Saturday, July 16, 2011

Why I Left Empire Avenue

I just closed my Empire Avenue account.

First, I want to explain why I joined Empire Avenue to begin with. Within a 3 day period, I had 2 major companies ask if I could do Empire Avenue related work for them. I was not on EA myself. I believe in personally mastering something myself before I work with clients on it. And so, I spent the next 10 weeks or so learning how Empire Avenue worked.

Over these past 2+ months, I have learned a lot. Here are some of the good/bad points:

Empire Avenue as a Social Network

As a social network, Empire Avenue has been fantastic for me. I’ve met a lot of extremely bright people. I’ve made more genuine friends through Empire Avenue in 2 months than I have in over 2 ½ years on Twitter.

I’ve hired several people I connected with as a result of being on Empire Avenue.

I’ve gotten business as a result of being on Empire Avenue that has more than substantiated the time I invested in it.

Empire Avenue as a Measurement Tool

In an ideal world, share price, network scores and dividends paid would have some kind of correlation to actual “value” people are bringing to the world of social media.

The reality is that there is very little correlation. This is partly a flaw on the side of Empire Avenue itself, partly on the side of the networks measured.

I’ll explain a bit about how Empire Avenue works:

  • You buy shares in individuals/brands on Empire Avenue at their current market price. In return, you are paid daily dividends based on the number of shares you own and the “performance” of that stock.
  • Empire Avenue uses some mystery formula to assign activity earnings for each network. These activity earnings, in conjunction with some secret sauce, result in dividends paid to shareholders.
  • The networks Empire Avenue currently tracks are: Twitter, Facebook personal pages, Facebook pages, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube and Empire Avenue itself. In addition, up to 5 “blogs” are counted.
  • Empire Avenue will only count the top 5 networks towards activity earnings/dividends.
  • Every day, Empire Avenue pays out dividends during the 2 hour period starting at 4:15 AM EDT. Dividends are paid out on accounts based on sign-up date.
  • When dividends are paid out on an account, there is also an end of day adjustment to share price that takes place based on activity changes during the previous day versus previous days. An upwards adjustment will be reflected in green numbers. A negative adjustment will either be yellow or red.

Along the way, I have discovered a lot of flaws with Empire Avenue. The biggest ones are these:

  • The system rewards activity over engagement and responsiveness. The more you output, the higher your dividends. There is no quality standard for output.
  • Empire Avenue has activity earnings limits for each network. All of these limits can be reached without actual engagement or responsiveness. Some of the highest earning tickers on Empire Avenue show little or no engagement on their networks.
  • Empire Avenue “scoring” is reliant on being able to pull data from the various social networks’ APIs. I hear daily of people having issues with this. Connections need to be reset.This is not an EAv issue but one due to the networks being measured.
  • From a strictly gaming perspective, many people feel compelled to do things in order to produce higher dividends just to “win.”

I’ll give you an example of the impact: I normally have a really high engagement on Twitter. From day one, my Twitter mentions were not counted. Some days, I get as many as 2,000 mentions. The logical thing is to think this would have a significant impact on my dividends paid out. My mentions were fixed recently and it had zero impact on dividends. This is likely because without them being counted and other Twitter factors (my followers/friends, tweets and Twitter-based retweets), I was probably at the maximum activity level for Twitter. I really hate to admit this, but while my mentions weren’t being counted on EAv, I felt my desire to engage drop along with it. (As an aside: a bit of irony is that as I engaged less and less on Twitter, my Klout score increased.)

Conversely, the last week, I uploaded a bunch of pictures to Flickr – from the park across the street to me, pictures of my cats, to loads of scanned pictures. What happened? My dividends shot up just by increasing my output without increasing engagement.

My Conclusions

I’ve realized that Empire Avenue is 2 things:

  1. A superb tool with a great deal of potential for networking and keeping your personal/business brand in front of people. It is social network itself.
  2. It’s a game that rewards activity over engagement/interaction.

