You may notice a lot of businesses are using stories in their messages at the moment, and you may well see this trend increase throughout 2015 and beyond. As a Brand Storyteller I LOVE THIS, but not all brand stories provide a motivational story that plucks their audience’s heart strings.
I regret to say many businesses hate their time replacing their About Page with a Story Page and expecting success. It doesn’t work like this, because although I believe everyone has a story, and that all stories are wonderful in their own way, they only become so if you take the time to figure out the true message, hook, and overall awesomeness.
This takes time, and why most brands butcher their brand story. Because who has the time, right?
Some do, and some not only provide fine examples of storytelling, but share a motivational story that literally inspires their audience. Brands like Buffer. Brands that not only communicate their story and message, but build their culture and business around it.
I love the Buffer story, and not the gimmicky stuff that most people look for in marketing. Oh no, I LOVE their entire story, and the way they’re changing how startups start up.
A TRANSPARENT & MOTIVATIONAL STORY
I consider Buffer’s a motivational story for many reasons, but the fundamental one is their dedication towards transparency. I mean think about how dishonest and hidden so many of the most popular brands in the world are (and always been).
Businesses like Coca Cola house secret ingredients.
Conglomerates in the financial arena hide their salaries and bonuses with all their might.
As a general rule, people (especially in business) keep their affairs close to their chest. It’s understandable too, but when it comes to forming true connections and meaningful relationships, it’s those who let you in and share their vulnerabilities that find a place in your heart.
Think about your partner or best friend… Do they keep secrets from you? Do they hide their fears? Do they only share the good and never the bad?
Or are they your besties because they actually let you in?
We live in a competitive world where consumers own an abundance of choice. Buffer can offer great value and extraordinary features that make our lives easier, but there are dozens of social media tools that make our lives easier.
When I talk about a brand like Buffer, I don’t say, “They streamline your social media by letting you spread out your messages, manage your time, and improve your impact.“
Hell no. I say, “Buffer are full of amazing individuals who help as many people as they can. They invite folk like me to be part of their journey through a genuine insight into what they do and how they do it, and most important of all… why they do it. Oh, and they happen to save me some time on social media, too.“
They underpin all this with a simple phrase: Default to Transparency
Goddam I love this. They currently have 9 other values, all of which play important roles in their motivational story. Most businesses on the planet have Core Values and Mission Statements, but it isn’t the fact they have them, it’s the fact they have the ones they have.
Think about this for a second… Default to Transparency
When in doubt, share. When scared, share. When on the brink of something gamechanging, share. Who else does this? Who else shares their staff salaries, and more important, how and why they tier it this way. Who opens up their code for others to steal, borrow, and abuse?
Few, because few truly embrace transparency like Buffer do. This is why they have a motivational story that inspires their audience. After all, there are many tools that helps you tweet, and more to come I’m sure. But Buffer provide an actual reason to use their tools (and all the future tools they’ll no doubt create), and I’d argue to the cows come home it has little to do with the code they use.
3 WAYS YOU CAN REPLICATE BUFFER’S APPROACH
First of all, you shouldn’t copy Buffer. You shouldn’t try replicate their motivational story in any way, because it defeats the whole point of storytelling. Your story is your story, and you should be proud as punch of it.
BUT you may like to replicate Buffer’s approach of going above and beyond, and ensure your story forms the heart and soul of who you are, why you’re doing it, and what it is your doing in the first place.
For them it’s transparency (among other aspects), but for you it could be your location or cause or the audience you help. Each story’s different, but the best tend to have something in common… they’re fucking real and bare to the bones!
So here are 3 ways you can craft a motivational story of your own, and use Buffer as the inspiring source they are:
1: ACCEPT YOUR STORY IS FOREVER EVOLVING & FLUID
“As with everything we do at Buffer, this list of values is a continual work in progress.”
Taken from Buffer’s website, this says it all. It isn’t just their product(s) that evolve, or their business model, or who their target audience is, or anything else you tend to associate with business and brands and startups. Everything evolves. Each day, what you do and where you are adjusts and nudges ever so slightly.
You meet new people. You learn new things. You think of new ideas.
Buffer’s story evolves over time, and to an extent with each new sunrise. Their values of today may or may not remain relevant tomorrow, but the fact they’re open to this kind of change means a lot.
