The growth of social media presents important opportunities for service providers. All vending and refreshment service operators need to be aware of how to use this tool if they truly believe that customer service holds the key to their ability to sustain and increase their accounts.For those operators not aware of how to use social media, there are plenty of resources available on the Internet.Social media does not replace existing communication channels such as in-person visits, direct mail and paper newsletters. It complements and enhances them.Every business has limited resources, so who has extra time on their hands to start another project? If youre a serious player in vending and refreshment services, you have people on your staff who can get up to speed on social media.Anyone serious about vending and refreshment services realizes that customer communications is important. Social media is one of the most powerful tools to emerge.I recently thumbed through a file of paper newsletters that vending operators sent to customers. I have compiled several such newsletters over the years. Paper newsletters have long played an important role in our industry. With the rise of the Internet, some operators have replaced paper newsletters with online versions. Some have maintained paper newsletters in addition to online versions. Some have gone a step further and expanded into social media.One of the key benefits of the paper newsletter is that it allows the customer to read it at his or her leisure. An email newsletter, by contrast, is less likely to be read.A social media posting, on the other hand, will be read. Hence, the social media posting offers the best of both worlds; its easy and inexpensive to produce, yet it has staying power. The social media posting is what experts in the field refer to as non-interruputive people go there at their convenience. Its also a two-way medium. This is very important for service providers who want honest feedback on their products and services. For veteran vending and coffee service operators, social media gives them a tool to both inform customers about their service and survey them about how their needs are or are not being met.Social media has yet another benefit to the business looking to communicate; the posting does not have the space limitations of a paper newsletter. The business can inform readers about new products, new policies, information about health and nutrition, and news about the company.While there are many benefits to social media, the business using it has to know what theyre doing. Its not a no brainer. For companies that have produced newsletters, many of the same rules apply: be clear, be informative, and be entertaining.While there is less cost involved with online tools, the company must be committed to the project for it to have lasting value. If youre not going to follow through with the project, its best not to begin.We are living in challenging times. But with challenge comes opportunity.