social media reviewsWhen someone brings up social gaming, a few things may pop into your head: Angry Birds, Mafia Wars, Farmville…

What if social gaming wasn’t all about beating levels, planting crops or killing bosses? What if the players were real and their actions drove your success or failure? If that were ever the case, the social game you come up with might be called Empire Avenue.

Empire Avenue is a social game where you can buy stock in real people whose values rise and fall depending on their interaction. Think Klout meets SimCity.

empire avenue

Buy virtual shares in your favorite people on Empire Avenue.

While the idea of buying ownership in people originally gave me pause, I noticed that a TON of people were absolutely raving about Empire Avenue, so I decided to dig in and set up an account for myself.

empire avenue

A virtual stock market without Wall Street.

What’s the Point?

Honestly, I looked at my screen for a full five minutes before I had any clue what to do. Then I actually logged into the platform again as if some epiphany would strike me… it didn’t.

The platform screamed at me from all angles to do something. From the achievements popping up as it parsed through my online life I had connected to it, to my net worth changing before my eyes, to the ubiquitous requests for me to buy shares in people I didn’t know from both the chat window at the bottom of the screen and the unsolicited posts on my “wall-like” area to the right of my screen.

Clearly outmatched by this social juggernaut in front of me, I did what any self-respecting intellectual would do: I called up one of the co-creators of Empire Avenue, Dups Wijayawardhana, and asked him what the hell I was supposed to do with this thing.

In return, I got one of the coolest conversations with one of the smartest guys I’ve met on the planet… to date. Luckily I recorded it for you guys to listen in:


Click here to download MP3.

What makes Empire Avenue cool?

Three things:

  • It can “just” be a game
  • Passionate user base
  • Connect where you want

It can “just” be a game; there’s no business requirement to play.

If you listened to Dups’ call, you might have noticed him saying that they understand that some people will use Empire Avenue just as a game. These users won’t care about their social influence; they just want to make virtual dollars off your hard work.

While some might wonder why this is important to an audience on a social marketing blog, let me fill you in. Empire Avenue found that people wanted to use their platform in a way that they may not have (or totally may have) expected, and decided to just “roll with it.” Giving your community the option to use your platform the way they want to is a level that most controlling marketers can’t ever attain. Not a bad case study when you consider…

empire avenue shop

You can buy fun items with the points you earn on Empire Avenue.

They have an (almost) uncomfortably passionate user base.

People who love Empire Avenue really love Empire Avenue. I had heard the gushing from miles away before I even knew what this thing was. To be honest, I thought it was another annoying Mafia Wars–type game when I first heard of it, which is pretty interesting. When I first heard of Empire Avenue, I immediately thought it had come from the social gaming giant that’s predicted to make about $1.5BN this year.

In reality, Empire Avenue is a small team run by 5 (superhuman?) people; which should be a huge comfort to smaller brands trying to make an impact in this social world of millions.

Empire Avenue’s users range from excited to stark-raving lunatics. The game is so addicting that people literally jump on you when you first set up an account in light of your unavoidable initial jump in share price. Not just that, the social-climbing market gushes about the game so much that they form factions to band together to network and (fight crime) grow their social circles as a team, which is as close as we’re going to get to having an actual Justice League anytime soon. Impressive feat indeed.

empire avenue eaves

Users can buy more points called "Eaves" on Empire Avenue.

Empire Avenue shows you the best place to connect.

Everyone knows how I feel about Klout. But one thing that I was unaware that I didn’t like was the fact that they didn’t give me a preferred platform to connect on.

Have you ever found your favorite guru/hero/celebrity online somewhere and tried to connect with his or her profile only to find out that the person only posts inspirational quotes, or the profile is a one-way stream of posts?

empire avenue leaders

Empire Avenue makes it easy for you to connect with your Facebook and Twitter friends.

Well, Empire Avenue does something that I think is pure genius and makes your life easier—by a large amount of whatever “easy” is measured in these days (kilowatts?).

Empire Avenue places a score on each individual network you connect to the platform, not just a total share price. This is totally important because if I wanted to connect with the awesome Miss Destructo, all I’d have to do is look at her Empire Avenue profile and see that she had the highest score on Facebook and Twitter, and go from there. Genius.

where to connect

You earn virtual currency online using these social networks.