From a strictly gaming perspective, I’ve learned what I want to. I understand enough about how the gaming part of it works.

I’ve made a lot of solid friendships as a result of Empire Avenue. I’ve gotten to know some new people. I’ve gotten to better know some other people. From that perspective, I’ve won and it’s made every minute spent on the game worthwhile.

I have talked with a few trusted friends about how I was feeling about EA. Although it is just a game and it is virtual currency and not real money, I didn’t want to just let my share price nosedive and negatively impact people. I felt the best thing to do right now was to simply delete my EAv account and start over when I've gotten some work projects dealt with and after a long vacation.

I’ve played EA as a game. When I come back, I want to play it for strictly networking. I don’t want to make my success in EA about my share price, dividends paid or what my net wealth is. But I want it to be about real connections made with real people. If EA is a game based on rewarding activity level, so be it. But I want to measure my own success based on being the signal and not the noise.

29 comments:

Nakeva said...

Sharon, thank the social media goddesses you spoke up with an educated view! These points are in my own notes on what EA is and what it is not. Having been through the same deal as you with the Twitter mentions, I know the frustration. My desire to produce content or engage that often stemmed from Empire Avenue downgrading my Tumblr blog to an RSS feed which means it didn't count towards my activity. Discussions made it seem like they get to decide if one person's tumblr blog is actually a blog or just an RSS feed. Watching several others continue to gain in value based on having one, two or more Tumblr blogs attached made me feel singled out. Furthermore, being told "This is a blog post because you used your own words. We counted three" or "This is not a blog post because all you did was reblog and not add your own words." Yet, Amplify, Posterous and even Wordpress can be used in the same manner.

Why is this relevant to your post? Because after thinking about it and watching my dividends and share price dip while I wait for the EA Gods to decide what a blog is: I realized the same thing you did, that they reward activity with little to no engagement and use human means and morals to decide the "quality" of any content flowing through (as far as Tumblr is concerned). With the Twitter mentions issues, Tumblr/blog BS and watching how others were presumably making their numbers I realized I was caught up in the fun of the game side and began to feel less enthusiastic to participate.

For me, I'm still there to challenge myself with what content I can produce and create value and engagement. Until I am satisfied with that or I get bored otherwise, I plan to stick around and make it work for me. Its been a pleasure meeting you there and glad to keep up the connection via Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc. You are someone to admire and appreciate in the world of women in business and social media. Rock THAT!

SharonTucci said...

Nakeva, thanks for your thoughtful response! Your words added some solid info to the issues I was getting at. I have confidence in Dups and the EA team that things will get sorted in a way that makes sense. You rock!

Libdrone said...

Bravissima!

You are very correct that as it stands now, EAv rewards spam more than engagement, but I am genuinely hopeful that as the connected networks themselves mature and (hopefully) provide better data EAv may be able to do better at recognizing and rewarding real engagement.

In the meantime, I continue to meet amazing people almost every day it seems. (And I confess that I probably Am a bit addicted to EAv and all the socializing that goes along with it...but the moment it stops being fun, I will stop ;)

SharonTucci said...

Libdrone, tysm for your comment. I agree - things will improve over time. Gathering accurate data is more of an issue I think than anything.

Michael Q Todd said...

I cannot see why having you share price go down would negatively impact people. Dividends would still be good from your Twitter and FB activity. Empire Avenue is just in it's very early days and there are huge plans for it. Lots of connecting yet to be done I feel. Increasing my efforts on it by the day and look forward to the real life luxury goods and 4sq and G+ hookups

Domino Oracle said...

Sharon,
Sorry to see you taking the delete route, but glad you'll be coming back and taking a different approach to EAv. In the meantime, see you around FB :)

Cybersavvy UK said...

So this was my enormous refund earlier? I understand all your points and think it's a shame that in a year eav hasn't addressed the quality vs quantity issues. Thanks for writing the post and good luck with your off-Avenue projects. I'll continue to follow you elsewhere!

