A veteran vending equipment salesman contacted me about my blog last week regarding the need for vending operators to utilize social media, a rising marketing tool for business. This individual said he has been encouraging vending operators to use social media for some time, but noted some objections he has encountered from operators:1)Competitors will post damaging comments on social media Websites. In addition to hurting the companys reputation, it will be difficult for operators to know if posted complaints are genuine or not.2)Competitors will be able to determine who your customers are based on social media comments.3)The communication will encourage customers to ask for things the company cant offer, creating a public relations problem.This individual further noted that vending operators who have tried to use social media found it too time consuming and were unable to sustain it.I was not surprised by these comments. These issues have been raised by business owners in many industries. But it has not stopped many companies from using social media successfully. Social media is a very new marketing tool for businesses, and it is the fastest growing marketing tool.I decided to check in with an operator I know who has claimed positive results from social media and run these issues past him, Chuck Olson, owner of CNC Vending in Houston, Texas. The company has a presence on Facebook and Twitter and has a blog on its main Website, www.cncvending.com. Here are Olsons responses to the concerns cited above:1)Phantom complaints: This has not occurred. If it does occur, it will be a problem, but according to Olson, the problem, if it occurrs, pales in comparison to the upside.2)Competitors determining who customers are. Ditto above.3)Unreasonable requests. For Olson, this has not been an issue. He is confident in his ability to meet product requests. Olson has been alerted to service issues via social media, which he views as a positive since it gives him a chance to please the customer.The main benefit Olson cites is being able to strengthen customer relationships. He sends out posts when new products are introduced, and he often gets responses from customers about the products.Olson has also been able to promote his giveaways via social media. He recently asked for people to submit Christmas stories, promising a gift for the person with the best story.Olson characterizes the benefit as building the bottom-up relationship with the account. It strengthens his relationships with end users, who in turn influence the account decision makers. He doesnt see it as a tool for getting in front of more potential decision makers. Hence, he is not using it as a way to gain new business. He said the traditional sales and marketing tools are still needed.He estimates that 10 percent of his customers are Facebook friends.Olson agrees that having a social media presence takes time and commitment.Readers are invited to share their experiences about social media marketing as they foray into this area.