The message that’s missed in this point is that Empire Avenue is doing something other social platforms suck at big-time. They’re allowing you to connect on whichever platform makes sense, not requiring you to stay on their platform out of ego. Kudos, guys. Love it.

Why you should pass on Empire Avenue.

Two reasons:

  • Can be overwhelming
  • “Game” players can be annoying

As with most things that are hyped, there are always some glaring holes that need to be addressed, and Empire Avenue is no different.

The platform can be overwhelming, especially to new users.

Remember when I said, “I didn’t know what to do when I first set up my Empire Avenue account” a while ago? Well, I had an assignment to do, so I had to figure something out. New users don’t have to do that at all.

The cool thing about Empire Avenue is that there are a million paths you can travel to have a good time. The downside is that most people, when presented with a ton of options, choose none of them and leave.

The coders are obviously talented, and the platform is beautiful, but there’s something to be said about simplicity, especially to casual users who may be trying to dip a toe into the social gaming experience, and not jump in 100% yet. However, that doesn’t annoy me nearly as much as…

The people who “just play the game” are totally annoying.

Remember way back when (read: every day) on Twitter when spambots used to @reply you with links to buy their products? Empire Avenue’s version of these users aren’t selling crappy products, they’re selling themselves.

To draw a parallel, it’s like prostitution, except every prostitute is channeling Billy Mays and has a megaphone directly connected to your profile via chat popups.

I completely understand why Dups and Empire Avenue embrace the “game only” users, but my first impression of them tells me that they need to be put in another part of Empire Avenue. Give them the same features, just keep them far away from the “networking” users. (For those scoring at home, yes, we have slavery, prostitution and segregation references in the same article. You may congratulate me on my taboo hat-trick in the comments section.)

It would be cool if…

Uncomfortable jokes aside, while reviewing Klout, and now Empire Avenue, there seems to be a missing piece of this influence puzzle that would be a virtual godsend to the company that had a chance to address it.

Someone in this space needs to add a conversion statistic to their algorithm. Influence is one of those ambiguous words that should only be used when coupled with something else. Sure you have influence, but influence over what is the key.

In a marketer’s world, we don’t want influence over the clicking of a Twitter link, we really want influence over the ability to get someone to buy something that they weren’t thinking of before, or the influence to make a customer choose us as the solution to their problem over thousands of vendors.

Adding a conversion metric to these influence algorithms would go a long way to giving businesses that “one metric” that they can hand to their boss, or give job-seeking marketers a number that clearly tells a potential employer that this person gets things done and closes actual business online instead of just being popular for popularity’s sake.

How do you do something like this? How in the world would I know? I’m just a blogger… 😉

How do I really feel about Empire Avenue?

Honestly, I hated Empire Avenue when I first logged on. It looked like a spammer’s paradise. Couple that with the “Mafia Wars” comparisons I was already making in my head, and I was ready to write a scathing (read: slightly unimpressed) review of the platform.

Then I spoke to Dups. And I got it.

Empire Avenue is a great anti-platform. It’s a social game with cool networking features, not a social platform with gaming features.

Those annoying gamers I just talked about are the home team. They own the platform side of Empire Avenue, and they should. If you’re planning to use Empire Avenue for a tool to network with the users there, get off the Empire Avenue platform completely. Find their highest-rated platform and go there, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or other venue.

Viewing Empire Avenue in this way allows me to see the platform in a new light and also to love it for what it is—an awesome, feature-packed social game that can also connect me to some of the most influential people on the web.

Not a bad accomplishment for such a small team.

What do you think? Have you ever gotten addicted to playing a social game? Ever connected with anyone you’ve gamed with? Let us know in the comments section below.

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  • Maybe it can help you invest more smarter or something, but it doesn’t seem like anything I will like to play. heck I don’t even have time to play games.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Pretty good assessment. I joined in hopes of being able to connect with with a new base of people and broaden my reach, but found the system to be, as you said, a bit overwhelming. I, too, was immediately attacked by this platform’s version of LIONs, was introduced to tons of spammish folks, and quite honestly, only paid attention to the same folks I already connected with on Twitter. I can definitely see the benefit and reach if you have the time to “play” the game, but for someone like me who is using social media to build a platform for the future, I do not base my social media presence on immediate ROI. It’s a massive network with great potential, but probably the most time consuming one I have used yet. I need a more efficient and ‘streamlined’ set of networks, and this isn’t it.

