Real quick: Fire Instagram up and search the hashtag #socality. Look around for a second.
What did you find? Probably a minimalist, artistic and heavily edited collection of nature and adventure photography, with regular cameos from thoughtful sunsets, piping hot cups of coffee and various still lifes of designer field notebooks and other rustic accoutrements.
These images are probably accompanied by inspirational or Judeo-Christian captions as well as sister hashtag #liveauthentic. Looks like these young Instagrammers are really living life to the fullest. (Meanwhile, I used the Internet to deliver a three-cheese pizza Lunchable to my house the other night — not particularly ‘gramworthy.)
Right now, #socality is a pretty damn popular tag, with over a million posts catalogued by Instagram as I’m here perusing my search results. You may have been familiarized with the tag a little more formally with the now-defunct Socality Barbie.Pretty inspirational stuff.
So what’s the deal?
There must to be a deeper, underlying organizational tool behind what otherwise looks like some vaguely spiritual, Millennial photography revolution. #socality can’t just be all about those likes and follows. Right?
After some light investigating, it turns out that #socality runs much deeper than I thought, and it may just be the smartest marriage of social media and brand development I’ve seen in a long time.
A social community for all eternityYou are the movement!
Loosely (and strategically) using the word “movement” as an identifier, Scott Bakken founded Socality in early 2014 as a social media-centric means of “creating spaces of belonging online and turning these into real life interactions.”
That’s vague. You’ll notice that as a common through line in the entire movement.
In a blog post, Bakken, a dedicated Christian, details how he has spent a large portion of his life doing missionary work and meeting others who are likeminded in spirituality and passion for community development. Socality became Bakken’s brainchild to foster these connections, with the very word Socality being a portmanteau for “a social community for all eternity”.
That sounds intense.
What does Socality do?
That’s what I kept asking myself. Other than curating a huge collection of adventure photography on social media, Socality’s existence itself appears rather nebulous. Socality organizes local and national meetup events (Socality Live), sparks social media campaigns and generally promotes community through social media in a non threateningly Christian way. Outside of creating a vast network of wide-eyed, spiritual (Christian) Millennials through an array of networking opportunities and live meetups, there doesn’t appear to be much else behind Socality’s Coldplay-esque rhetoric. But broken down, Bakken’s strategy of harnessing social media and ingraining it into his organization’s brand is clever as hell, and pretty much doubles down on that “for all eternity” bit.
Harness social media and you harness the world
So we have a loosely defined community organization that, despite claiming a clear directive, does not have one in practice, other than “building a network of social influencers,” that is.
But Socality totally works because social engagement is sewn right into the basic functionality for participation. Want to get involved? Use #socality online, of course. Share your photos. Follow each other. Organically growing the club is your first step to membership.
And in terms of pure branding, Socality could have fashioned itself in a myriad of ways. But somewhere early down the line, the decision was made to associate with appropriate woodsy, artistic and adventurous social trends. Perhaps the marriage was made because Socality may encapsulate the values attributed to the Instagram content produced by accounts with followers in the thousands — authenticity, peace of mind, spirituality, a return to the natural world.Just a casual stroll through some spiritual terrain. NBD.
But Scott Bakken is smart. He must have identified the level of profitability and success that can come from adopting a popular social trend as best online casino his brand’s identity. With the level of highly engaged participants and the high growth rate that surrounds the “live authentic” lifestyle, aligning one’s self is a no-brainer.
When we break it all down, Socality could have looked like anything, and cater to any community — mommy bloggers, home chefs, sneaker heads, etc. — but the built-in social community that Socality is handcrafted for is one that’s just too good to pass up.
The opportunities that come from aligning your brand with a popular social community expand tremendously, as well. Enter: the Socality Store. Seriously, get a load of this $119 adventure bag.This bag is a free spirit.
The commerce angle to Socality, with its Instagram-friendly collection of bags and accessories, allows the brand to become a full-on authority of the lifestyle they are augmenting. Consider it the last piece of the puzzle to becoming the gold standard of a lifestyle by literally selling the lifestyle. [Note: Socality ensures its place as a not-for-profit organization and is comprised solely of volunteers.]
Authenticity isn’t the point
A major tenant that Socality is built on, authenticity, doesn’t hold any inherent weight. Especially on social media. Many criticize popular Instagramming influencers, including those who identify with the Socality brand, as hipsters chasing high follower counts through endless hashtagging while self-labeling as “authentic”. That’s fine. It should come as common knowledge by now that nearly all of our personal social media activity is, to some extent, performative. That”s a beautiful thing. We self-curate the stories that we tell, enabling us to truly create and spread some powerful ideas.
What Socality is doing is riding the wave of authenticity as we see it on social media. We can’t expect that these young adults just hang out with their cameras and wool hats off the fog-cloaked cliff of some beautiful coastline all the time. Socality is just harnessing one of the many different versions of these stories that we tell each other and building a brand off of them.
Because in the end, branding your organization, your business, your whatever, is a lot like crafting that perfectly composed photo that just gained a hundred likes and earned yourself a bunch of new followers: It’s meticulous, it’s well-researched and, from a certain angle, it’s all a performance, baby.