Empire Avenue: the path to social media stardom or a digital deadend?

About this time last year I wrote a post about Quora, suggesting that it could be 2011’s success story. It turned out I was wrong. So, I’m going to be a bit more careful when bigging up Empire Avenue, a social network that mimics a stock market to bring together and gamify your whole social networking worlds.

Should PRs and brands pay attention to Empire Avenue?

The short answer is yes, Empire Avenue is worth a look and has the potential to make an impact, but it’s far from perfect and a few commentators have already written it off  in the States (e.g. the Washington Times) where it started. But doesn’t seem to have broken through in the UK yet, so maybe its time is yet to come.

Empire Avenue theredrocket profile

What is Empire Avenue?

Essentially Empire Avenue is a stock market game where your activity on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, increase your value. You can buy shares in other users with the virtual currency (called Eaves), which can be topped up with real currency. In fact, in this respect it’s similar to Zynga’s games, like Farmville, although the similarity with other platforms don’t end there.

Empire Avenue also has its own communities (like LinkedIn groups or Quora topics) you can join, check out who to invest in or interact with users.

A key feature is Missions, where you are set tasks by other users, such as giving someone a +K on Klout or liking a YouTube video, to win you extra currency. This is where there is big potential for brands to get involved and either use it to seed content or build relationships. However, looking at current (very basic) missions it’s still very early days on this front.

Like Facebook, you have a personal page, where people can Shout Out (like leaving a message on your Wall) or Chat with other users.  And, just as in Foursquare, the more you login and use it (buy and selling shares), the better you’ll do.

Also, like just about every social network, there are achievement badges. Lots of them!

Empire Avenue Achievements

So, what’s the point of Empire Avenue and why should PRs and social media people care?

I’ve been asking myself that question in the past 48 hours.  Firstly, I think Empire Avenue appeals to the kind of person that likes social games like Farmville or Foursquare and is probably not the sort of thing I would personally want to do in the long run (although it’s easy to see how you could get addicted; my colleague Kat is annoyingly constantly a few points more ‘valuable than me!).

So, why bother?

Well, first up, on a personal level it helps to improve the impact of your social activities on other sites. I don’t know if it’s a short term thing, but my Klout score has increased by 2 in the past two days (if you care about these things) and my Twitter followers have also increased. In fact, I wonder whether ‘maxing out’ and investing in people that invest in you is the new Twitter follow back.

Secondly, through Empire Avenue Missions you can amplify the impact of your social media campaigns. Let’s say you want to get a bunch of people to watch a YouTube video or to review a new product, Empire Avenue offers a whole new audience to engage with, all of whom are rewarded. Whether or not these are ‘quality’ engagements is questionable, but that’s got a lot to do with the mission as anything else.

The third benefit is that Empire Avenue represents a genuine attempt to bring together the plethora of social networks into one environment – a common currency, if you like. At the moment, you can connect your Empire Avenue profile under Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, WordPress, Flickr, Google+ (in beta) and your own published blog.

Will I drive down Empire Avenue?

Clearly, Empire Avenue isn’t going to be for everyone. Apart from the evident time-investment required to be any good at it (mind you, all social networks are the same like this), it encourages people to collate their social networks. If you’re the kind of person that likes to separate their personal and business profiles, you’ll find it harder to succeed in the ‘game’.

A major gripe with the game element is that there’s no sense of a shortage of currency, so you’re never faced with real decisions about who to invest in. And, even if you were, you could just buy your way into success.

In its favour, it makes no bones about gamifying social media, something that most Klout fans will only admit to under the threat of a Chinese burn.

So, whether you’re convinced about Empire Avenue, or just curious, head this way, if you want to burn some hard earned Eaves on a few nuts and bolts of TheRedRocket.


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