  • Hey man, social gaming is becoming a huge industry, you might want to pay attention early.  When it started to effect SEO, you can say you were the first one on it 🙂


  • You know what, the LION’s reference is a perfect analogy!  Thanks for reading Brandon.

  • Hi

    I “play” each day for about 15 minutes on eav. It’s funny and it’s a cool tool for measuring your social network activities. So it is a bit “Klout with fun factor”.
    To become a real networking instrument, it needs more people staying on it and not just playing some weeks and then going in a sort of agony, which is from what I feel the case with a lot of people.
    So the question is, how long will the hype remain and if it is really a tool for social networkinKind regards from GermanyKind regards from Germany 


  • I try to stay away from these games as I find them so easy to get addicted to but I can see why it is big business users will spend hours on these games. 

  • EM

    Thank you for the piece. I look at the Market gamers much like day traders on the exchanges. They are a critical component of the Market, creating much of the energy which drives markets and valuations. What I am quite interested to see is if Marketing and HR departments, etc. begin to look at the platform as means to value individuals, and campaigns, etc. across social media platforms. The biggest missing piece of the social media industry, as you touched upon, is real metrics for valuing ones’ network. Right now the market gamers are driving the popularity contest of the system, but should corporations step in and start using as a relationship valuation tool (much like institutional investors on the exchanges) then we have a real Market.

  • It seems like it took Klout and made it into an interactive, social, and almost competitive platform.  I’ll be curious to see how Empire Avenue grows and different ways people begin to use it.  A funny thought would be that people will begin to feel almost a social media pressure when they see many people are invested in them!

  • Nice write up, Elijah. Really comprehensive.  

    Dups owes you some affiliate money because I’ve now decided to give this some time. Well done. I’m always cautious with these types of things in that game can easily become time sucks for me. I like competition, especially when it lives in geek world.

    Thanks for run down and perspectives…

  • Really good comment.  I completely agree with the tie in to day trading, smooth.

    Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it.

  • Thanks Nate,

    Trying to make you all proud!


  • That is interesting. How will people react to the almost “peer pressure” of being traded publicly.  It could go either way, either you may be pushed to action, or maybe pushed to ignore the investors.


  • You’re telling me.  I still refuse to install some of the more popular games.  I got lost in “Words with Friends” for 3 weeks!

    I’m very interested in how the games for business industry develops.


  • Nice write up Elijah! I’d just like to comment that there are many different ecosystems within the larger Empire Avenue system. The buy me shouters aren’t the only ones who spend a lot of time and energy “playing the game”. It’s been a great networking tool for me (particularly when public chats were available) as well as a game. And, I agree with you that using it as a way to get off the platform and onto others makes a lot of sense in many cases. However, it was through Empire Avenue chats that I got to make initial connections with people who might have so much traffic coming their way on their networks of choice that I would never have been heard on say Twitter.

    Empire Avenue has a core group (or groups) of active members but is still a fairly small community in comparison with the social networks it measures. Also, it facilitiates sharing of knowledge between platforms because you can see who might be a good person to learn how to improve your Klout from… and if they have an active Empire Avenue presence, they’re much more likely to connect and converse with you (in my experience anyway) if you have established some connections through Empire Avenue first.

  • I’m a “noodler” on Eav and I think it’s fun, but am a bit put off by the analysis required to actually earn and invest eaves.  There is a nice Chrome plugin available that will help you come up with a dividend number, and that takes some of the work out of it.  I have also heard from several people who analyze their traffic closely that Eav tends to drive traffic to their websites in a major way (haven’t confirmed this yet myself).  Thanks for the excellent writeup Elijah!

  • I’d love to hear more about that Rosemary.  Can you connect me with someone who gets this bump?


  • The traffic bump info came from an Eav get-together I attended in Seattle, hosted by Chris Pirillo and attended by DUPS.  There were at least two attendees who said they were finding a significant portion of their traffic coming from Eav, and I wish I had nailed them down.  I know DUPS was interested in getting more detail from them, so I wonder if he did follow up with them.

  • Elijah, that’s a very nice summary. Like you, I don’t get it. Unlike you – I STILL don’t get it. 
    If I have to call the creator of any product, to understand how the hell I should use it, there’s something to be said about their UX design, to say the least. 
    On top of that, I was wondering how can businesses can take advantage of such social games, without developing one themselves, in a hope “that it would go viral” 🙂
    Your thoughts?

