I went today to one of the local restaurants in my area. I haven't actually been to this particular lunch spot in a while now and I have been intrigued to see what has been going on.
Lets just say the economy hasn't been nice to any one. We've gotten by, but how long can we keep this up? This of course is a truism, who hasn't suffered? Yet that's another debate outside the scope of this blog. No what I am most interested thing are some of the things that the kindly proprietor has to say about the current state of social media and how it relates to her current woes.
For background, this restaurant has been around for just a few short years, it is located on a busy intersection on the main thoroughfare downtown. It was born of the very recession it now fights. The meals are good and varied and there is a small crowd of regulars who do enjoy going to the restaurant. However, these people only come on certain days and at certain times. The owner is trying her best to adjust to this small segment, and also trying desperately to expand her customer base.
Here's is the part of our story where the web guru jumps to the rescue! All the owner needs to do is start using social media and then her market should naturally expand! Well, not exactly. Such social media tricks work in larger cities, but not in this somewhat sleepy spacious mill-town of about 50,000.
Here, with this restaurant, that jump was unsuccessful. In theory anyway, social media should be the savior of this establishment. However, rather then networking people in to the restaurant's, "community" social media, and modern media in general have created a far bigger problem for the local business owner. No one follows the same media.
The proprietor does use Facebook, but not all customers have Facebook, or opt to add the restaurant on Facebook. And this is just part of the issue, many upstart small businesses are priced out of the other markets. The local TV channels, newspapers and such are all too expensive. Yet this leaves aside the bigger problem that people no longer all read the same papers, or watch the same channels.
No this problem is monumental to the traditional community restaurant. Especially to these sorts of "Main Street" establishments. With Netflix, Hulu, Google, Facebook and others these new media's create a sort of walled garden around the traditional media. Bricked out with a "marketing tax" the small local businesses are outside the gates left to the vandals. So, far far from rescuing the small upstart businesses, social media might have turned into its worst enemy. Facebook is great, but it isn't effective at getting the name or brand out to any and all potential customers.
To be fair here I think the idea of "marketing tax" or "innovation tax" are terribly non-descriptive and politically charged phrases. One doesn't use either term lightly, and at the same time they both are stand ins for the lack of knowledge either side might share with the other on the subject. Indeed its as if this same "marketing" problem, might in fact be much much broader in scope, but I will save that for a later post.
So despite all the hype, and leverage of social media that "everyone" or the "internet" talks about: including the various "innovation taxes", and copyrights the real innovators here are losing out, and things are only getting worse. The only clear thing is that the rise of the new institution of social media, has made life in many small towns and small centers of infrastructure and production doubly difficult. Priced out of the local media, social media offers no viable alternative to a town filled with many people of different generations.