When I first checked out Empire Avenue in May of 2011, I was disappointed. The concept was strong: a stock market game where the “companies” were people and their value was determined by the social capital they were able to accumulate through their activities on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. The problem I had with it was that it required a further commitment of time; one does not simply grow through Tweeting alone. You had to buy other people. You had to be active in other social media sites like YouTube and Flickr.
It seemed like another social media time suck.
Fast forward to May, 2012. A year after joining and subsequently abandoning my account, I was encouraged by a friend to check it out again. He had started around the same time I had but had continued ever since and become one of the top players. He told me that things were different now and that there were actual benefits to playing. Some of them were decent and when I checked it out again the dynamic had certainly changed, but there was one major difference that turned into a “game-changer”, pun intended, for me. I’ll save that for the last one. First, the other benefits:
Understanding yourself and your connections
The various social media rating systems all have their strengths. Klout, for instance, gives an excellent view of one’s total reach and engagement, but lacks in its ability to truly break down and rate the individual social networks. As can be seen in the screenshot above, Empire Avenue rates each network individually and it’s pretty darn accurate. My Twitter account, for example, is the social account that has received the most attention over the last few months and has the highest rating, while my Facebook profile, Google+ profile, and Facebook page are all in a state of growth. My activity on Empire Avenue itself is represented by the the symbol with the score of 38, which is followed by my semi-active social accounts for Instagram and LinkedIn. I’m occasionally active on Foursquare, rarely active on YouTube, and I barely remember that I have a Flickr account.
Based upon the scores the service has assigned to my social profiles, it’s clear that it accurately represents me socially. Looking at others reveals the same thing, that EA can be used to accurately detail activity and influence across individual networks.
Building more connections
Finding influencers on various social media sites can be a challenge. There are lists, recommendations, and good ol’ fashion getting out and meeting people, but sometimes it would be nice to simply have a tool that sorted through the masses and identified people as having strength in this network or that one. EA fills this role nicely, giving access to people through their own networks and allowing contact to be made with people and brands that would otherwise go unknown or be hard to reach.
Through buying shares and getting bought by others, meeting people can be easy. The internal shout feature allows communication with shareholders and other members of EA. Most who are actively playing the game are open to communication through the tool and getting responses is often easier than sending a Tweet. Trying to communicate with new people through Facebook or LinkedIn is challenging. Meeting them through EA and then continuing the networking on the actual social networks is much easier.
As promised, here is the biggest change at EA that intrigued me the most. Missions are ways for users to “pay” others to perform various social media tasks for them. It could be retweets, Facebook likes, YouTube subscriptions, or just about anything that users could conceive of where they need help. This is something that adds actual usability to the game, allowing users to help promote their social media goals. Some use missions to help them get exposure to their favorite cause or two highlight a particular blog post. Others get pure promotional juice out of it, gaining social media signals for their company or organization.
Regardless of motives, the ability to drive truly-active social media users to content is priceless. There are plenty of artificial-inflation scams that never truly work; trying to buy Twitter followers is worthless, for example. EA missions are different because the majority of the users who are really playing the game are actual social media users. I’ve found that there is an exceptionally-low percentage of bot accounts on EA, something that is simply not the case through services and other networks.
Getting strong engagement from real people is very powerful. It’s the differentiator that has brought me back and made me active on the site. It’s also the reason that any person or business who is active on social media and has the need to promote or highlight various pieces of content should get going on Empire Avenue sooner than later.