On the other hand, many of these stores haven't ventured onto the Internet. Many more have, but they are only represented by rudimentary webpages. The clear disadvantages of either not being online at all, or being online but not having a professional appearance, will become more pronounced in the future. After all, using a gigantic Yellow Pages has become an outdated method of choosing where to eat dinner.
With a decent Web presence, small businesses can offer printable coupons online, blog about their participation in community events, and announce new items or promotions. Facebook is an incredibly valuable place to start. Creating a page for a business and then spreading the word to community members is an easy way to generate attention, and therefore, business.
A great example is of a small but well-known Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood: Chile Peppers. It falls into the category of having a basic website with menu and contact information, but doing nothing else to promote itself. The site doesn't even have pictures of the food, not a good sign for people browsing for restaurants online. A Facebook page could definitely generate at least a few hundred fans, ensuring that many local people would be thinking about Chile Peppers; as long as it continues to maintain its Internet presence and avoid the trap of becoming simply another passing page.
After Facebook, there are Twitter, Blogspot, Flickr, Yelp, Chowhound and community sites, just to name a few. Local businesses that make a genuine attempt to connect to people in the neighborhood are often extremely successful, and there's no better way to connect with a large amount of people than the Internet.