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Empire Avenue – Measurement of Social Influence?

May 29, 2011

People have been telling me I’ve “just GOT to sign up for Empire Avenue“, and “it’s a true measure of the real social influence of the experts”. Bullshit. It’s a game. It’s a relatively interesting game, especially if you like to watch ant farms. Anybody who is signed up can tell you how quickly you’re inundated with private emails telling you “I’m a great investment” stating their growth and asking for participation to get them more “eaves”. Um, come to think of it that’s probably why everybody was asking me to join in the first place…

So what’s this all about?
Basically Empire Avenue is a community (and I use that term loosely here) where members buy and sell virtual shares in each other in the hopes of getting rich in currency of the site, called “eaves”. The site takes your activities on the site, the investments in you and the amount of social interaction on popular social media sites as runs some sort of algorithm to gauge your value overall.

How to win at Empire Avenue

buy me buy meI thought up quite a few really great titles for this post for the sheer fun of gaming the game for some SEO love, and then I deleted ’em. This is me resisting.

If you want to increase your value you make your investors happy, interact a lot on your social networks and on the site and voila! Your shares spike and you look like a big deal. As a spam engine Empire Avenue excels. You can spend a few eaves and create ads or directly email your shareholders. Here’s a very good post on ways to game it if you really want to increase your “value”, and here’s another.

Your influence
Does the site measure your influence? Sure it does. It measures the influence you have over your share price. That’s not necessarily relevant to your social influence. Wanna find out? Join here, and help me get more eaves.

Is it fun?
Sure if you’re into stock trading and games. If you’re in it for community forget it. Discussions range from buy me! Buy Me! BUY ME! to blatant spam. Sure, there are a few genuine attempts at interaction but they are so quickly buried you have to scroll through reams of spam to find them.

Do people I respect play the game?
Sure they do, and I invested in many of them. All the big social media names have an account, probably for the same reasons I do. They like to play with the shiny new toys too. I see some major brands like Ford and have bought into the space and that is an interesting commentary on how big brands are chasing social media to reach the audience. But take a look at this screen shot of Ford’s Share price and tell me this isn’t a flash in the pan.Ford Motor Co on Empire Avenue

Will they continue to play it?
Maybe about as long as Foursquare. No really, if the communities at Empire Avenue started to actually contain conversation it could be interesting. It would take some re-designing of the system. For example it’s very hard to follow the threads of shout outs on your profile. Actually finding conversation is a needle in a haystack sort of thing and the notification system doesn’t help much. Then I have to remind myself it’s a game. It’s not really about community, it’s about having fun trading shares. Actually it’s quite good at that part, and as games go it can be a fun time suck buying and selling, gaming the system to raise the value of your shares etc.

Bottom line?
Empire Avenue is a fun, potentially addictive game. I needed to join to be able to discuss it with clients with a modicum of intelligence and so I did. For me? I simply can’t afford to get sucked into games like this. I’ve got a respectable stock price and for a while it probably will increase, but I won’t spend a lot of energy on it. I can’t. Social media is my business and my passion. Watching it grow, coaching new clients, learning about new industries, now that’s my kinda fun!

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  1. Yes, it will be very interesting to see where it goes. It sounds like they are working on the community aspect which would make it much more interesting to me. I’ve made a ton of real connections through Twitter, a few on Facebook, but none on EA. (maybe I didn’t look hard enough)

  2. Hi Janet, interesting that you can only see Empire Avenue as a game.

    I’ve been involved with empire Avenue for almost a month now and I’ve met more useful, Social Media professionals and advocates on there in 4 weeks than I have in a lifetime on Facebook and Twitter. (It feels like a lifetime!)

    To me it’s all good because it encourages real engagement and it’s fun at the same time.  LinkedIn encourages real engagement but it’s a tad stuffy, but still good. However, I feel that generally, not always, Twitter certainly and Facebook to some extent don’t create such an engaging platform.

