We just got back from spending a week (our annual family vacation with my relatives) in Provincetown, MA. Provincetown is the last town on the very tip of Cape Cod. It has been a fishing port, and while this is still part of what happens here, it is better known for its whale watching, beautiful beaches and bike trails, its artist community, and its large gay community.
For families, it has everything you would want in a town- safe streets, ice cream, cheap to expensive eats, outdoor activities from bike trails to fishing to sailing and more. You can do anything, or nothing, as it pleases.
Like many beach towns, it’s got a large seasonal population. While it’s become more and more friendly to the geekerati- free wifi connections in many spots, and many rentals coming with wifi included, the town remains relatively off-line and tech free. Some of the local pizza places, for example, may have websites, but only one has their menu online. Most of the restaurants seem to be in the same boat, with little online presence other than reviews on travel sites.
Provincetown has had a few weeks each year devoted to a certain kind of tourist, which is something I haven’t seen in other spots before- Bear week or Women’s week for example. This got me thinking-What would it be like if a town or Chamber of Commerce had a Geek Week?
Geek Week might feature special pricing on accommodations for the geeks, some special events like tweetups, but the geeks could also hold website spruce-ups for the town and small businesses. You could make sure all restaurants had their menus, phone numbers and basic information on the Chamber’s website and understood how to set up a simple wordpress or blogspot blog for their business. You could help them get a Facebook page like that for CeeJay Fishing, where they could post pictures of happy customers, and samples of what makes their business something special.
There are lots of small businesses who don’t think they can afford a website, or need one. But in order to draw more people to your town or area, you have to have some sort of presence online. It may act as a convenience for the people who know you well, but it’s like having a billboard for people who might want to get to know you, or are searching for what to do. It can also serve to let people find you after the fact- when they are at home saying “I wish I had bought that little (fill in the blank) I saw at that shop- I wish I had their phone number….” and without a web presence, there’s no way for that person to seek you out and for you to make that sale.
There’s glimmers of life out there- the Puzzle Me This shop handed out business cards with their website, encouraging off-season, online purchases. Likewise, I admired some beautiful light switch faceplates from a shop called Id, but couldn’t remember the exact configuration of the plates in our house. Fortunately, the store does special orders and has their selection online, so now that I’m home, I can get what I want and not worry about messing up the sizing.
Summer is just a season, and with people cutting back, small businesses in beach towns need to be able to deliver that feeling year-round, not just a few months a year. The web is a great way to do it, and if we could just get a roving band of geeks to help out for a summer, the businesses, the community and the geeks would all prosper.
That’s my dream- Geek Week at the Beach.