May 19, 2011 / by Elizabeth Morgan

Wondering what to make of all the recent buzz surrounding Empire Avenue? While the site officially launched to the public last summer, it started picking up buzz after Jeremiah Owyang blogged about the new social networking site in April.

What’s the buzz all about?

While some have compared Empire Avenue to Klout, the standard for influence, it seems to be quite different. The company describes itself as the “social media exchange,” where users buy shares of social media profiles (people or brands), try to get other users to invest in their stock, engage with other users, and ultimately aim to increase their own worth. Jeremiah Owyang provides a good description of the social game. Using the game’s currency, “Eaves,” each user is given a value and share price, which will increase as others purchase their shares or as the user participates in social media – tweeting, posting photos/status updates on Facebook, blogging, and even participating in the game Empire Avenue. “The net result?” According to Jeremiah, “This is a highly addictive experience that is similar to stock market gaming of your own social network.”

Parts of Empire Avenue are similar to Klout in that it measures “influence,” but the real goal is to foster engagement. In essence you have a stock value, which is a measure of how engaged you are across all your social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and YouTube) and not just a gauge of how popular you are. In response to a critical post about the point of Empire Avenue, Caleb Storkey wrote, “At the moment the interaction on a conversational/relational level is what makes it exciting.”

What’s the opportunity for brands here?

Several big name brands have already jumped on the bandwagon (e.g., Intel, Audi, CareerBuilder, AT&T). The Auto Marketing Blog took a look at how three automotive brands – Ford, Toyota and Audi – are using Empire Avenue. The blog acknowledges Ford’s efforts to engage with other users on the site, naming them the “clear leader in the reciprocity behavior.” While Ford has invested in 118 accounts, Audi has only invested in 12 and Toyota has yet to invest in anyone. This reinforces the goal of Empire Avenue to be a tool for engagement, as buying shares back is an opportunity to start a conversation.

Uwe Hook evaluated the site on MediaBizBloggers in his post Empire Avenue: Dead End or A Road Worth Traveling? He identifies what appear to be the benefits for brands to engage on Empire Avenue: find influencers and evaluate their behavior; reward people when they buy shares of your company; engage in conversations with influencers; etc. But as with all channels of social media, it’s important to have a plan before diving in head first.

So will it take off?

The main complaint about Empire Avenue so far is that the idea of buying people makes some people uncomfortable:

  • According to Laura Pevehouse Thomas, “Maybe I’m being too sensitive about this, but putting a price on people seems wrong. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth in a day & age where there is still a need for Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s ‘Real Men Don’t Buy Girls’ campaign.”
  • Damien Basile chimed in on the reasons he won’t join, including, “People shouldn’t be commoditized. Trying to put a number and value to a relationship is like trying to put a price to a life.”
  • On April 29, JasonFalls tweeted: “Apparently, I’m for sale and people are buying me. I still see little point in this. via @empireave

There’s a reason they’re called “early adopters.” As with most new technology, not everyone is quick to try, or even like, it. Rick Liebling wrote a great post – Empire Avenue: 5 Stages of Believing – outlining the stages many of us go through before fully embracing something like Twitter, Facebook and now, Empire Avenue. It might take a little while for the site to become more mainstream, but it will certainly be interesting to watch how it evolves as it does.

Have you signed up on Empire Avenue? What are your first thoughts and reactions? Is this the next big social network?

Tags : social media

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