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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

An interview with Ryan Hertel of Socialocca

I’ve devoted a lot of my time and effort in trying to help local entrepreneurs through advising, attending meetups, and being an active part of the local tech and business communities. I haven’t, however, taken those insights and shared them here on my blog. Nor have I done much to help promote local businesses through my blog. So it is my goal, starting here in the beginning of 2019, to do so.

The series will be called #NEPATechInsights. It will include interviews with startups, investors, entrepreneurs. It will also include some insights I’ve both given and gotten

This interview is with Ryan Hertel from a local digital marketing and product company called Socialocca in Forty Fort, Pennsylvania. We began this interview over email in December 2018.

I first met Ryan one year ago when he presented at the February 2018 NEPA Tech Meetup. He seems to have a lot of energy, has his fingers in a bunch of things, and is actively trying to build cool products and services. Energy and passion are two things that cannot be taught. Ryan has both and if he keeps them both everything else will fall into place.

Let’s get into the interview so that you can learn more about Ryan and what he is up to.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to do this interview Ryan. Perhaps first we should begin with Socialocca and the products and services it provides. Can you break that down for us a little? Who are the company? What are the products and services that it provides today?

RYAN: Socialocca is an ecosystem that is home to various offshoots of the company which provide Socialocca clients a well rounded and customizable service for branding, digital design, social media, public relations, visual media and more. Each branch was created out of necessity to make the lives of both the Socialocca team and their clients, easier and more efficient.

Socialocca was originally pioneered by myself, a DJ accidentally turned “9:00am-5:00pm businessman”. Backing me is a team of 15 creatives that help me keep the rain forest running including Matthias Claflin (visual media director), Greg Josuweit (sales/business development), Kelsey Mulhern (graphic designer), Michael Hartman (social media manager), Sarah Matarella (project manager), and other young creatives.

The agency offers clients a wide scope of digital solutions, but still individualizes the services and products through unique “offshoots” represented by rain forest animals. Social media management (Socialocca), Instagram growth (Tree Frog), digital design (Inkaloo), PR & marketing (Howler), social media software (Blu), and visual media production (Lux) are all specialized services that Socialocca is collectively able to offer its clients.

Can you provide an explanation as to how Tree Frog, your Instagram growth product, works? Also some stats?

Tree Frog Statistics

RYAN: Tree Frog is an organic growth service that will increase your Instagram engagement. We help manage hundreds of Instagram accounts, engaging with targeted users on their behalf to generate attention for the managed profile. Matt Topper, my business partner, and I started Tree Frog when Instagram started to reduce the organic engagement users would naturally get on their posts. Because of that, we’ve been able to grow Tree Frog quickly thanks to the demand for authentic Instagram growth.

We’ve been able to help our average subscriber grow anywhere from 100-200 new followers a week, and in some cases it’s even better!

What are the company’s goals for 2019?

RYAN: For 2019, we’re focusing on 3 main things:

  1. A new space – we grew a lot in 2018, and I think one of the primary reasons was because we finally had a physical address to visit. Now, it’s only a private office, but even that beats meeting clients at Dunkin’ every day. For 2019 though, we’re searching for an actual storefront with more space and easy access. There’s a lot of people involved who will heavily benefit from having a dedicated space to be creative.
  2. Better branding – Socialocca is obviously a made up word, but the pronunciation I’ve dictated is \ˈsō-shə-lō-kuh\. One of our biggest blockades right now is just brand awareness. Being in business for just a year and a half works against us sometimes, and many of our competitors have multiple years of development over us. We’re going to kick things up heavily these next 12 months, and by the end of the year, I’m at least hoping to hear even just a few less mispronunciations of “Socialocca” 😅
  3. Better team-building – 2018 presented a lot of opportunities that forced me to really come to terms with the truth that my skill level for many creative talents is mediocre at best, and I NEVER want Socialocca’s output to be mediocre. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate to have met so many friends and business acquaintances that I’ve been able to tap into the talents of to make sure Socialocca’s output isn’t bottle-necked. Now, with all these people regularly working on Socialocca projects, I feel it’s time to start doing what any successful agency does: team-building. It’s time to order pizza parties, call meetings to discuss goals, and really try to develop an original ‘culture’ for working with Socialocca!