  • So are you going to play Elijah? By playing I mean 140 actions in the past week.An average of 20 a day. Combing that with buybacks and some investing that would take around 90 minutes a week.Are you up for it? Happy to mentor you. Just ask any questions on the #EAvChat fan page. Michael

  • Nice

  • Have you given much thought to why “the idea of buying ownership in people originally gave [you] pause” and how easily you ignored that inner wisdom and followed the crowd?  We have collectively traveled so far down the slippery slope into the gutter that we don’t even recognize where we have landed. We’ll even pay with our most precious asset – our time – to give up even the illusion of dignity we have left. 

    It is inherently unsavory to “buy” or “sell” people. It doesn’t matter that it is ‘only’ a game any more than immersing ourselves (or worse – our children) in violent video games and adult smut that would have only been seen in a ‘peep show’ when I was younger does not affect us. 

    Anything we allow into our mind affects us. What we do regularly creates who we are. I for one have no aspirations to own anyone else virtually or otherwise.  

  • Word Tom

  • Me

  • Just checked your page Elijah and bought 10 shares. To make it work you have to play. Give thumbs ups.Like shareholder mails.Endorse blogs.Thank buyers etc
    As with Twitter and FB and wherever you have to align what you are doing with your passion and purpose.Dups wants the world connected .Me too. So we are into this

  • stephentiano

    Well, if you want to look at it accurately, it’s not buying people–that much is inaccurate–but rather buying stock in someone. That may seem like splitting hairs, but I think it’s significant. I don’t know, tho’, that you won’t still find the notion of stock in someone as unsavory.

  • yeah…I was just kidding…

  • I agree with this.  

  • Murray Galbraith

    Brilliant breakdown article of Empire Ave. I joined super early so I thought my opinion may have been tainted by an early release with limited design / UX incorporated, so I was really glad to read you struggled with similar issues, @ElijahYoung:disqus. My reviews (and Eav profile updates) have been less than positive, due to feeling a bit grossed out by the narcissistic idea of asking people to ‘invest in me’.
    That said, I will reserve judgement until I get a chance to listen to the audio, as I genuinely believe in giving every new idea enough time to breathe and find its place. Even handed articles like this will give it every chance – great work!


  • Never find time to play but liked this post very much. I am going to make sure that I try it out ….

  • I think that social gaming will be one of the biggest trend in the coming years

  • Itb is no more a game than Fb or Twitter are

  • I’m a fan of EAv. As of right now, I’m the CEO of the Travel index. That’s fluctuated, which is some of the fun of it all…

    But it sort of upsets me that other people haven’t seemed as keen on it as I have. Wondering if that’ll change or if it’ll continue to just be it’s only little corner of the internet.

  • Em

    I hadn’t heard of this one, but you asked about other social games, and I had to mention mindbloom — it’s another one of those games-but-not-games, but more personal.  About actions and goals and constant improvement and such.  Which sounds hokey, but really, it’s *not*.  🙂

  • hesika

    I learned that you have to be active on Empire Avenue. If not happens following: Your share price drops and your cash increases… hmmm…. What is wished?

    First I have seen the same advantages like you on Empire Avenue, now I’m not longer actually sure about this…

  • nice review! appreciate your efforts!

  • What is the virtual value of this platform experience? I don’t think I understand what motivates users to join and participate?

  • Another review article on @EmpireAve:twitter , #EAv , that comes from someone aiming to write an article. @ElijahYoung:disqus you did a fabulous job of presenting interesting feedback about your experience, that much was worth my time reading it on this particular blog. My concern is how much time did you put into getting to know the site before you called the CEO? How many people have that kind of access either because the CEO makes their contact info available or you know them personally? How much time did you put into Empire Avenue AFTER the phone call with Dups before publishing this article? You said yourself you had a purpose for being at the site which had nothing to do with actually learning how to use it as a social media professional.

