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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Canada Day on Empire Avenue

Empire Avenue is giving out a special achievement and bonus eaves to all players who invest in 10 Canadians from now until July 3rd (GMT). These can be people you already invested in or brand new people. There is no minimum number of eaves required.

As a Canadian, I've been getting non-Canadan EA players asking me for suggestions on who to buy. I thought it might be useful to put together a list. So let's go:

Dups - the CEO of Empire Avenue
John Gushue - with CBC - an early Empire Avenue evangelist and a super nice guy
Michelle Gudz -a self-described geeky running vegan foodie
Eleanor Thibeau - one look at her avatar and you know she's interesting
Jerry Aulenbach - I don't know Jerry, but for the BACON lovers out there, he's a buy!
Kevin - a Montrealer who is a cool dude and hovering around the 100/share mark
Janis La Couvée - a super friendly woman from Victoria, BC.
Cendrine Marrouat - just look at her graph and you'll see she's soaring!
Stu Rader - you won't find much friendlier than Stu on EA! Nice divs & consistent.
Girlfriend Social - Amanda is a networking goddess. Every woman on EA should know her!

Of course, there's me too :) You can find me here. I found out today - just in time for Canada Day - that I'm now #1 in all of Canada for weekly earnings.

There are thousands of great Canadians you can find to invest in on Empire Avenue. This selection was more or less randomly chosen. (Please don't be offended if I didn't include you!)

Have a happy Canada Day!


P.P.S. Feel free to recommend your favorite Canadian on Empire Avenue in the comments :)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

So You Wanna Win At Empire Avenue?

I was curious to know what the top performers on Empire Avenue are doing activity wise in order to generate the high dividend pay-outs and share prices they are.

I went through the top 25 I own shares in in terms of share price. I did not include those with a weekly dividend yield under 0.80%. I was curious about the activity levels. What follows are the weekly averages of the 25:

EA: 379 --- high 803

FB Posts: 117 -- high 311

FB Comments: 115 -- high 409

FB Likes: 295 -- high 1008

FB Page posts: 30 -- note only 9 of the 25 have FB Pages which recorded activity for the week -- high 70

FB Page Comments: 30 -- high 640

FB Page Likes: 254 -- high 551

Tweets: 462 -- high 1968

Flickr: 14 -- note only 14 of the 25 had Flickr activity for the week -- high 34

YouTube: 74 -- high 213

Blog Posts: 453 - note 2 did not have blog posts -- high 1495

Avg Share Price: 126.15

Avg Div/Share: 1.37

Note: To avoid distorting averages, I only based the above #'s on the average of people with activity.

Although there are a lot of other factors that comprise the EA "secret sauce" hopefully this can give you at least an idea of activity levels of some of the top performers on Empire Avenue.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Is Empire Avenue the Cure for Social Media Procrastination?

I joined Empire Avenue a few days ago. Oddly enough, I hadn't really heard much about it before last week. I am trying to secure a gig for my company to provide social media training for a large media company. I was asked last week if I was on Empire Avenue myself and if I could incorporate this into the proposal I am working on. I had planned on doing this legwork over the weekend, then I saw a tweet from a Twitter follower mentioning Empire Avenue and decided to dive in. I was addicted within minutes.