Libdrone said...

You are Such a forward thinker Michael. With this weekends' Second Life exodus from G+ I frankly question just how successful the big G will ultimately be in social media. What I don't question is that 10 years from now, whatever web sites we're using and whatever technology tools and sets we use to connect, many of the amazing folks I continue to meet each day will still be my friends and be in my life. And That is certainly something I celebrate ;)

Frédéric Dénommé said...

Hello Sharon -
Really enjoyed getting to know you a little bit troughout your EAv experience -
Looking forward to your big return and wishing you the best in your next endeavours xD

John Gushue said...

Not good news at all. I always enjoyed seeing you around the Avenue.

Stay in touch!

GregoryMattJackson said...

Dear Sharon,

Can't wait for your return. I respect a you and understand. I'm blessed to have your sincere connection with me on Twitter. I'm on LinkedIn as well and always look for people of your character to connect with. Your content and integrity is admirable. You have my full support. Gregory Matt Jackson

JakeWobegon said...

There's no question EAv has its flaws, but I always am a "Big Picture" person. The Big Picture is that without EAv, I never would have had a chance to grow close to you, Sharon, or even MEET any of the rest of you. My life is better because of EAv because my life is better with y'all in it.

I've experienced some significant frustrations with the game the past few weeks, but I'm willing to deal with those frustrations if it allows me to make friends like you.

So now we see the great Irony in all of this: the "game" encourages quantity over engagement, yet it has been what has allowed someone like me to even engage with all of you at all.

I'm not going to lie...as much as I understand & respect your reasons for leaving, I'm heartbroken because of it.

Bob Warren said...

sexy, it would of took me 3 months to type this out, I love Ya

Peter said...

Hi Sharon, sad to see you go but I do understand.

I'm still having fun but other aspects of my life suffer as a consequence, that's life I guess.

If I'm ever tempted to leave, I hope I do it as graciously as you have!

All the best to you whatever you do and I'm glad you got some good stuff out of empire Avenue becasue you certainly put a lot in.

All the very best, Peter

William Buist said...

Sorry to see you go Sharon, as one of the people who got to know you because of EA I'm particularly glad that you were there.

My approach is your new one, for me it's about the networking, and the business flows that can result.

Your views and comments added a lot of insight for me, thank you.

Jim Spencer said...

Sharon, I appreciate your choices and your post. So, now I will just have to try harder to get to know you through other social channels. I can do that.

I stumbled across EA on 4/25/11 and have met some wonderful people as well. I am especially grateful that they are not the same people I know on other social networks.

Although I have spent a lot of time on EA, overall it has encouraged me to produce more content, which is a good thing.

At the top though it is the people. Sorry to see you go, but completely understand.

Jane Chin said...

Shocked but also not surprised, Sharon. You've touched upon key concerns I have with EA. Activities are rewarded, not quality. So unless I'm strapped to the computer constantly buying/liking/posting messages or have a team to do this, then people may focus so much on the share price/dividends that this comes at the expense of true interactions.

That said, my involvement in the writing community has been very rewarding and so I'll keep on playing. Eventually I'd like nothing more than not needing to care about constant "buying/culling/selling" and focus primarily on creating connections. I think I can get there, but I will have to rethink my strategy.

beej said...

Hi Sharon

I liked your post, and think some of the things you say have happened to me, as well. Also, even though my Twitter activity has dropped significantly ever since I'd joined G+, my Klout score has risen as well. But I'm sticking with EA for now. Was fun playing with you!

Beth said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Empire Avenue. I am a newer user there. We never connected but some others were sad to see you go. Some of your insights shall help me alot in the game. Be blessed.

BossDivas Jewelry said...

Thank you for sharing your knowledge about EA. Im a "newbie" and I found this article to be very informative. Good luck!

Ray Beckerman said...

