I joined Empire Avenue, in November 2012, as a fun way to help promote myself. They had a unique way of networking with other marketers, entrepreneur, brands, and just regular folks. The concept was an online marketing and influence evaluation tool that was also a fun, virtual stock market game.
Players are bought and sold like companies in the stock market. One links each of their Social Networks to Empire Avenue to receive an evaluation score and, based on those score, their shares will “pay” a dividend. Shareholders then buy and sell shares based on those dividends, or the intrinsic value of a player’s online social activity.
The virtual currency used is called Eaves. You gain Eaves when other buy your shares, when dividends from shares you own pay dividends, by doing missions, or by purchasing them with real money. This currency can then be used to invest in others, purchase game upgrades, or used as incentive for others to complete missions.
The missions are a big deal. Let us say you have a post or video that you need help getting out into the world. On Empire Avenue, you could (at one time) create a mission offering an Eaves amount, and could reasonably expect that people who clicked the mission would engage with it… they would “like” or share it, and/or comments on it.
Before accepting a mission, players have the opportunity to preview the content they are being asked to engage with, and if is something that did not fit into their network, they could pass on it. If a player “stole” eaves by not engaging, you could then try to message them, block them, or even report the abuse.
It was not only a valuable tool, but a fun game, and invaluable for a small, nitch, local marketer like myself. I could never expect to reach the stock price and dividends of the big dogs, but it did help me become something akin to a big fish in a little pond. Empire Avenue has helped my with everything from my Real Estate business to my campaign to be elected as School Director, and for that, I am grateful.
Decent Into Madness
The fall of many great Social Network sites seems to be when they try to monetize what they have created, and the quest for cash has them lose sight of what made them popular. Empire Avenue is now going through a Jump-the-Shark moment in slow motion.
Here are some of the problems I see…
The creation of dual currency. We talked about the original currency, Eaves, but a while back Empire Avenue created Vees. This secondary currency is very different, and cannot be used to buy shares or upgrades. This new currency can be used as mission incentives, but can then can only be redeemed for prizes (like an Amazon card) or services/products in the “People’s Market” being sold by other players.
In the real world market, one can buy and exchange different currencies. I can take my US Dollars and buy Gold, and exchange Gold for US Dollars. The great problem with Empire Avenue’s two currency system is one cannot use Vees to buy Eaves, or Eaves to buy Vees.
Vees can be said to have a Eaves value. When we look at the real money cost of both, we could say 1 Vee is worth roughly 347 Eaves. I can understand why they would not allow Eaves to be converted to Vees… a Eave wealthy person could convert to Vees, then basically cash out with a massive Amazon gift-card purchase. If you have many people doing that, the company goes broke. However, there is no reason Vees can’t be exchanged to Eaves, or buy upgrades, which cost the company nothing.
It is because Vees have such a limited use that few players use them… at least in my opinion.
An over-reliance on the “Leaders Community” is pushing people out of the game. The Leaders Community program was devised to raise much-needed funding. When a person spends $100 to become a member, and they get a fancy badge on their profile, and some “free” game upgrades. What also happened was the creation of a belief that these “Leaders” were actually leaders deserving of a greater voice.
I’m not going to sugar coat this… the “Leaders Community” is just a group of people who paid for the title. They did not earn the title leader. Not all Leaders are bad, but I have seen crap players and new players as “Leaders” and… I have nothing good to say about that.
Empire Avenue now encourages and provides incentives for non-engagement. In the past, a person could post a mission offering x-number of Eaves, asking that if you accept the mission and the eaves, that you share, like, comment on, or otherwise engage with the linked content. If you took the eaves without engagement, you were a Mission Thief.
In today’s Empire Avenue, a person completes the mission the moment they click the mission link to view the content. A person can sit there for hours clicking without engaging, amassing unearned “wealth,” and completely disrupting and rigging the game. Cheaters are no longer cheaters, completely destroying the value to legitimate marketers and game players.
The new mission grading system eliminates mission abuse. You know, that doesn’t sound bad, right? Unfortunately, it is done based on the idea that a mission is legitimately complete when the mission link is clicked, and no further action can be required.
To get an “A” grade on a mission one cannot ask for any engagement with the content you are asking people to view. In this way, a mission creator can never complain that someone is abusing the system or stealing eaves.
How do you eliminate robbery? You make it illegal for citizens not to hand over their wallet and all their money anytime someone asks. The expectation is honest citizens will obey the law, and the thieves… What thieves?
Evaluation algorithms are failing. I have had concerns about this for a while, and this may not be a new thing. The latest example came when I Tweeted the names of my “Top Conversations” for the week, as per Empire Avenue. An offended person, probably thinking I was Spamming her, replied that she had no idea who I was. I used Twitters advance search, and found not one exchange between the two of us. Where was Empire Avenue pulling the data from that said we had a Twitter conversation as some point in the last week?
Blind Leading the Blind
I could go on with this rant, but here is the ultimate conclusion. Empire Avenue either isn’t making money, or is not making the kind of money that the creators want. I can’t fault them in wanting to make a return on their investment. However, when their first attempt failed (the creation of Vees), their Plan-B was the creation of the paid Leader status.
They then attempted to tap into the knowledge-pool of Leaders to find the best ways to monetize Empire Avenue. The problem with that was the only qualification for being a Leader is the willingness to pay the $100 fee. The backlash was so intense that their own internal Empire Avenue General Discussion group had to be closed.
Empire Avenue needs to remember what made them popular, or their days are done.