If you aren't yet on Empire Avenue, I'll get to explaining the benefits of it in a bit and provide you with some tips on getting started. If you are already on there, you can buy shares in me at (e)SHARONHAYES. After all, you know I'm a social media junkie and a fairly solid investment :-)
What Is Empire Avenue?
Empire Avenue is a virtual stock exchange where you can buy/sell shares in individuals and organizations who are active in social media. You build your own portfolio and make eaves (e= Empire Avenue's currency) based on your own social media activity, dividends earned on the activity of those you invest in and profits (or losses) by trading in shares.
Social media activity that is currently tabulated are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr. Blogs are also taken into account but scoring is not made public as of yet. Of course, your activity on Empire Avenue itself generates a score.
Is This Just A Game?
From a business/organizational perspective, it's a great way to get additional exposure.
From a personal perspective, it's provides a great networking opportunity.
For me, the biggest benefit is in timing. You see, I've been pretty consistent in social media with Twitter. But outside of Twitter, I've not been "good" at doing the things I should be doing. Since the year started, I've been stalling on formulating and following a solid plan to work on my own social media marketing more consistently. Empire Avenue has been the key that has finally made me make the plan I should I have created a couple of years ago - and start to put it into action. Take this blog for example. Whenever I have had a post to it, I have gotten anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 visitors. Yet this is my first post since December 2009!
Since your activity earnings on Empire Avenue are calculated on a daily basis, if you are a procrastinator like me, it is a great way to make sure you stay on track with your social media marketing efforts.
Some people do play it as a game. Some play it as an ego booster. There are some that do things just to manipulate their numbers. Since your home page shows the collective feeds of those you buy shares in, some people are using it as a content aggregator.
I'll be posting tomorrow some tips about getting started on Empire Avenue. If you want to set up an account there, you can use this link and you'll get 2,000 extra eaves. Make sure to follow my blog so you won't miss the tips!
'Til next time!


Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Are you following me on Twitter?

I'm amazed how fast nifty tools are coming out that are making Twitter Lists more useful. One of my own favorites so far is ConversationList. I'll give you a rundown on what ConversationList is.

ConversationList creates a dynamically generated daily list of people the list creator communicates with on a daily basis.

To create a ConversationList of your own, you can go to ConversationList's website, use Twitter authentication and then you'll be able to adjust your settings. You can choose whether you wish to include only those people you have sent actual @ replies to (as opposed to those mentioned elsewhere in your tweet), you can choose how often you need to mention someone before they are included and you can also choose to always exclude or income specific users.

Note: Twitter has a cap on 20 Twitter lists created per person. If you are at this limit, you will need to delete one before you can use ConversationList. You do NOT need to create a list called ConversationList. This will be automatically done for you.

Here's why I think ConversationList is a great idea: it will show your followers who else you follow that actually engage with users. If you have a large following yourself, it is a great way to give exposure to newer people using Twitter. If your newer and interact with others, it can help you get exposure as you get added to these lists. I think it's a great way to encourage people to interact with others too.

There are a couple of cons to ConversationList: There is a limit of 25 people that can be included. I communicate with 100+ a day so I'd love to see the number higher. Like with anything else, there is potential for abuse. Since the list is dynamically generate each day - this means that every time you get added to a list (or re-listed), their ConversationList will appear at the top of the lists you appear on. Given the 25 listing limit, I don't think this poses a serious problem.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

How to Follow A Twitter List

Are you following me on Twitter?

Whether you love or hate Twitter lists, it's likely that you'll agree one feature that would make it much more useful is the ability to follow someone's list. There is a way to do it - and the great news is that it will take only a couple of minutes.

There are 2 ways to do this - short way:

1. Go to and create an account if you don't already have one then log in.

2. On the main page is a box "Follow a Twitter List" - copy and paste the URL for the list - for example:

3. Click on the "Follow" button & it will create a page where you can choose who you would like to follow.

Here is the results page for the above

Here are the steps for the long method:

1. Go to and click on the yellow icon "add it to your site"

2. In the "Enter Twitter Users Box" put in the full URL of the list you want to follow. For example:

3. Click on the "find" button next to where you entered the URL. It will then populate the box below with all of the users from the list.

4. If this is just for you to follow a list, you don't really need to worry about a description. If you want to share the list with your followers I suggest putting a description in.

5. If you have an existing Tweepl account, you'll need to enter your information in the box otherwise you can create an account.

6. Tweepl will use OAuth to verify your account with Twitter.

7. You'll need to verify your account if you haven't use Tweepl before.

8. Boom - you can now go to the list URL and follow everyone at one time.

Here's an example of the list I set up for my "inspiration" list:

Note: as of writing this, can only import the first page of members of a list. Hopefully they'll figure out a way to handle multiple pages in the future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Measure Social Media's Effectiveness

I've followed many debates on how the term "ROI" is being misused in social media. Josh S. Peters (one of my partners on Branded Tweets) has written a couple of posts about ROI. In the first, he explained why it was being inappropriately applied to a campaign The Gap had run. Josh followed up with a post that concluded the use of KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) is a more relevant way to measure the effectiveness of social media usage. I was originally going to comment on his latest post, then realized it was worthy of an entire post on its own.