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in building Socialocca?

The biggest challenge I’ve been facing is scaling. We’re getting a lot better with project management and smoothness of service delivery as we naturally gain experience, but providing enough work to keep the team happy is ultimately my responsibility.

It’s difficult to keep constantly growing because that means the majority of the opportunities I find need to excel the business financially, and that’s hard to consistently keep up with.

Want more from Ryan? Be sure to listen to Ryan’s interview on Episode 68 of tecBRIDGE Radio.

Thanks to Ryan for taking the time to answer these questions.

Mandy Pennington teaches SEO at the May 2018 NEPA Tech meet up

Mandy Pennington presents at NEPA Tech

This last month’s NEPA Tech meet up was very well attended, produced, and an all-around great time – as per usual.

I’ve seen Mandy do several presentations over the last few years and so I knew going into this we were in for an informative and fun session. SEO could be a boring, drab topic but Mandy made it fun and practical. And it appeared the other attendees agreed based on the number of questions she got after her main presentation was over.

For me personally this topic was timely as I’ve recently taken over the marketing strategy for Jujama. I have no doubt I will be constantly reviewing all of the information Mandy presented.

If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet attended a NEPA Tech meet up – I urge you to consider it. It isn’t all code (in fact, the vast majority of our meet ups have been code-less, though code shouldn’t scare you). And it isn’t all a bunch of nerdy dudes (though there are plenty of us). We want to continue to grow this community in practical and rich ways; bringing in music, the arts, culture and much more into near future meet ups. These events should be engaging and hopefully spark both inspiration and collaboration in our area. After 17 meet ups we’re on our way.

MeToday: May 4, 2018 – May the 4th be with you. Coworking with Ted and Aaron. (see also, and on Flickr)

Also enjoyed some Pho.

You should attend events, meetups, and conferences

I published the following article on LinkedIn in March. However, their publishing tool removed all of the photos from the post when I published it and I was so frustrated that I did not bother to go in and fix it. I’m republishing the post here with photos.


For over a decade now I’ve put in a lot of effort to present at and attend as many technology and business events as I can. I’ve attended events in Austin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Orlando, Jacksonville, New York City, Philadelphia, Greenville and a half-dozen other US cities. But you don’t have to hop on a plane to attend events. I also attend several regional events per year that gets me back at home before bedtime.

In 2014 I wrote a blog post titled You should go to meetups and in it I wrote about one of the advantages of attending meetups or conferences:

Because there is a lot of energy at meetups. The presenters are generally at the beginning of their product cycles and they have a lot of positive energy to make something happen. Those in the crowd all have their stories, their ideas, their goals. And, in addition to those building startups you’ll generally find lawyers, venture capitalists, programmers, marketers, etc. who are willing to offer their help for your project. It is a very, very good way to meet people that you’ll likely work with.

This past year has been no different. Each event I made the effort to attend has yielded some professional and personal fruit. If you haven’t yet gotten to many events in your area, or elsewhere, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. And not just once.

Here are a few highlights from the events I’ve attended or presented at in the last 18-months alone.

NEPA BlogCon 2016

I’m going to start a few months prior to 2017 because I attended a few amazing events near the end of the year in 2016. First up is NEPA BlogCon 2016.

At NEPA BlogCon, an event specifically catering to those just getting started in blogging, social media, and marketing, it was evident the amount of care that went into organizing the event. Each year NEPA BlogCon has been refined to be more engaging, valuable, and fun. One thing this event always reminds me of, now matter how mature an industry or technology appears to be there are always new faces seeking to learn.

