If I had a dollar for every “eave,” I’d be a millionaire twice over. But as it is, I’m not even rich on paper. Only in cyberspace, and with a virtual currency.
What am I rambling on about?
Allow me to explain. A few months ago, my tech-savvy friend Oscar invited me to join EmpireAvenue.com, the social stock market. I had heard a little about it, but I wasn’t particularly interested in playing an online game. Especially not a play version of eTrade.
Not Another Game!
I’m really not a gamer. I don’t play Xbox, Wii or any video games. I’ve never played Farmville, Mafia Wars, Second Life or Angry Birds. About the closest I’ve gotten to playing any type of game is “checking in” on FourSquare. But I rationalized that this smart-phone app also had marketing applications. And FourSquare could occasionally get me a free appetizer or dessert at restaurants.
So I resisted initially. I needed another social time-sink like I needed a… well, like a hole in the wallet. Yes, Empire Avenue was a game, but it turned out to be more than that.
After finally signing up, I discovered that #EAv (as it’s referred to in Twitter-speak) was a way to measure your online activity and influence—in real time, no less! In a sense, EAv was a way to measure the elusive ROI of social media.
One of the founders of EAv, @Dups (his name is long and hard to pronounce), has said that the game was inspired after a beer-fueled discussion of the premise in Karl Marx’s Das Kapital that “everything you do has value.”
So Empire Avenue gave people “a neat way to judge the value of a person, then go connect with them.” Empire Avenue then became a social network.
Social Networking on Steroids
It’s like a stock market game and social networking/analytics tool all in one. But instead of investing in companies, you buy and sell shares in people who are active on social networks. (Corporate brands have ventured onto it, too.) But EAv not only measures, it encourages interaction on social channels. So if you want to see your share value go up (and who doesn’t?), you become more active than you normally would. You tweet, like, favorite, comment and blog more, because it all equates to more points on the Avenue.
Getting Hooked Up on the Ave.
Once you hook up your social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Pages, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, Blogs, and more recently FourSquare and Instagram), Empire Avenue assigns a value based on your activity on each of them. Your activity on the Avenue itself is also factored in. This value translates into a share price and dividend for your “stock”. Instead of dollars, the currency on Empire Ave is “eaves” (apparently inspired by the abbreviation of the name: E. Ave.).
If you’re really competitive and gung-ho, you can spend real dollars to buy more eaves and “luxury” goodies (but I’m too cheap for that).
The Dark Side
Like the stock market itself, there are ups and downs to Empire Ave, and it’s not for everyone. The downside for companies is that at some point their stock will drop. It’s simply inevitable. This has prompted some negative blog posts about the “dark side” of the game, such the term “losers” being used to describe companies when their stock values were falling. In response, “losers” was changed by the game’s founders to “sliders”.
Complexity and Punishment
The Avenue gets complicated when trying to figure out how values and dividends are calculated. And it takes dedication to maintain a respectable share price and dividend for one’s “investors”. Some people have quit because they didn’t like being “punished” for taking a break from their social network activity. This led to the addition of a “vacation” mode, so that you could take a week or two off and not have your share price take a dive.
I enjoy Empire Avenue because it’s not just a game. It encourages more social interaction and helps measure online influence. It even encourages generosity and reciprocity. (Eaves are a lot easier and less risky to spend than dollars.) It’s also a powerful networking and self-branding tool that can expose you to a worldwide audience. And I’ve met some great people through it. Some in real life, too.
Are you on the Avenue? Leave your ticker symbol in the comments section so I can invest in you (as my bank account permits!). You can find me at (e)DEVINELINES: And if you’re not on it, why not?
UPDATE: Empire Avenue now features WordPress.com blog integration, along with prizes for those who enter (just by adding your blog). Here’s the link: http://blog.empireavenue.com/wordpresscontest Good luck and have fun!