Will Empire Avenue Turn Influence Upside Down?

empire_avenue_logoMany participants in social media are serious about their perceived influence. And that influence tends to have a number attached – Twitter follower-to-followed ratio, Facebook friend count, score on one of the growing number of influence measurement tools, etc. Empire Avenue calls itself a “social influence stock market” to buy, sell and trade virtual shares in people and businesses – with user influence based on the value of their own shares as they trade in this parallel social ecosystem. And, it’s lots of fun.

Empire Avenue ties users’ virtual share price to activity on the site, reach and engagement on external social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and blogs. The more active and influential a user is on the site and around the web, the higher his or her virtual share price.

The social network basics are covered – users can connect with others who share the same interests, follow those they consider thought-leaders and check out businesses. Then it gets interesting, as activity on Empire Avenue and other social networks determine users’ share price and their level of influence. (Within minutes of joining the site, some of my shares were snapped up by, I assume, a speculator. I had yet to connect any Facebook friends, Twitter followers or blog activity.)

Created by former BioWare, Electronic Arts and MySQL employees, Empire Avenue – as with the major social networks – appears scaled for both the casual participant as well as brands and influencers who want to get exposure. It’s a great game that intersects with both users’ personal and online lives.

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The site touts an upcoming Avenue Rewards platform that lets users redeem the virtual currency earned on Empire Avenue for discounts and other offers from businesses relevant to them. I asked Tom Ohle, VP of Marketing and Media Relations for Empire Avenue to tell us more about the rewards program and the site’s revenue model. He told me, “The ad platform and Avenue Rewards are coming in the near future; we want to make sure the core site is working as well as possible before rolling them out.”

“Avenue Rewards will be first out the gate,” Ohle said, “And will initially allow businesses to offer discounts and other rewards to ‘shareholders’ and others on the site. Users will exchange their earned Eaves (our virtual currency) for the reward they want. We’ll be adding additional reward types soon after we get the platform out the door, like allowing businesses to offer rewards specifically to users who are most influential, whether locally or within a certain interest group, as well as sponsorship of our “Communities” and more.”

Ohle provided more details on the ad platform. “The idea is to put some control and choice back into the hands of the people carrying the advertising. Whereas many current ad networks will deliver ads based on keywords that tend to be irrelevant to what the person is actually on the site for, we really want to match up influencers (which includes the everyday social media user, as everyone’s an influencer!) with brands they already like and want to promote to their friends/readers/followers/whoever. After all, if someone is coming to read your content, they’re likely interested in the same things as you; if you’re willing to say, ‘This is a brand I like, so maybe you’d like to check it out, too,’ your audience is more likely to pay attention to the ad. Better relevance ultimately leads to better click-throughs. We’re also going to be passing along the majority of ad revenue to the influencer.”


Empire Avenue is one to watch.