TecBridge Entrepreneurial Institute 2016

Marywood University is the host to an excellent annual entrepreneurship event that always proves valuable for its attendees. The 2016 event was very well attended and had an excellent panel discussion, workshops, presentations, and more.

At the time I wrote this about the event on my blog:

Rather than a panel simply answering questions broadly, the workshops helped the attendees to work through a problem and see the processes work step-by-step.

I think what I appreciate about this event each year is the focus on practical takeaways for attendees. If you are there to learn you will.

Cropped! A rebranding competition

Cropped! is a fun event held by AAF NEPA that pits a few creative talents against each other to rebrand a local nonprofit organization that could use the help.

Branding is my day job and so watching as these teams tried to solve the problems of organization’s current brand was fun.

Branding is about exposing an entity’s core purpose, principles, and offerings to the world. Rebranding is about fixing any problems the current brand has encountered.

I wrote the following on my blog after the event:

Branding is an exercise in getting a company’s culture, message, and purpose demonstrated and communicated through every single thing the company does. I know it has been said a million times but it worth reiterating that branding is not a logo. Branding permeates a company’s activities from the way they answer the phone to how easy it is to unsubscribe to their monthly email newsletters. I was happy to see that everyone at Cropped! knew exactly what branding was.

PhillyBurbs WordPress Meetup

You will not find a more inclusive meetup within 100 miles of my front door as the PhillyBurbs meetup. This one is always well worth the drive and some of their organizers have returned the favor to attend meetups in northeastern Pennsylvania.

One takeaway I had last year at this event was the impact a more inclusive culture will have on our industry. As more and more groups of people are represented in our industry the better it gets. For far too long the industry’s perspective has been dominated by white males. This is changing. For some it isn’t changing fast enough but I’m simply happy that it is.

Ask The Web Marketing Experts panel

Speaking of white males… 🙄

I, along with several other web marketers in our area, were invited to participate in a panel discussion and recording session at NEPA Alliance organized by the Scranton Small Business Development Center.

The questions from the SBDC and local businesses were great and I know all of the “experts” learned a lot from each other as well.

NEPA.js and NEPA Tech Events

I attended, and presented at, at least 7 monthly NEPA.js (which has now been rolled into NEPA Tech) events throughout 2017. In late 2016 Mark Keith decided to bring together a group of JavaScript enthusiasts each month to discuss JavaScript-things which bled into discussions on all sorts of technology, business, marketing and even cryptocurrency. The amount of value this one event has generated for our area is already incalculable.

I blogged about ever single event I went to so you can read all of my notes on my event tag on my blog at cdevroe.com.

Inventor’s Guild at TekRidge

I’ll often pop into some events with no real reason for me to be there other than to soak up whatever information I can. The Inventor’s Guild is just such an event. This event caters to people that want to invent things (or already have) and, hopefully, profit.

One thing I was reminded of at this event was how little the inventor typically profits off of their inventions when compared to the companies that license them and how important it is to understand patent and IP law if you’re an inventor of a physical product.

Wilkes-Barre Programmers meet up

I’m not a Python developer (which this Wilkes-Barre programmer event was geared to) but I was interested to see how this group was run. I found it very informative and challenging. One thing I realized by attending this event was how these events have a small gravitational pull. If you remove any mass from them by not attending they may just drift off into the ether. Never to coalesce again. It is important to support a small group with your presence even if it doesn’t align with your skillset or desired path. By helping to keep these groups together when they are small they can continue to grow and mature and eventually split off into the groups you want to see in your area.

In other words, don’t skip events just because their small. Small events beget larger ones.

SAIL by Second Wind

In March 2017 I flew to Orlando partly to get away from the winter and partly to learn as much as I could about running a digital advertising agency at Second Wind’s idea lab.

I learned a lot. There was hundreds of years of experience in the room and all were willing to share with one another. In fact, nearly a year later, this event still comes up in conversations with many agencies on a weekly basis.

