After spending 18 months in Los Angeles learning the business side of social media, Nik Metcalf returned to Western New York to promote his hometown.
Metcalf, a 2012 Williamsville East graduate, began experimenting with social media in high school. He and a friend posted jokes and funny pictures to Twitter, and soon realized they could make money doing it.
“It wasn’t the goal when we started, but we learned that if you linked to a product or website, you got paid a few cents for each click. We tweeted things to our followers, and began earning money. In peak weeks, we averaged $700.”
Skeptical of easy income running dry, Metcalf maintained a part-time job at KFC-Taco Bell on Transit Road. After spending a year at Erie Community College, he and his high school friend, Kyle Cameron, moved to Los Angeles to form a social media company with another friend from Australia who they had met online.
“Kyle had this plan, and invited me along,” Metcalf said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We talked with our parents, who supported the decision. At 18, I left for California with my best friend. It was pretty crazy.”
Living with one of Cameron’s relatives, they began a venture-backed company: a content based website with All Day Media. Celebrities looking to make extra money posted links there. The company, in turn, was paid two cents per click. Metcalf also ran @EarthPix, one of the top 200 Instagram accounts, and managed several other social media platforms. The learning curve was steep.
“I had no idea how all this worked at first,” he said. “I learned things on the back end, things like revenue sharing and how to grow a business and different strategies to get to the next level.”
Name: Nik Metcalf, 22
Hometown: Kenmore until age 12, then moved to Williamsville
Family: parents Marc and Laura Metcalf; younger sister Haley
Best things about Los Angeles: Fashion trends begin there; variety of activities, including sports, events and the beach
On returning to Buffalo: “There is so much hope. Canalside has transformed. Downtown is booming.”
Metcalf saw the power of advertising through social media. While living on the west coast, he created a Twitter account to showcase things happening around Buffalo.
“In Los Angeles, restaurants, hotels and bars have awesome social media profiles. That was right up my alley. I knew how to create things like that. But I was surprised when I searched out businesses in Buffalo. There weren’t many that had anything comparable. I decided it was time to move back home and develop that.”
Metcalf returned to Western New York in 2015 to launch Buffalo Digest, a locally focused media company that currently attracts more than 40,000 followers.
“Before I left, it felt like Buffalo was stuck in a midway point,” he said. “But I was blown away when I moved back. Downtown was booming. Now there are startup funds available. Buffalo has an identity and anyone can tell things are shifting in the right direction.”
Metcalf is proud to be part of the city’s renaissance, and hopes his work contributes to the region’s growth.
“There are so many opportunities here,” he reflected. “People my age think you have to move away to be successful, but I want to help bring people here. I want the world to know all the great things we have. Buffalo is going to be a very special place.”
If you or anyone you know has a story to tell about moving back or to Buffalo, or about moving away, email JeffSchober@hotmail.com.
Jeff Schober is the author of "Bike Path Rapist," "Growing Up Gronk" and a series of crime novels set in Buffalo in the 1980s. His most recent book, "Faces and Fingertips," is available now. Visit his website at www.jeffschober.com.