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Putting Honesty to Work in the Social Media Age

A look back at Upstate Social Sessions 2018 from the eyes of a Nazareth College student volunteer.


Words by Regan Wagner; photos by Emma and Olivia Bauso

The day begins quietly. A crowd of volunteers shuffle in, highly caffeinated and buzzing with excitement. Local businesses set up tables. The lobby slowly begins to fill. Glen Edith coffee is present, and there is a large spread of emoji donuts sent over from BXCR. It all feels very… Rochester.

And it is! Rochester’s only social media conference, Upstate Social Sessions (USS), had its fourth run last month on Friday, October 12th. Co-founded by Leah Stacy and Danielle Raymo and held at the George Eastman Museum, the conference curates sessions by notable speakers from 9am util 4pm. This conference brings people together, both locally and nationally to explore the power and prevalence of social media in our lives.

USS began with keynote speaker Melanie Deziel, a powerful orator who schooled the audience on the importance of constructing a consistent and original brand. Her speech included tips on facilitating the inclusion of diverse perspectives within a brand. She explains, “Bringing in diverse perspectives can make the content that much more rich, that much more relatable, and will help our audience see themselves in the content we create.”

Part of the strength of the Upstate Social conference is that it reminds us that we have a persona online through which we tell stories. We have to tell stories. Stories are what define us in a culture that is constantly searching for individuality, but more importantly, they allow us to vocalize what is important to us. Melanie reminded the audience of what creating a brand really means; It is an opportunity to curate a particular story that will attract the desired audience.

Kurt Indovina, another speaker at this year’s conference, explains the same concept a little differently: “We live in an age where you are the brand, where you are the sole identity of something.”

Indovina has been working and creating in Rochester for many years now, and has a rapidly growing YouTube following. He explained that his content is an extension of himself, as if creating video were an assertion of his persona. And this is, truly, what social media can have the power to allow us to do. We are allowed creativity. We are allowed to take a stance where it matters. We are allowed a medium through which to express what we believe to be important. And the potential audience is huge.

Kurt has been making YouTube videos, primarily about video games, or other creative projects in his life. When discussing content creation and imposter syndrome, Kurt’s philosophy is this: “Make it. Do it. Fail miserably. Give yourself permission to fail.” Now that’s some sweeping advice anyone could stand to hear.

When setting out to create digital content, it is essential that we remind ourselves that sometimes we have to begin by creating something bad. While social media is often used for entertainment, it is much more than just a tool for personal usage. Social media impacts from on both a personal and business standpoint, which is why it is essential and important to understand how to utilize it in the most effective way. 

Jeff Knauss, co-founder of Digital Hyve, spoke at the conference about what it means to be part of a digital marketing agency and to maintain humility within that role. His demeanor was impressive as he spoke about his admiration for his employees, and how he assures that his company is one that encourages leadership and mutual respect. He stated, “Everyone is a leader in their organization.” And one way of inspiring people is by encouraging them to be #bettereveryday. For Jeff, it’s “all about self-improvement,” and it is through that improvement that we can strive to do more, and grow more within the workplace.

Overall, Upstate Social Sessions combines a startling amount of honesty and practical knowledge from local professionals, regarding social media specifically, and also how to run a business. In its few years of existence, Upstate Social has become a staple in the Rochester community, and #ROC looks forward to seeing how it expands in years to come.

Regan Wagner is a local student, writer, and explorer of nearby coffee shops. A Rochester native, her guilty pleasures include Schutt's donuts, hikes in Ellison Park, and reading poetry.

Want to further your social media education? Check out our upcoming Business & Marketing and Photo & Video classes. 

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