I felt privileged to learn how other businesses throughout the country are solving problems of recruiting, employee compensation, retainer agreements, agency IP, and much more.

tecBRIDGE Entrepreneurial Institute 2017

I held a workshop at this years TEI event and it was a blast. The workshop format allowed me to bring practical value to those that attended it. The Q&A session was very good and I received emails from attendees for weeks afterward.

The entire event was very good and many business owners and students in our area, well over 200 of them, got a taste for what it means to be an entrepreneur and the inevitable challenges they face.

Other events

I attended a few other regional events including one for Unmanned Ariel Systems used in Surveying work at Penn State University, other WordPress meetups that I spoke at, a presentation about my as-yet-unreleased step counting mobile application Summit to the Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup, and also Ben Franklin’s VentureIdol and many others.

There has been no shortage of long-lasting benefit from each event I’ve attended over the years. I cannot overstate this enough, especially if you’re a remote worker or are operating from the hinterland — get out of your home office and shake some hands.

Are you an event organizer? Consider using Jujama to power your next event.

Socialocca presents a Social Media Workshop at the February 2018 NEPA Tech meet up

Ryan K. Hertel, Socialocca

This month’s NEPA Tech meet up was yet another smashing success. If you live in northeastern Pennsylvania and are interested in the intersections of business, technology, the arts, etc. (and you want to see our area thrive in all of these things) please consider attending an upcoming event.

Ryan K. Hertel of Socialocca, a small social media advertising and management agency, gave a presentation on the current social media landscape as well as some tactics his company uses for his clients. His presentation was energetic, informative, and I’m certain everyone that attended found some value in it.

Social media and digital advertising is still on the rise in our area but it also continues to be a hard sell. Many longtime small business owners are not entrenched in social media enough to see its impact on their businesses. They do not invest heavily enough, either in time or money, to see the incredible network effects that can happen if they did. Ryan’s company, as well as Condron Media, are constantly trying to prove the value of these activities with limited budgets in our area.

The pendulum is swinging though. More and more companies are sick of feeling left out, their competition is beginning to invest in social media, and they don’t want to be left behind.

I look forward to seeing where Ryan’s company is in 5 years.

Attending October’s NEPA.js meet up

On Tuesday, October 10 I attended October’s NEPA.js meet up. John George of NEPA Web Solutions was this month’s presenter and his topic was Bitcoin and the Blockchain: Democratizing How We Exchange Value.

I believe all members of NEPA.js would agree, John’s presentation was arguably the best presentation the meet up group has had to-date. Though the Blockchain can seem a complex topic, John did an excellent job describing how it worked, where it is currently being used, and its future potential. Though the meet up was relatively well attended, I left wishing that so many more people had heard his presentation.

To further the lesson beyond the walls of the Scranton Enterprise Center, John also gave each attendee a gift in the form of a wallet containing a single bit of BTC. He also incentivized attendees to claim that bit for themselves by awarding the first few that did so with $50USD in BTC. Those that did it were rewarded indeed since the value of BTC has jumped to new record highs this month. Those that didn’t claim their bit may be kicking themselves for dragging their feet.

John will likely do this presentation again, in some form, under the NEPA Tech banner. Meet up’s like October’s are what is spurring the group to expand the group into a more general direction. This particular presentation had nothing to do with JavaScript – as the name NEPA.js would have you believe – and so we want to make sure each meet up is approachable by all that would be interested. You may remember me saying this over the last few months, and even in January I spelled it out specifically, but now there has been positive steps towards this happening. We’ll have more to announce in the near future.

Thanks to John for the amazing presentation, and for the bitcoin, and to the attendees for the active discussion.

Side note: My apologies for a terrible pano photo. I’ll try to do better next time.

Be a social developer

Dwayne Hinterlang on CodePen:

What if I told you there are even ways to connect with like minded people in person? Whether it’s quickly learning something for the first time, discussions of discoveries, pulling all nighters to breath life into an idea or even devoting yourself to achieving mastery! We can do them together.

