When I first noticed Empire Avenue, I derisively dismissed it as “Farmville for the Twitter crowd”. It sounded like just another game designed to waste hours of time to meaninglessly raise arbitrary numbers. I had already witnessed (and experienced) the same thing from the various Zynga games that clutter Facebook, many of which were direct clones of each other with a new skin slapped on top. The real standouts in social gaming, like Travian, are few and far between.
About a month ago, I started using it on the recommendation of Phil Windley. He pointed out that it operates as somewhat of a reputation system. The idea behind it is that each person or company that joins it becomes a stock you can buy or sell, complete with daily dividends based on activity. By getting people to buy your virtual stock, they are, in effect, vouching for you as an online presence.
While much of your “value” on Empire Avenue is determined by the obvious “have more people buy your stock than sell it”, a lot of it is driven by your activity on the social networks that it tracks. The way in which is does this assesses both the quantity of your activity and the quality of it. For instance, you can post to Facebook a hundred times a day, but if you aren’t generating any feedback activity via comments and likes, you won’t score as well as someone who is less active but manages to generate interaction.
PeerIndex and Klout both employ variations on this theme. Both sites have the goal of telling you, on a one to one hundred scale, what kind of social media value you have. Both measure the quantity and quality of your interactions to spit out a number showing how important they think you are. Empire Avenue does the same thing with the various social networks you connect, but those scores aren’t the value in any of them.
No, the value is in seeing what kinds of interaction you spur, and encouraging you to try and create more interaction. As silly as it is, we humans love to watch “good” numbers go up, and those scores encourage you to do more to make it happen. It means both using the various mediums more frequently and posting useful content that encourages participation.
Now these things are not an ends in and of themselves, but rather a way to accomplish a much better goal. The whole point of social networking is networking.You know, the whole time-tested elbow-rubbing, business-card-trading schmooze-fest that becomes really, REALLY important when you, say, are looking for new employment. My use of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs landed me half the interviews I went on and eventually lead to the position I have now.
Given the immense value of your personal networks, any tool that encourages you to better utilize and interact with it, no matter how silly it may seem, is a Good Thing(TM). I’d strongly recommend just checking them out, even if you determine that you’re fine without them.