There was a time when Empire Avenue seemed like a great idea to a lot of people. A ‘social stock market‘ game, your engagement levels and popularity on social media services affected your virtual share price, and you could invest in people you thought would perform well, potentially earning real-world rewards.
The novelty appears to have worn off for many users, but now the Canadian startup has unveiled a refreshed focus.
Empire Avenue has relaunched today with a new design built around a central dashboard. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Foursquare, LinkedIn and WordPress.com are supported (with Google+ having been added from today, too). The gaming element is still there, but the focus is more on building your social networks to be more effective outside of the game, by using the mechanics within it.
The aim here is to allow users to, as Empire Avenue puts it, “expand, engage and evaluate social networks.”
To that end, the startup’s back-end technology has been re-appropriated to allow users to clearly see data about their networks clearly, and even interact with them, via a redesigned interface. As well as viewing stats about your accounts, you can do things such as reply to and retweet tweets, comment on Facebook content, watch YouTube videos, view Instagram photos and the like.
The ‘mission’ gaming element of Empire Avenue has been re-focused as a way of allowing content creators to reward audiences for viewing and engaging with their content and profiles. The startup gives the example of YouTube Missions, which use game mechanics to reward members for watching and rating videos, and to subscribe to YouTube channels.
Should you give Empire Avenue another go?
So, does the redesign work? Should you take another stroll down Empire Avenue? Well, it certainly gives the service a reason to exist beyond a temporary bit of fun. The stats you can get for each of your linked social networks are nicely presented, and the interface is much improved overall. However, I cant help but feel that the game mechanics are an awkward fit for ‘expanding, engaging and evaluating your social media audience’.
For example, ‘expanding your social media audience’ consists of buying shares in other Empire Avenue users. If I get an email alert from Empire Avenue about someone investing in me, I don’t rush to follow them on Twitter, because their motivation for ‘investing in me’ was to earn virtual currency within Empire Avenue and/or to expand their audience – not the guarantee of a good quality follower. So, are you really expanding your audience?
User-generated Missions, meanwhile, often consist of tasks like ‘Give me a K+ endorsement on Klout in return for virtual currency’ or ‘Facebook Like-bombing’. It’s the kind of feature that attracts people who are using social media to falsely boost their ‘influence’ and ‘authority’ online. Are you really increasing engagement if you’re paying people, even if it’s in virtual currency? Those people are unlikely to really care about your actual content.
It appears Empire Avenue has chosen to not just focus on ‘gamifying’ social media, but helping users ‘game’ it. That’s not necessarily a bad business decision – the audience for this kind of service is definitely here, but it’s certainly not something that everyone will be keen to get on board with.