The same debates about social media are ones that happened over a decade ago with online marketing in general. In the mid-90's, banner advertising was popular. Some people believed that all banner advertising campaigns needed to have an associated ROI. Others believed that banner advertising had to have a call to action otherwise it wasn't effective. The reality is banner advertising back then - and still today - can serve a variety of functions where ROI isn't even an immediate factor. The same kind of rhetoric is being spouted about social media today.

ROI has never, and will never be, the single most important metric that can be applied to marketing. This is true both offline and online. Consider Superbowl ads. The costs of producing and running an ad are enormous. Where does ROI come into play for Superbowl ads? In the short-term, it doesn't.

I agree KPI's are important - what I don't agree with is that KPI's are relevant on their own to social media. Benchmarks, metrics tied into business goals, other kinds of data that are quantifiable and that can be tracked back to social media efforts. But KPI's typically refer to the overall marketing efforts of an organization. Unless a company is *only* using social media for marketing and no other marketing methods, the metrics associated with the impact of social media are just part of the arsenal of what a company does to market.

Here's an example: let's say John sees your ad on TV for the Gizmo - a new product your company is offering. John uses Twitter and asks if anyone has used Gizmo. As part of your company's social media efforts, you have a monitoring campaign tracking mentions of Gizmo. You engage John, answer his questions and John buys Gizmo.

What metrics should you consider here? More importantly, what data should be gathered?

Where things become even more challenging is that it's rare that a company that uses social media will just have one objective. It's more likely that a company will have multiple objectives when using social media - some of which may not even come under the umbrella of marketing. Two examples: customer support and recruiting. Where it becomes even trickier is that business/organizational use of social media is becoming increasingly complicated.

We can compare the evolution of social media to how the Internet itself has progressed. Whereas ten or twelve years ago it was acceptable to just slap up a website - the build it and they will come mentality - things have changed and the same is true with social media. It's not simply enough to have a presence on Twitter, but you need to have objectives for using Twitter. Having a Facebook fan page isn't enough. There has to be some strategy behind it.

With an increasing number of Internet users and organizations looking to social media to get answers, conduct research etc, is it really even necessary at this point to consider social media in isolation when it comes to any kind of quantitative analysis? Would it not be better to look at things from an overall integrated campaign perspective where social media may be just one component? Then under the umbrella of social media, shouldn't we look at individual sites and applications and the metrics just as we would look at PPC advertising, banner advertising, etc?

Consider this question: what distinguishes "social media" from everything else that existed before? I first got started online when I was 16 years old - 25 years ago. What did I do online? I used forums on bulletin board services. Over a decade ago, I started to work with clients on ways they could engage prospects and customers. The term "social media" may be relatively new but what it means isn't.

What has changed is three-fold: 1. the speed at which information/news can be disseminated; 2. the strength of some very dominant presences not tied to specific companies (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc) and 3. the voice of the consumer has more impact. The end result is that consumers today are much more empowered than they were even a few years ago.

Where we are now is that a lot of traditional marketing/corporate folks are just plain confused about how to handle it. There is simply too much conflicting information about what social media really is and there's this unnecessary "push" to look at it in isolation - which is completely unnecessary. From an organizational standpoint, you should be defining what kind of social media presence you want to have. From there, you should then be looking at your use of social media in conjunction with everything else for individual campaigns - your website, your blog, your email marketing, your PPC advertising, your banner advertising, your online PR, your offline advertising, your offline PR, and so on. Now with this more integrated approach, reliance on KPI's is relevant - with social media being just one part of overall efforts yet with individual benchmarks being relevant to individual social media activities.

As more and more consumers become involved in social media activities, I think we'll see a natural progression where organizations almost automatically integrate social media into their business models. Whether this will happen in three, five or ten years - I have no idea. But it is coming. And sometime between now and then the accepted standards will evolve to where "social media marketing" as we know it will no longer be a catch-all phrase.