Q: What is the future of in-person, face-to-face sales and marketing for the small service businesses, in the era of social media? Demographically? Geographically? - Teresa Bryant-Parks, Business Support Specialist, Savvy Girl Friday, www.savvygirlfriday.com.

A: Social media has certainly changed the nature of marketing and sales. New marketing methods and tools are developed each year but the underlying principle of selling & marketing hasn't changed that much.

It is still about connecting with customers; getting them to trust you, to believe you can solve the problems they face and satisfy the needs they experience every day.

The new social media tools are simply another means for you have those connecting conversations with customers. They are valuable but not necessarily a replacement for the "old" marketing tools.

While a Facebook post or tweet can keep you in touch with your current customers, it may not be effective at describing what you can do for a specific customer, or to close a sale with a customer.

The best method to achieve that may be a face-to-face sales conversation; listening and working with a customer to achieve a specific goal.

Or if your goal is to get new business from your current customers, the best method may be a sales promotion such as a coupon or limited time offer.

So while social media provides new ways to connect with your customers, remember that social media is still a tool in your marketing tool chest for achieving your goals. The key is understanding how to use each of your tools effectively.

About the author

Mark Spriggs, associate professor and department chair of Entrepreneurship Department, University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business