It was a mild, gusty November evening. Ernie was sat beside his favourite lamp post. He’d arrived earlier than usual to meet Theo. Although sat down, he was clearly restless and impatient. The evening before, Theo had promised to tell Ernie why he didn’t attend the Great Northern Makers’ Market. Ernie’s curiosity had been growing ever since.
After what seemed to Ernie like a life time, Theo finally trotted around the corner. Ernie’s tail gave a little twitch. All his questions would now be answered.
“Yeo Theo, how are you?” Ernie asked.
“I am a little tired to be honest Ernie,” Theo replied, “I’ve been giving a lot of thought to our little pet accessory business.”
“Oh right,” Ernie said, trying to hide the disappointment in his voice. He always switched off a bit when Theo thought about “Ernie and Theo”. He didn’t really understand it and found it all a bit boring. So, he decided to change the subject.
“Theo,” he started, “do you remember you said last night you were going to tell me why you didn’t come to the Great Northern Makers’ Market?”
“Oh yes I did, didn’t I!? I almost forget,” Theo replied. Ernie could see his friend obviously had a lot on his mind and was deep in thought.
Ernie expected Theo to go on to explain the great mystery but he just sat there obviously still lost in his deep thoughts. Looking at Theo, Ernie was quite glad he didn’t have deep thoughts. He decided that having deep thoughts looked quite painful.
What little patience Ernie had was running out fast.
“Well, where were you Theo!?” he asked again.
“Oh, sorry Ernie,” a clearly preoccupied Theo replied, “I was attending a course on developing social media marketing strategies for small businesses.”
Ernie was crestfallen by Theo’s reply. Secretly, he’d hoped Theo had gone shopping for tasty treats or was trying out a new place he’d found where they could go chasing birds and squirrels. Worse still, Ernie didn't have a clue what Theo was talking about. He'd understood only about half of what Theo said. And apart from ”Ernie” the only words he did understand had only one syllable (Ernie didn’t know what a “syllable” was either but you get my drift).
After making his announcement, Theo expected Ernie to start asking lots of questions. At first, he was quite surprised at the silence. Then he realised that Ernie was quiet because he didn’t have the foggiest idea of what he’d been talking about.
“It’s about using social media to find more customers for our pet accessories,” he explained.
Theo’s explanations were getting more mystifying by the minute to Ernie.
“We go to the craft markets and events to find people who want our bandanas and bowties don’t we?” he asked.
“Yes,” Theo replied, “but if we’re to grow we need to get better at using social media. There are only so many craft markets we can do you know!? We’ve got eighteen coming up in the next two months alone!!”
Ernie finally plucked up the courage to ask Theo what “social media marketing strategy” was all about.
Theo took a deep breath and tried to answer.
“Well, it’s using the internet to share information with and talk to lots and lots of people,” he explained, “far more of them than we can meet at a market.”
He waited for Ernie’s inevitable next question and began thinking about what his reply would be:
“What’s the internet Theo?” Ernie duly asked.
“Well, it’s a way of millions of people passing all sorts of information between each other,” Theo went on, “things like words, photographs and films.”
“Where is it?” Ernie asked.
“Where’s what?” Theo asked back.
“The internet,” Ernie replied.
“Well, it’s everywhere,” Theo explained.
Ernie started sniffing and looking around but he didn’t think he’d found the internet.
“But you can’t see or smell it,” Theo added.
“Why can’t I see it or smell it?” Ernie asked rather indignantly, thinking Theo was being a bit too possessive (like he could be with his sticks when they played on the beach).
“Because there’s nothing TO SEE OR SMELL. It’s not a thing like you or me,” Theo replied.
Ernie was beginning to think you can sometimes ask too many questions. He was really struggling to understand how you can get things you can see (like a picture) via something you can’t see. His neural pathways were getting very clogged up.
“This sounds complicated Theo. Are you sure it is a good idea?” Ernie groaned. “I love our markets. I meet my friends and get cuddles and treats. Can I get them off the internet?”
“Well, yes. You can order treats off the internet,” Theo explained. He knew you couldn’t order cuddles off the internet but decided to keep quiet about that.
Theo’s reply left Ernie less convinced than ever about the internet and social media.
“Why would I want to order treats off the internet when my friends at the craft markets come up and give me them?” he asked.
Trying to explain things to Ernie was tiring Theo out. He knew social media was the way forward for Ernie and Theo’s. He also knew Ernie needed to understand why. He decided he needed some time to think about how to explain it all in a way Ernie would understand.
“It’s getting late Ernie, let’s sit down tomorrow and I promise I’ll explain it all to you,” he said.
Ernie had been distracted by a couple of sparrows which were pecking at a stale crust of bread lying in a nearby hedge. He was starting to move slowly towards them.
“Did you hear me Ernie?” Theo asked, his voice betrayed frustration as well as fatigue.
Ernie stopped in his tracks and turned around to look at Theo.
“What did you say Theo?” he asked.
Theo sighed and then took a deep breath before answering Ernie.
“I said, I’ll tell you more about the internet and social media tomorrow, ok?” he repeated slowly and quietly.
“Ok Theo,” Ernie replied. Shall we go and get our tea?” he asked.
“That is the best idea you have had tonight Ernie, come on – race you home!” Theo said more cheerfully.
However, before Theo had finished his sentence, Ernie had reared his head and was hotly pursuing the sparrows.
“Wait for me!!!!” Theo said and flew after his best little friend.