    Now that you have provided us with your perspective, and also mentioned some down sides about the site the “veterans” have pointed out to the EA team: Are you doing anything to help change those things for other new users? If I had joined in the last few months with the new chat feature installed and the ability for others to leave a “shout out” immediately after a purchase (effectively the “buy me back” msgs), I think I would run screaming at the CEO! Who starts off a networking relationship with quid pro quo other than exchanging a business card and a conversation? It would be more meaningful to me that you would have given some time to the site and maybe contacted some of the people on the Leader boards to see what they had to say about the site, not just the CEO. You see, the thing about Empire Ave is you do have to be active; you do have to learn the ropes and have a strategy; you do have to make friends and invest back in others that shares their virtual currency with you (not just the big names you know in social media, but the people that actually use the site); you do have to talk to people; most important, you do have to continue to use your other social networks regardless of ever coming back to Empire Ave, but why not measure yourself and leave Klout out of it for a while? See how you do.

    There are plenty of reasons to keep a profile on EAv and equally plenty of reasons to just leave it alone; you  mentioned some of those reasons. I think if given some time you can find EAv to be a place that’s great for networking and adds just a little more time to your daily social media activity. If you are weak in the mind and let numbers determine who you are, EAv, Klout or any other measurement site is not for you. As it is in real life, if you have a plan to connect with people, join groups and connect with like minds, participate in sharing information  asking questions then Empire Ave can be a great place to get you going if you give it some time.

    After a year on the site and having been up near the top in numbers, down again and now coasting on regular activity I have found many positives and made excellent connections to PEOPLE through STOCK investment and made it what I want it to be. If age is nothing but a number then an EA stock price is nothing but an indicator of what any person is capable of regardless of how they got there (hopefully without spam or cheating tactics). Thanks for your write-up. Gave me food for thought for those of us that have actually invested time on the site.

  • As an SEO guy, and, as a guy sharing his ethnic background in branding, #SocialGaming and #Gamification is something you NEED to know about whether you have time for games or not. Information is key in your business, why not be on top of it and know how this industry affects SEO for future clients that may base their business on these products or services?

    “Knowing is half the battle.” – G.I. Joe

  • Great idea about the Conversion Metric

  • I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from,

  • I believe that if Elijah actually tries Empire Avenue he might rather like it Nakeva 

  • Sold my shares but am open to buying again if he deigns to play 🙂

  • Pingback: Social Media Stock Market « catharinemirich()

  • CaseyWarren95628715

    I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from,

  • I started using this one and during my first 10 minutes, I already have 4 men buying my stocks. I’m still learning how to do this investment thing right but hey, it’s quite fun! There’s always a first time for everything. Not yet addicted.

  • I’m just exploring EA, but what it seems to offer me is the opportunity to broaden my ‘social’ circle and influence. I am very interested, of course, to figure out whether it has an SEO impact. Twitter does now, why not EA sometime down the road. And clearly, expanding my exposure means more people will link to any worthy content I may have on my sites.

  • Aside from trying to connect to strangers, I guess this is more than a game. It’s partly a tutorial for business in a game. It’s nice. It’s like practicing virtually. Everything is link socially.  

  • Aside from trying to connect to strangers, I guess this is more than a
    game. It’s partly a tutorial for business in a game. It’s nice. It’s
    like practicing virtually. Everything is link socially.

  • Not so sure, from what ive seen, ill come back after i test it out… Like the UI so far :))

  • Terrific write-up, Elijah.  I read the whole post like watching a train wreck!  I tend to get addicted to games easily, then again the gaming aspects sound like the most irritating factor.  I’m tempted just to look at it . . . .

  • Terrific write-up, Elijah.  I read the whole post like watching a train wreck!  I tend to get addicted to games easily, then again the gaming aspects sound like the most irritating factor.  I’m tempted just to look at it . . . .

  • Littlesmidgeon

    I joined EmpireAvenue three days ago.  I really like it so far.  You see, I have a website that I’m trying to promote, and I need people to help promote it.  I love the idea of connecting to a community that can help build incremental traffic and raise my website’s Google ranking by offering eaves (game money) in exchange for FB likes, Google +1s, Pinterest Pins, and the like.  I think it is fantastic, actually.  I don’t mind spending some time running errands for other people if it means I can earn the eaves I need to pay others to help me with my site.  It takes a lot less time than link building activities and other things I do to promote my site.

  • relationshipdna

    I was completely overwhelmed myself and never returned. The only reason I checked this post out was because I still get email updates saying how sucky my score is.

    I’m afraid even after reading this post, I’m as lost as ever, but then I’ve never really been into the whole social gaming thing. I’d rather focus on trying to have lucid dreams.