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Empire Avenue - an overview for financial services brands

There has been a lot of buzz about Empire Avenue recently, so I thought I’d do a quick review for those of you that are curious about what it offers.

EA is a social game that lets you buy and sell virtual shares in people and brands.  And they can do the same with you, using EA’s virtual currency (called Eaves – see what they did there?).

Your market value is based on your activity on key social networks (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr), your social profile (blogs you author) and your activity within EA itself (connections you make, investors and investments, and so on).

What has been touted as ‘game changing’ about EA (aside from the fact that as a social activity it is incredibly ‘sticky’), is the fact that this market valuation element allows you to easily identify online influencers for subsequent engagement.

This nod to social influence is further endorsed by the ‘advertising’ mechanism: influencers are able to select what advertising they carry on their portfolio and will receive revenue from the advertising revenue they generate*.

This is an interesting idea and I can see a couple of key ways that financial services brands could use EA:

  1. As a means of finding influencers and engaging with them either within the system or via their other social spaces
  2. By increasingly your brand’s visibility by having a verified company presence on EA and letting people buy and sell shares in your company

I have a couple of reservations about both of these, however.

EA and influencers

Firstly, it does provide a way of finding online influencers, but EA does not have a very user-friendly interface.  It is not simple to find people that are authoritative on a specific subject or within a limited geography.  Personally, I think I would have better results using my existing influencer mapping methods than using EA.

What it does provide is another metric by which you can assess the level of someone’s influence.  It is also recognized as a more relevant evaluation than that of Klout or PeerIndex because it directly relates to your activity in social spaces – if you stop posting, your shares will drop (heaven forbid we should ever have an offline holiday!)

But EA share price is not the be all and end all of influence.  90% of influencer assessment is still qualitative as a far as I’m concerned, to my mind, you need to understand what someone has to say and see how this is received by the community to assess their real influence and nothing beats manual research and review for making this call.  The EA stock price is just another indicator to help confirm my assessment.

In theory, you could also use these influencers to advertise your brand on EA but from what I can tell, these advertisements are intended to promote your brand’s presence in EA itself.  If this is the case, I’m not convinced that there is any real-world value to this – all you are advertising is your brand’s presence on EA (not the brand or a brand message itself)

At best you are only showing a loose brand association to the influencer based on how much of a punt they think you are within the confines of the system, rather than any real-world endorsement.  If you want to see what an influencer really thinks, it is far better to visit their blog and get a feel for what they are actually saying about your brand and try and earn their endorsement in this space!

What EA does offer is a means for a light-touch connection with influencers – it is a neat bit of acknowledgement for your brand to buy shares in an influencer as it provides a simple way to let them know that you are present and respectful of their power whilst also offering them something in return.

It doesn’t replace real engagement but it could form part of your wider influencer engagement strategy.

EA and financial services brands

Secondly, I am not convinced yet as to the business benefit of having a brand presence on EA (or to flip that; what value would you be bringing to your audience by having a presence on there?)

A couple of big brands have taken the plunge and set up profiles already (and I guess this early adopter status has some value in itself if your brand is seen as a leader in social media).

Ford is one such brand (I haven't discovered any financial services brands on EA yet) that seems to be doing this quite diligently –having a portfolio page and also a Ford community on EA.

These are areas where Ford can engage in dialogue with fans – however, it seems as if other social spaces are better setup to do this (Facebook, Twitter, etc), as they have established fan mechanisms and associated reach and engagement.  Given this, I’m not convinced of the benefit or reaching people in this additional way.

Additionally, any investment activity or connections you achieved within EA may not be due to advocacy as you might be tempted to think – they could just be simple game mechanics.

So, in summary, I’m not yet convinced that EA is the next big thing.  If you are a brand that is confident and active in social spaces, it might be fun to create a brand profile and have a play around (it is free and if nothing else, it will give you a feel for how influential your brand is in social spaces).

On the other hand, if you cannot yet clearly define the business and customer benefits of adding your brand to EA, then it probably isn’t a priority activity for you right now.

*I’m assuming that this is virtual revenue but can’t see this clearly explained anywhere on the site!

PS:  If you want to have a play on EA, you can always start by investing in me - my ticker is DLSBTN


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19 Mar 2009


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Social Banks is a group that aims to discuss trends and debate as the financial services take their first steps into social media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc..debate all here.

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