Earlier this year we created a Facebook group called Midnight Train, dedicated to coordinating volunteers in response to the aftermath of cyclone Idai in Beira Mozambique. The vision was to keep growing the group so that we have an available response team in times of need. To our dismay, the group initially grew rapidly before stalling at 1800 members. We thought we had done a fantastic job until a Facebook group came along and blew our minds. The #IMSTAYING Facebook group came along and gained 425 000 members in one month, changing our mindset about what’s possible with social media.

The First Attempt

Love Your Neighbour Facebook Cover Page

Before #IMSTAYING was born, there existed a Facebook group called “Love your neighbour – South Africans United” created by Joanita van Wyk on the 27 March 2018, currently standing at just over 5000 members.

This group is fun, friendly, and dedicated to positivity and patriotism for a diverse South Africa. The content is user-generated and entices you to post replies to questions like “What phrases are uniquely South African?”. When the #IMSTAYING group was started, Joanita joined it as an admin the very next day. Due to her influence, the content on both groups is indistinguishable from each other, yet #IMSTAYING had a meteoric rise in membership. Same content, same admins yet the success of the #IMSTAYING group makes the Love your neighbour group look like a pikinin in comparison.

How did #IMSTAYING do that, how did it overshadow an 18-month-old group with near-identical content so quickly? Our answer, Concise Storytelling.

Concise Storytelling

Storytelling has earned its reputation as the most important tradition humans have. It is a way to deliver a message in an effective and memorable way. Stories can teach us to love, to forgive, to strive and to be just. The greatest stories give us hope and enable us to reflect and make resolutions.

Unfortunately, South Africa is experiencing a social and political environment that has created a growing trend of fear and civil unrest. It is easy to see how some can feel like victims, helpless in the face of insurmountable challenges. What people look for in these circumstances is a story that gives them hope.   

A Story of Hope

That is exactly what the #IMSTAYING group is doing, it is telling a story. The very name of the group #IMSTAYING tells a story that embodies determination and defiance. It is an assertion made by a character who has been through a hero’s journey. It is a call to action that reframes inaction into a heroic act, one that turns the victim into a hero.

We are not making inferences about whether the group is good or bad for the South African community, we are not making a judgment whether it helps resolve some of the country’s social issues or not. We are simply saying that the secret to the group’s success lies in its ability to tell a story that inspires hope, and that story sometimes can be as concise as the words I am staying.

This is the lesson that we have learned as the creators of the Midnight Train. Maybe, the same lesson can help you in your business.