It was a snowy Christmas Eve as a grumbling CEO made his way home. It was late, for he had made sure to keep his employees working that night. Humbug! he cried when his workers complained about the hours.
As he stamped his feet on his step, he thought he saw a face in the glare of the windowpane. Dismissing it, he went inside and made himself a dinner – a thin, cold gruel: a miser’s feast.
Soon he was in bed, having nothing of the season’s cheer in him. Just as he was nodding off to sleep, he heard a ghostly wail, and it seemed to him that he heard his name.
Opening his eyes, he beheld the shade of his business partner, dead these fifteen years.
“Wake up! Wake up, and harken to my tale!’ cried the ghost. “Listen to me or suffer my fate!” and as he spoke he rattled chains. Chains! he dragged with him loops and loops of heavy chains that clashed and clanged like hellish laughter.
“Why, how came you to so great a burden?” asked the CEO.
“Each link was forged,” wailed the ghost, “when we were in business together. Every time I missed adapting to consumer trends but stayed in a rut, using the same old, dead channels to market our brand these oppressive chains grew link by link. Now I am doomed to wander the business world – as will you,” he wailed, pointing a spectral finger at his former partner. “And your chains are greater than mine, and your burden will be the bitterer.”
Cringing in his bed clothes, the CEO, asked “Surely there is some way I can be saved?”
In a voice drawn from the darkest bowels of the earth the wraith intoned, “You will be visited by three marketing spirits. Listen to their wisdom, and maybe you will be spared.”
Soon the CEO was convincing himself there had never been any ghost.
He was soon fast asleep, consigning ghosts to the ravages of indigestion.
He came awake to his room filled with light. Standing at the foot of his bed was a great hearty mountain of a man. His robe seemed filled with logos and images and text that was forever shifting and changing.
“Who are you?” quavered the CEO.
In a booming voice the stranger declared, “I am the ghost of social media marketing. Stand, man, and know me better.”
Cringing, the CEO left his bed clothes and approached the giant. “But that, that stuff is all nonsense!”
“So you think!” thundered the ghost. ‘Grab hold of my robe, and learn a better wisdom!”
So saying, they vanished, and it seemed to the CEO they were in the living room of one of his own employees.
A mother and father were looking at a computer screen.
“What are they doing?” asked the CEO.
“They are making a last minute purchase. Inspired by an ad on Facebook, they’re shopping a website to see if the product they’re interested in is worth purchasing.”
“Humbug!” snorted the CEO, “I doubt they’ll purchase anything. ‘Social media’ – it’s the greatest scam in modern marketing. An avalanche of data, endless figures about trends and followers and influences – but in the end a fraction lead to conversions, and of that measly number, a minuscule wind up as sales. A rotten ROI.”
“Fool!” the spirit bellowed. “You think direct sales is the best use of social media? Social media is the direct support of your core business properties – it maintains your reputation, curates your brand ethos, establishes your website as a quality business presence. It establishes a level of trust. Without it you appear suspect! Do not look at ROI directly – look at the foundation of your entire online business activity as resting on a sound social media presence.”
“So how does this social media stuff lead them to purchase?” asked the CEO, intrigued.
“Even as these two are doing,” he said, pointing to the pair gazing at a computer screen, “Most consumers buy as they do: they reach out online to examine the experience of others who have purchased a product.
They look for positive and negative experiences and judge whether or not to buy goods and services.”
“Surely it’s not so common,” scoffed the CEO. In a flash he was back in bed, closing his eyes. As he drifted to sleep he heard the spirit whisper in his ear. A quarter of the world’s population uses social media every day.
The CEO awoke to a room again filled with light and the sound of a thousand low voices in animated conversation. He beheld a smaller, but bright figure at this bedside. “And are you another spirit sent to plague me?” he asked.
“To teach and nothing more,” said the spirit. “I am the ghost of content. Take my hand.” So doing, the CEO and his visitor were whisked away, appearing high in the air above the town.
“And what am I to see?” the CEO gasped, fearing the height and the cold.
“Look again,” said the spirit softly. And it seemed to the CEO that every residence, every business became a point of bright, clear light. As they grew steadier they illuminated a myriad of lines interconnecting them. As he looked closer, the lines would flash and fade, only to be replaced by new lines weaving and interweaving among the endless coruscations of light.
“You see before you how content brings together consumers and business,” said the ghost. “In the past, advertising was confined to three channels: print, television, and radio.
Modern communication has washed away that edifice, partially replacing it, partly augmenting it with a new connection between buyer and seller. Where before sellers preached and hawked their wares, they now share information freely with consumers, helping educate them about ways products and services can benefit them. The new relationship is underscored by a suspicion of hard, old-fashioned sales techniques. Mutual advantage and social responsibility infuse modern business. Content builds bridges, builds up walls or tears them down; it paves the way for growing your enterprise.”
As the CEO sank back against his pillows, drowsing, the spirit whispered, “Content engages and defines. It blossoms as your persona and bears fruit in sales and brand loyalty.”
The night had grown very late and cold. In the darkest dregs, a black-robed figure appeared in the CEO’s bedroom. He awoke suddenly, and was afraid. “What spirit are you?” he asked in a whisper.
The figure pointed, and the CEO was suddenly in a room filled with men and women laughing and joking.
“Can you believe that guy never gave a thought to SEO?
I asked him once if he knew what ‘Google ranking’ meant and he just said ‘humbug!’ and they all laughed.
“Is that who you are, spirit, the ghost of SEO?’ the CEO asked. And the robbed figure nodded. Again, he pointed at the laughing figures.
“He never really gave any thought to online sales at all. That’s why the company sold for so little. Bringing sales into the 21st century will massively improve profitability.”
“What is this?” asked the CEO. The robed figure pointed at the wall, where a tombstone recorded the sale of his company for a fraction of the value he had worked long and hard to create. “No!” he said again and again.
He awoke to a clear, cold morning. Running to his window, he looked out on a glorious Christmas morning. And he resolved then and there that he would keep with consumer trends, he would serve his customers with engaging, shareable content while interacting with them using social media, and never calculate ROI so narrowly again.