Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Empire Avenue Game, Fad, or Something Else

What is Empire Avenue?  Is it game, a fad, or something else?  EA promotes themselves as the Social Media Exchange, where you can invest virtual currency in any social media profile by buying their shares, meet new people, unlock achievement badges, and earn virtual cash by being active and social online.

 I joined Empire Avenue over a week ago on May 14 to see what is was about after seeing some tweets about it on Twitter @EmpireAve.  I have also had good discussions with some of my Twitter friends on the merits of Empire Avenue.   With my financial and analytical background, I look at the framework of social media activities as needing to add economic value to ones business model and there is a lot of data out in the "Internet cloud"and many algorithm's trying to measure it.  Empire Avenue does it differently than @PeerIndex and @Klout, by adding an element of fun and Game Theory.

When you join Empire Avenue, you can connect your Social Networking accounts, and they will score activity and engagement in each account and give you a virtual share price.  Depending on the social account, it can take up to five days for your score to calibrate.  The connections you make on Empire Avenue create "value-based" relationships, a deeper relationship than simply "following" someone, in a completely less intrusive context than becoming "friends."   Some of them have now followed me into various Twitter Chat sessions.  Every day, you're on Twitter, talking to friends on Facebook, uploading videos or photos, and writing blog posts. Just for doing your normal activity, you'll earn Eaves –  virtual currency – and  Empire Avenue will give some more virtual cash to your shareholders. 

The stock price structure of Empire Avenue adds a human value based perspective to your social media activity.  The value based approach also encourages you to check out your investments on their multiple social media platforms.  In Game Theory it has shown that People use virtual currency (Eav's in the case of Emprie Avenue) as real money.

While People will utilize Empire Avenue as a game to get the highest market value, they will have to engage in social media activities to drive value.  Trick, invite your heavy social media friends to join early and buy early before their activity is fully factored into the system.  While I may have missed the LinkedIn IPO on its first day, I did miss the investment in Stacy Zapar,@StacyZapar Linkedin's #1 most connected woman and Viveka von Rosen @linkedinexpert, a leading trainer on LinkedIn debut's on Empire Avenue.   This was Legal insider trading.

The key metric on Empire Avenue is your stock price.  Your stock price is influenced by your social media activity, your Empire Avenue activity and buy/sell activity in your stock by your fellow Empire Avenue participants.   Empire Avenue is primarily for those that already have a decent amount of involvement in social media. If you’re just getting started, this isn’t the place to focus until you have built up your other social media platform such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Blogs, and YouTube.
Players try to increase the value of their profile and also invest in other individuals to earn a return on their virtual dollars, or Eavs, in the game. There are many ways to increase your value and participate in the game. There is a certain appeal to the entire game aspect, trying to get your stock price to rise and betting on those that you know will do well, but there’s a giant time drain factor that can be costly if there’s no real value or return. One of the first things you might notice when you start to participate are the silly things that people are doing to try to get your buy their stock – don’t let the silliness factor be a complete turnoff.  Empire Avenue even places those pitches in a "Buy Me Spam" chat box.
Critics suggest this is little more than an ego boosting toy for social media gurus and wanna be gurus and on the surface you can certainly see why this claim is easy to level.  However, out of all the tools out there, it gives me the most actionable information to monitor and learn from the best.
Of all the tools out there that are trying to measure influence and engagement,  like Klout and Peer Index, I think Empire Avenue may have developed an interesting format to present it.  It  includes a broader away of social media platforms in the scoring than Peer Index and Klout.  It also encourages people to engage on those platforms versus being just a scorekeeper.  I also like seeing the elements of each platform that contributes to overall value. 
The other thing I’ve noticed since playing with it is that it does a very good job of helping me focus on the important aspects of my social media engagement outside of Empire Avenue. Because the game measures the important things I do on Twitter, Linkedin, Blogger, and Facebook, for example, and rewards me in the game for doing them, it has the impact of making active social media participation more fun.

It is also interesting to observe how different users have different mixes of social media platform usage and arrive at similar scores and market effectiveness.  I will be covering that in a separate blog post.  Overall, I think it’s reason enough to recommend you put it on your radar of things to look at.  By the way, you can invest in me here :)

What do you think?
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Monday, May 16, 2011

Crowd-Funding Sites Prepare for a Financing Boom #Smallbiz

SECImage via Wikipedia
The Securities and Exchange Commission may adopt rules to let Internet based technologies be used in fund-raising. The agency is considering to let companies use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to raise funding by tapping thousands of small individual investors for small amounts of money, the Wall Street Journal reported.  The full WSJ post is below. 

The move is part of a larger review by the Securities and Exchange Commission into whether to ease decades-old constraints on how companies can issue new shares to the public. The new funding techniques, known as “crowd funding,” could usher in a new era of capital raising for start ups.  The technique has spread from artists looking to fund their creative works to entrepreneurs trying to bootstrap companies without giving up control to venture capitalists. Typically, a company might raise $100,000 from an Internet site where users could sign up to buy $100 worth of shares.

Crowd funding could be a cheap source of cash, competing with angel investors who specialize in giving seed rounds to start-ups. Since the amounts of money are small, the downside risk isn’t too bad for investors. But the trick will be in protecting the public from scammers who have no intention of following through on promises since many small investments can mean millions of dollars.  The SEC has rules today restricting a lot of these type of investments to "Knowledgeable Investors" who have minimum networth requirements.  Several start-up businesses that I have talked to are interested in this source of funding.
Would you invest in a business start-up this way?

Small Business News: Crowd-Funding Sites Prepare for a Boom - WSJ.com
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I just tweeted your business, but nobody was home

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
I came across the blog below on Social Media Today and found that I have shared many of the same experiences.  A lot of businesses have a Twitter account and actively promote “Follow us on Twitter.” Generally it’s communicated in a lot of areas.  As Mark Fairbanks states in his blog, "Unfortunately many of these Twitter accounts are unmanned or only exist to tweet the latest sale, special or company news."  As I have noticed in my Kansas City Business Tweets list that sources my KC Business Daily Tweets, many of these accounts are broadcast only like a news release.  They are missing the real value of engagement on Twitter. 

I will be sharing some examples of Twitter engagement and the Return on the Relationship or Return on Investment in future blog posts.  Participation in Tweet Chats and monitoring key words on twitter will be some of the methods discussed.

 Luckily, we do have a lot of small business engagement in Kansas City.  What kind of Twitter Engagement do you see?

I just tweeted your business, but nobody was home | Social Media Today
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