In fact, I don’t consider this change at all. Change is when you react and force the situation. Airport security changes after a terroist attack, but a business like Buffer doesn’t change. They merely evolve and adapt with their times, which I consider a rather different proposition.
If you wish to craft a motivational story and inspire your audience, accept your story WILL change. What you do today may not be what you do in five years. You may help a completely different audience. The truth is nobody knows what tomorrow holds, so build your entire story around the notion of fluidity.
This not only makes adapting and keeping pace with the jones’ easier, but part of your everyday. In fact, you’ll revel in such uncertainty, because everything you do isn’t based on where you are, rather where you’re going.
Buffer aren’t some social media tool. Social media just happens to be something they help people with today. You can choose to be the tool, or what defines the tool…
2: IF IT SCARES YOU TO SHARE… SHARE IT ANYWAY!
Can you imagine the day Joel and Leo said, “We’re sharing our salaries, and yours, to everyone. As in, the whole wide world will soon know what you earn…“
To be honest, I imagine the Buffer crew revelled in this because it’s the kind of culture they’ve built. So maybe the better question is… Can you imagine your bank’s CEO suggesting this? Or your local gym? Or your hosting provider? Or 99% of the businesses you come across each day?
Take a look at Buffer’s Transparency Page and imagine how scary each one of these decisions must have been. They’re scary for many reasons, but I’d argue conformity creates the grandest unease.
Nobody does this kind of thing, so when you choose to share your Equity Breakdown and your Revenue and who’s investing and how much… you break the rules. All the rules. All the non-existent rules created by someone long ago who’s no longer relevant.
But how many of us live by those rules? I try not to, but I do for the most part. I suspect you do, too.
Buffer probably do, tool, but they’ve also taken a stand by embracing transparency and pushing their fear to one side. And if you truly wish to craft a motivational story, connect with your audience, make them feel something, and be what defines the tool rather than the tool itself… share and be helpful even when it turns your stomach.
In fact, especially when it turns your stomach.
3: EMBRACE THE TRUE NOTION OF OPEN SOURCE
I honestly believe we’re better at sharing today than in yesteryear. Look no further than pirated music or movies. Okay, it’s illegal and certainly hurts the artist, but there’s something admirable about those who buy the movie themselves and share it online for others to enjoy (for free and at the risk of potential fines and the like).
I don’t mean the folk who own the sites and make money from advertising and such. I mean the everyday guy and gal who shares for the sake of sharing.
The same applies for those who offer their work on sites like GitHub. Or those who spend their times in forums helping others (often ungrateful morons). Not everyone shares. Not every business shares. But we’re pretty darn good, and I like to think we’re getting better.
BUT there’s a difference between sharing and helping, and truly embracing the notion of open source.
The way Buffer open sources their code and products inspires the hell out of me. Such code provides their bread and butter. As a writer, it’s like me giving my idea to another pen scratcher (a more talented one). This isn’t generous. Generous is sharing a lot and creating a detailed breakdown of how you did it. Generous is replying to emails personally and helping those who may or may not be your customers.
Generous is a lot of things, but what Buffer does isn’t generous.
It’s a genuine dive into awesome, and comes back to my most beloved value… Default to Transparency
BUFFER: A MOTIVATIONAL STORY I LOVE TO SHARE
I’ve used Buffer for a long time. I often recommend them to folk, but not because it’ll save them time on social media. There are lots of tools like this, and I sense some perform better (albeit in different ways).
But I fricking love Buffer’s motivational story, and they have me hook, line, and sinker.
I’ve taken a lot from them, too, and as someone who strives to be more transparent, I look to these guys for help and guidance. The truth is, there actual Brand Story (in terms of how they share it) is pretty rubbish. The stuff I forever look for in businesses (like great videos, unique about pages, interesting narratives, etc…) is rather non-existence, but the important stuff (aka: the actual building blocks of their story and message) blows most out of the water.
And this is why I write about them, rather than a brand that does have amazing videos, a unique about page, and an interesting narrative. Because none of that matters unless what you’re sharing matters.
And as someone striving to craft a motivational story, you must first hone in on your own building blocks before you start decorating the room that doesn’t yet exist.
So here’s to Buffer and their motivational story, and the many lessons folk like us can learn from them. And here’s to tomorrow and whatever it may bring, because stories evolve and this is a damn fine thing.
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