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Social media is everywhere. It has connected almost everyone to almost everything—and everyone else. The implications for businesses are huge.

So when I got the opportunity to attend Upstate Social Sessions last Friday with the other members of our content team—Nicholas Kaczmarek, Ikey Ajavon, and James A. Colombo III—I couldn’t wait to go and absorb all the insightful goodness.

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This is our content team! At left is Nick. He’s our brand engagement specialist. I’m the next one over, and I write content for our marketing efforts and focus on our social media presence. Next to me is Ikey, the analytics wizard for our entire digital portfolio. And James is on the end. He’s our lead content creator and provides direction to the team. Carly Battin, our communications manager, couldn’t make the conference and didn’t get to be in our selfie, but she plays an important role in setting an overall direction for our communications efforts.

We’re committed to giving you the content that means the most to you, so we went to this conference to learn a thing or two. We know that you value quality content—and we also know that many of you like a sneak peak inside Bak USA. So we thought we’d give you a glimpse of what we learned and how it can help us enhance our relationships.

We left the conference with pages and pages of notes and exciting new ideas. Here’s a list of the top 5 things we learned along the way.

Practice makes perfect.

Livestreaming is all the rage nowadays. But as Evan Dawson and Adam Chodak said during their opening keynote, you’ve got to be organized and practice if you want to nail it. Start with an outline and do a couple of dry runs before you sit down for the real deal.

Look for ways to add value.

Social media isn’t about talking at people. It’s about talking with them. And as panelist Emma Daitz told us during a session about telling stories and using quality content to shape a brand, it’s about finding ways to add value.

“I try to look for a positive way that I can add to the conversation instead of putting the same old thing out there. How can I bring a fresh perspective or bring value to the narrative?”
—Emma Daitz

And as panelist Nate Benson—from our hometown friends 43North—said during the session, using social media effectively means understanding your audience and knowing which platforms to find them on.

Connecting people goes beyond likes.

It’s one thing to have people “like” you on various social platforms. But it’s quite another when you can bring those digital followers together in person. That was the takeaway from a session on matching usernames to faces. Kevin Heffernan, one half of Buffalo’s own Rise Collaborative, talked about the importance of bringing people together in person because it can help bring about change, personal growth, and emotional connection.

The possibilities are endless.

One of the most innovative sessions at the conference focused on virtual reality. As session panelist Kevin Siebert told us, the possibilities are almost literally endless. What delighted us was the potential that virtual reality represents for education (and you know we’ve got a soft spot for education). Imagine a biology class taught with virtual reality. Instead of looking at a picture of the human heart, a student could actually stand inside one and watch the blood move through the organ. Cool, right?

Images don’t tell the whole story.

As a general rule, photos have a happy home on social media. But what do you do when you’re sharing a charged, political, or difficult image? The curation team at the Eastman Museum asked themselves that question recently when they were putting together an exhibition featuring works by photographer Eugene Richards.

One of the best takeaways from the session came from Kate Meyers Emery, PhD, who handles digital engagement for the Eastman Museum.

“Think carefully about the image you’re sharing. And if it depicts a complex issue, ask yourself this: what’s the goal? Always try to start a conversation. Present the image in a way that prevents people from jumping to conclusions. Try to invite critical thinking. And when it comes to the caption, think carefully. Can you represent the story adequately? Can you provide enough context? If not, it may be better not to post.”
—Kate Meyers Emery

There’s more…

That’s not all of the great takeaways from the conference. Here are a few more:

As you can imagine, we were pretty pumped by the end of the day. It was one of those rare conferences full of straight talk and real-world advice. The folks from Upstate Social Sessions did a great job organizing it and the Bak Pack had a blast together.

Up for a little light reading? Fire up your Twitter account and scroll through #UpstateSocial17 for insights captured and shared by other attendees.

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