Sunday Sitdown: Scott Emalfarb, social media startup founder

SHARE Sunday Sitdown: Scott Emalfarb, social media startup founder

Chicago’s growing numbers of tech entrepreneurs like to talk about what they do but not necessarily about the harrowing paths they took to achieve success. Social media specialist Scott Emalfarb says that’s not a problem for him. After all, his job is to produce, in his words, “cool, unique and engaging” content. Emalfarb spoke with reporter Sandra Guy.

Question: You’ve started a new company in Evanston — — that creates edgy social media campaigns, develops and manages social media-influencer programs and provides live-event social media support for brands. Earlier, you were part of a team that garnered more than 1 million Facebook fans for Slim Jim, the meat-sticks brand.

Answer: I applied for a job I didn’t know anything about, but it looked cool. I’d get to go to gaming conferences, WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment] events, while acting as the face of a huge brand on social media. I got the job, and it was at [public relations giant] Edelman. OK, I had made it to the big leagues. I think I’m in a good spot. I was part of a great social media team. I was the public-facing community manager for Slim Jim. The team had built a robust, terrific social media community.

Then one day, about two years into the job, I got a phone call at my desk. HR says, “We’ll have to lay you off and let you go.”

My wife was pregnant with our now-21-month-old daughter, Elexis. I didn’t know how to break the news to her.

I was lost. I was so sad. I don’t know where the money is going to come from. I went into an alley right by my house and cried for an hour. I got fired. One day, my paycheck stops.

Q: Yet, after driving for Uber and Sidecar and creating a TV/online show “The Scott Emo Show,” you found a niche. Local guy makes good. You’re a native of Deerfield who graduated from Deerfield High School, attended Parkland College and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in sports marketing. What would you tell other would-be entrepreneurs?

A: First and foremost, social media is designed to be social. It’s all about humanizing the brand.

In terms of content, Red Bull set the benchmark for brands. It’s basically a media channel. I think of Red Bull as the ESPN of great, fresh ways of watching motorsports and extreme sports.

Fresh Content Society is the social media agency of record for Peak Auto, a family-owned company in Northbrook that sponsors race teams in NASCAR and the National Hot Rod Association. Peak Auto joined John Force Racing this year, and we have 13 events where we are the primary sponsor.

I get to travel the country. It’s my job to bring the event to life using social media and coming to the table different. If everyone is taking a photo from the back or side of the race car, I want the angle from the front. We want to be nimble and cost-effective by producing a new way of looking at the brand, which includes experimenting with Periscope, the live-streaming app.

Q: Can you give away a few ingredients to your social media secret sauce?

A: The idea is for people to think of a brand, a company, as the authority — the thought leader — in its category.

We don’t make the message overly complicated because it has to be easy to relate to.

The brand becomes like a growing child. You need to nurture the community in order for it to grow and be healthy.

Social media doesn’t sleep, so it’s really a far cry from a 9-5.

As for easy, low-hanging fruit: Use a social media tool to help listen; monitor and engage in targeted conversation; utilize free apps and tools to help make your visuals standout; tag others in your tweets to increase your exposure; and research key words that are trending for titles, meta tags and descriptions for YouTube videos to increase their visibility and searchability.

This is a new frontier. But one thing hasn’t changed: Never burn a bridge. You never know who you will need in your life.


Scott Emalfarb, owner of Fresh Content Society, says businesses need to treat social media marketing as something that’s always on and always evolving. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

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