Over this past weekend, my wife and I encountered what I am certain sociologists would consider a "modern problem." Yet it's something that's baffled me in ways I can't comprehend.
While on vacation a few weeks ago, we ran into one of those new* frozen yogurt places, where basically you've convinced yourself that froyo is healthier than ice cream so it's perfectly acceptable to load it up with gummy bears and Oreo crumbles. You then put it on a scale and they charge you by the ounce. It's not a bad concept, and when we got home we decided to see if any new ones had been opened around our area.
Turns out there were about three or so, approximately three more than we were expecting. However, when we decided to take a trip to visit one, that's where we ended up having issues. My wife started searching online for information--it was going to be about an hour drive regardless, so we wanted to make sure these places were even open--but of all the frozen yogurt places we found out about, none of them had:
1) A functioning web site
2) A Facebook page
3) A phone number listed online
4) A Twitter account
5) Any sort of street address
Really? It's 2012, and they don't have any functional online presence at all? One place had a web site that was "under construction" and didn't even have any basic information, but the rest were under radio silence. Most had Yelp review pages, but none of those had phone numbers and the addresses ended up being incomplete and wrong. (Also, it's Yelp.)
Now, I understand that a lot of these were relatively new businesses and most likely just opened up this summer. And most small business are overwhelmed with getting their actual storefront up and operational. But this is Getting Customers Through Your Door With Cash In Hand 101, here; no one can walk in to your store if they don't know where it's at. And it's not like this is that difficult. Sure, a web page takes time, money, and expertise, but it literally takes less than a half hour (and is mind-numbingly simple) to set up a Facebook page, and is completely free to boot.
I'm continually amazed about how slow most new small business are at embracing social media. I know a lot of them do, but there's an alarming number who don't even do the basics, and that's just foreign to me. And the baseline contact information, while needed, could be so much more: if you want a way to let everyone know what your specials are, or any events you have planned, there is literally nothing easier, cheaper, and with such an easily attainable set of willing eyeballs looking at your offer than social media.
Given all this, it's also frustrating with how little regard social media experts are held, yet there is a clear demand for it. There are plenty of people like my wife and I (and plenty others) that know social media and have a decent level of business understanding, yet our skills go untapped. Business owners seem to only want social media if it is free (and thus won't pay a consultant) but then end up not setting anything up at all. Or, more commonly, they are perfectly happy relying on a yellowed marquee sign to advertise their specials visible only to people who are already on their property.
I am sure that there are small business owners who are simply content with foot traffic and word of mouth to keep them afloat, and I'm sure that works for some people. But times are changing, as they say--and have been changing for a while--and it's not going to be very long before companies like that will simply be out of business.
*"New," as in "it's been around for a decade or so but we just now got around to doing it."