Learning From Our Social Media Influencers

Maggie McCann

Maggie McCann, Contributing Writer |

Students from all over campus filled the seats of IRC 4 this past Tuesday, March 26 to hear five of Oneonta’s most successful social media influencers talk on a Q&A-style panel hosted by SUNY Oneonta’s Communication Arts Society (CAS).

Tuesday night’s event hosted social media influencers from several different platforms. The panel included Autumn Thompson, a junior studying criminal justice who is a YouTube and Instagram personality, posting reaction videos, dance videos and more. She describes her social media brand as “creative, fun, and unique.”

Following Thompson was Nazhaya Barcelona, a fashion major and YouTube and Instagram personality. Barcelona says her journey of struggling and accepting her acne found her a community of supportive followers.

After Barcelona, Jared Harvin, a theatre major and comedian both on stage and online, spoke to the audience. Like many, Harvin says he went to social media looking for an “escape” and found it to be “an outlet to help himself and others through issues they’re having.”

Emma Wegener, a dietetics major, runs a health and fitness Instagram as well as a  modeling Instagram where she posts workout routines, healthy meals, photoshoots and more. Wegner says she is on social media to “inspire and be inspired.”

And finally, there was Chris Wertman, a dietetics major who runs a fitness Instagram account. Wertman says he never thought social media was going to be a part of his life, but when he started working out and getting into shape, he began using social media to inspire others.

After introductions, CAS president Arianna Greene began asking the panel questions about their experiences on social media, such as “was there a moment that you saw your Instagram become successful?”

Much of the panelists said they didn’t have an exact moment when they could definitively say they became successful, but Wertman said he found his Instagram grew when he started posting consistently and finding passion for his content.

The panelists gave great advice to the audience. When asked “how has moving onto social media elevated your brand?” Harvin answered, “Connections… the use of social media enables people to connect with me.”

The panelists also gave some useful tips. “Your social media should be for your passion…what you’re going to be best at is what you enjoy,” said Barcelona. Harvin emphasized diverse content: “Sometimes you should have a narrow lane, but I’m putting myself out there. Don’t treat social media like a job… it shouldn’t be something you should just settle with, it should be your drive or passion.”

In closing, Greene, the host, asked the panelists, “What central message do you hope to share with your followers?” Inspiring answers came from every panelist, including Thompson “don’t be afraid everyone’s going to have something to say, at the end of the day you have to be yourself.”

Barcelona added, “People will criticize you for everything. If you do not have a thick skin you should definitely work on that… be confident in what you’re doing and in yourself first.” Harvin said, “Take risks…I like to think I have a different perspective on the world and how things work. When I put a post out there, people may not get it, but that’s what sets me apart from other people.”

Wegener’s message to her followers is to love who you are. She said, “Between my two pages I’m kind of just encouraging people to shy away from fitting into the stereotypes…With fitness there’s a lot of pressure on girls to have this ideal body type. I don’t want women to be discouraged from lifting weights because they’re afraid they’re going to be manly.”

Last but not least, Wertman has this message for his followers: “You can achieve anything you want through your work ethic and your grind…it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from… it’s all about how bad you want it and how far you’re willing to take it.”

More events hosted by The Communication Arts Society can be found on the Corq app and at Connect.Oneonta.edu; the club also hosts meetings every other Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in IRC 4.

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