Online resources, like Hinterlang spells out, are amazing and one can learn a lot from them. However, there is still no substitute for face-to-face meet ups, workshops, etc. You’ve read about this time and time again here on my blog. I think developers should go to meet ups.

Speaking of which. If you’re in my area, and you care about the intersection of technology, business, the arts, you may want to join NEPA Tech. I hear big things are in store for that group in the coming months.

Attending September’s NEPA.js meetup

On September 12th, NEPA.js held its September meetup. Anthony Altieri presented on beacons – the typically small Bluetooth devices that “chirp” some very basic information multiple times per second allowing app developers to understand the proximity of a user. This allows for things like understanding where a shopper is in a retail space.

His overview of the devices, the spec, some of the software, and the differences between iOS and Android, and iBeacon and Eddystone – was a really nice introduction into the space. He did a great job.

I learned a lot during his presentation. Thanks to him for putting it together.

If you haven’t yet been to a NEPA.js and you live in our area – I implore you to check one out. It is consistently attended, always fun, and isn’t always focused solely on JavaScript. But even if it was, it is worth your time.

Attending the Wilkes-Barre Programming meetup

Osterhout Free Public Library

On Saturday I braved the frigid temperatures and attended a Wilkes-Barre Programming meetup at the Osterhout Free Library in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

I arrived a few minutes late – it was Saturday so of course I had to make myself some breakfast, enjoy my coffee, watch a little YouTube prior to getting out in the elements – and then I couldn’t find the room the meetup was in at the library. Once I found the group there was already 6 attendees and they were over an hour into their programming.

One of the attendees proposed a problem to be solved; convert a number into a Roman numeral using Python. I have little-to-no Python experience, and unfortunately not much was discussed at this meetup regarding the language (since it wasn’t for beginners) but I decided to try my hand at solving this problem in JavaScript. Here is my attempt (though incomplete). It can do the thousands and hundreds. I’d need a little more time to do the tens and singles but I ran out of time at the group.

I was happy to see this small group meeting in Wilkes-Barre. Some of the attendees mentioned they’d be visiting the #nepaJS meetup happening on Tuesday, which would be great. We need a lot more of these smaller groups and we need them all to be connected to the larger NEPA Tech group. In larger metropolitan areas these smaller groups would be hundreds strong and so consolidation wouldn’t be needed. We don’t have that here. So we need as much effort to be consolidated as possible. These small groups are where skills are honed, where partnerships and companies can be formed, where careers are forged. If you are someone that works in technology please consider joining one of these smaller groups. Even if you aren’t into programming. As they grow I’m sure they will end up fragmenting into more specific groups for the areas you’re interested in. The more support the better.

Attending the Inventor’s Guild at TekRidge

img_3909

Last night in Jessup at TekRidge, I attended the Inventor’s Guild – another meet up orchestrated by the folks at TecBridge – to meet inventors from the area. The turnout was very good (about 25 or so I’d say) and I’m hoping this event happens again.

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that there were three presenters that had just a short presentation each. First was Jim Babinski who gave an inspiring short presentation about the state of crowdfunding using online services like Kickstarter and Indie GoGo. It is an amazing time where an inventor can find customers for their product even before she manufactures it.

Second was the founders of Kraken Board Sports talking about their start in manufacturing their products. They assured aspiring inventors that it is important to learn as you build, to iterate your product, and to pay close attention to what your market can bear.

Third was Bob Cohn who invented a safe needle that would protect the doctors and nurses who used it from accidentally sticking themselves with the needle after treating an infected patient. The licensing deals from this needle has earned him and his company millions of dollars and so Cohn had many lessons to share with the group regarding patents and licensing. Cohn is currently working on the Deep Grill.

After the presentations I was able to catch up with the folks at Site2, which is an excellent company here in Scranton that I recommend you check out, Fader Plugs, and Kids Ride Safe. All excellent things happening in our area.