ways to manage a social media presence. Operators need to get up to speed.Businesses can manage what type of information they make available via social media. They can monitor what information gets posted.They also need to recognize that social media gives them a cost effective way to get their messages out to more people, and as such, it allows them to develop stronger relationships with customers, employees and partners.I never understood the staying under the radar attitude.Isnt vending a people business?Doesnt everyone like food and refreshments?The National Automatic Merchandising Association has recognized the business environment is changing with its Vend.Love.Win Facebook campaign. If you havent visited it yet, go to www.facebook.com/VendLoveWin.There are numerous resources to help operators get up to speed on social media. A good source on social media I came across recently is CWS based in Rochester, Minn.: www.cws.net.

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