What a fantastic article Sharon!!! You really put your finger on it :)

autismfamily said...

Thanks Sharon for your guidance on Empire Avenue. I just marked two months yesterday and hoping to pick up my writing pace at various blogs. Interesting info you shared about twitter and flickr. My twitter went down a few digits and just today went back up, but I was focusing on my facebook and maintaining that. I am more active again in twitter chats - thanks in part to my enthusiasm with empire avenue and I met many people.

Looking forward to your return and will see you on twitter.

Jimstravels.com said...

Sharon, I think you did a great job of breaking it down. I have to say, if nothing else, I've met some great people on here. Obviously, you and I met previously from your trips to Los Angeles, but there really are countless others I feel are as close as some of the Twitter relationships over the years. I actually have places to visit with couches to sleep on all over the world. Yes, it's far from perfect, but I too look at the big picture, and I'm hoping some of the shortcomings of the site are polished.

See you again soon,

Jim

Peter Wright said...

Really sorry to see you go Sharon, but fully understand your decision.

Look forward to you coming back.

Good luck.

Peter Wright

juliemarg said...

Sharon,

Thanks for your great post. I'm the one who has capped her shares ... I don't see EA reaching a larger audience unless there is a way to dabble in it. The current scoring requires a player to be constantly vigilant or her share price roller coasters. And that's not really fun.

So I'm experimenting with a different playing style. I'm sorry you're going as I was looking forward to getting to know you better.

Julie

lance.rangerbob said...

Sad to see you go. I know (e)ITCH also packed it in for the very same reasons. Also, the same reason I have disconnect many of my "real content" feeds from the site.

I have no desire to spend hour producing fake content either to bring up an imaginary share price either.

Yup.. just a "game".. but I think Mafia Wars by Zynga was better. #js

Kees den Hartigh said...

I fully understand and respect your decision. Eav is a huge time sink. I am fortunate to have the time to spend since I am not gainfully employed and I still believe there may be a slim chance that there is value in the various EAv accounts I am nurturing.

clearwaterhomes said...

Sharon,
I'm just disappointed I didn't get to know you better before you left but I completely understand.

As I approach my 2 month mark find myself struggling with some of the same issues. We operate a successful business and most our clients connect with us online so I refuse to put junk out to gain extra divs. I will say the inital draw was the obvious SEO benefits I could see since I didn't ever expect to get direct business from Eav since we're so targeted - but strengthening my social presence and having the support of EAV members for my blogs, videos and more all really does helps my real business.

That being said I have to say I am guilty of playing the game in other aspects that don't impact my business by posting more pics than ever before. It is a hobby, I just never had a reason to share so many so often (your point about oversharing vs picking just the best ones for example is well taken. I also started a tumblr blog for fun. While it's been kind of liberating I'd have never done it if it weren't for the extra divs if being completely honest.

What I have found is that both of the last 2 have given me an unexpected "fun" outlet that I didn't have before so I appreciate that and the people I've met and am still meeting are absolutely the best part but I can't help shaking the rat on a treadmill feeling and have already started investing more in people I find interesting and engaging than just best divs and BOTs.

I look forward to getting to know you better in #SocialEmpire because I've always been struck by your wisdom and authenticity.

Wishing you the best in whatever you decide is best for you along this journey Thanks for sharing your insights and journey ;D Cyndee

bewitched in salem said...

I very much enjoyed reading your post Sharon.

I have to admit I do enjoy it when my share price is on the rise(hey nobody likes being down!)but, share price certainly holds no importance concerning my EA experience.

The interaction with and information learned from fellow EA'rs is the "High" that keeps me coming back.

I started my EA journey about 6 months ago but have not been able to devote any time navigating it until this past month. In this short time I have made important real world connections, via which I have learned invaluable information that I will be able to apply to my business and personal life for years to come!

The EA community is now my launching pad when I need to research virtually anything!

Enjoy
Bill / BIS

PS: It's good to see your return to the EA experience.