    It is addictive, I agree 100% with you and as I wrote in my blog recently, so is TV, music, chocolate, alcohol and a whole bunch of other fun stuff!

    I’ve heard that in USA people are now being hired based on their Klout score and their PeerIndex ‘social capital’. maybe that’s true, but for me, Empire Avenue is more significant for both its connectivity (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Blog, Posterous, Tumblr etc..) and it engagement.  If you don’t engage, your score goes down and that’s why some of the bigger corporations are not doing very well, most recently BMW.  Social media to me is all about engaging with others.

    It will be interesting to see where Empire Avenue is 12 months down the road.

    I’m sure by then we’ll have a better idea on its measurement of social influence.

    Thank you for your thoughts on this exciting subject, kind regards Peter

  3. Thanks Jon, it’ll be interesting to see what the brands do with this site, especially Ford, one of the more progressive on your list.

  4. You’re right about the need to filter David, and using it for a marketing class should be very interesting. Let us know how that works out!

  5. Interesting post Janet – I recently wrote about EA for our blog in terms of its value for brands. I agree that there is quite a bit of self-promotion and spam on the site, I found turning off the on-screen notifications is a big help to cut out the clutter. I think it will be worth seeing how many people are still using it a few months after the initial novelty has worn off!
    – Jon from FreshNetworks

  6. Hi Janet, thanks for pointing me to your post.

    After about a week on Empire Ave. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s much like the rest of the Internet: high on noise, low on signal. But, just like the rest of the Internet there is valuable information to be had. Where’s there’s value there’s business.

    I think we need to adjust our critical abilities to factor for all the spam and late-night discount retail ad approaches that the noisiest people in the game take. We’ve done that for every other media and channel out there, we’ll do it for this channel too. 

    There are thoughtful people with valuable insight and services to be found on Empire Ave. — they’re the ones who avoid the hucksterism of the game and focus on the value of the people they meet.

    I’m very interested in bringing Empire Ave into my marketing classes as well. I think the swift changes possible in one’s share price and the contrast between low-margin/high noise vs. high-margin/low noise marketing approaches makes it an interesting platform for business and marketing students.

  7. I’ve never heard of Empire Avenue before now. I don’t think I’ll get involved with it. Thank you for the post.

  8. Hmm, I don’t think I implied the need to toss it out, just that Empire Avenue is a game, not a measurement tool. Does it have a use? Certainly. As a game. What could the value be in “investing” in a client on the game? I wouldn’t subject my clients to having to wade through all that just to listen to me, rather I’d set them up with an rss feed with great content to learn from.

  9. I agree on some of your observations, but I have to disagree on your conclusion, Janet.

    All the points you’ve made about gaming the system could be made about Klout and PeerIndex, even Twitter. And I’d agree that EA does have spammers – again, as does Twitter.

    But that’s to throw the baby out with the bathwater. EmpireAvenue does offer genuine opportunities to engage – if engagement, rather than gaming the system, is what you’re after. 

    Plus, there’s the interesting implications of “investing” – as compared to “following”, “connecting” or “friending” – as a metaphor for engagement. And even more interesting when you look at the implications of a professional pursuing social media engagement with their clients. With EA, the option now exists for the professional to invest in their client as a means of engaging, rather than always asking the client to follow, subscribe, enroll, etc. Being an investor in this context can create many important opportunities. 

  10. I find that the game/site is about self-promotion, and that “social” is about selfless promotion of others. Perhaps the fact that people spend so much time being selfless creates an inner need to feel validated. I have joined and have to say that I’m not sure if I’m amused or mortified. Either way, it does show that people being social creates some interesting behaviors.

    While the game mechanics are interesting, I find that I already know the influencers in the areas I care about. Bottom line for me, this is just noise in an already noisy room.

  11. I agree on most. However there are some private spamfree communities on EA that do have interesting discussions and do not allaw buy-me-spam  I joined for new contacts (and I got them), not for the game.

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