The Real Value of Empire Avenue?


Blog Article
As I put in my last post about Empire Avenue, “Have you joined yet?”. If not, maybe it’s no big deal, certainly not compared to when I last wrote about it. As much as I love Empire Avenue,(EA) (and I really do as the lads in the office would confirm!) I have lost a little bit of interest with the platform in the last few weeks. There is certainly no denying that it is a very creative social networking platform that holds many opportunities, but to garner the most from EA, it becomes VERY time consuming. I have tried my best to windle out the most valuable communities for me, even starting my own community, where I have seen some great discussions taking place over the benefits of social media and especially in relation to EA. But unless you are actively seeking out relationships to build in these communities, getting caught up in “the game” can really take a toll on your productivity. So what ‘real value’ can you gain from Empire Avenue? Amongst other things, the most value I have gained is connecting with other Social Media whizz kids! There are people from all over the world here; practicing in all types of business, from small family run businesses, right up to the global superstars (Ford’s Scott Monty actually spends an hour a day as part of Ford’s social media activity on Empire Avenue!). It is the relationships you build within your industry is where I see most value for individuals and one of the best contacts I have made is with Mr Jim Durbin, or The Social Media Head-hunter! Jim has trained thousands of people and dozens of businesses on the use of social media in business in the last six years. You can find him on Twitter at @smheadhunter, or check out his site at http://www.socialmediaheadhunter.com Jim very kindly answered a few questions I sent his way regarding how Empire Avenue can provide businesses value and how he sees things going in the future.  Below I’ve paraphrased a few of the Q&A’s and put in a few ideas of my own. Take a look: Have you seen a surge in the use of Empire Avenue and feel there is an importance for companies to use such tools to listen, monitor and engage with their customers, whilst being able to analyse their competitors?We know that Facebook Fans and Foursquare check-ins spend more with companies on average than the average customer.  I think with Empire Avenue(EA), we’ll see the same thing over time, if the companies decide to engage.  Just tracking your shareholders will yield a lot of extra data that will help you tailor promotions and understand your biggest fans.  The bigger value will be in showing the companies how to measure the actual social media actions (activity – compared to reach).” There is still a lot of exploring to do with the platform, especially for big brands to gain the most value from the EA members. But there are people out there doing the ground work, day-in-day-out and I am sure we will soon see some really innovative uses of the tools available. What have been the key benefits for you in using the platform? “EA has really helped me manage my social media presence, turning it into more of a game and less of a duty.  Tracking just my dividends, I remember to add content.  It has also led to a larger network, reconnection with old friends, a hire for my Facebook Fan Page, and I’m waiting on a signature for a contract that includes EA as part of an integrated social program.” Jim really is exploring the boundaries of what you can gain from EA and is why I regularly check out his posts and ask questions in communities he is part of. (He’s also very sociable and invites questions from like-minded people!). But I totally agree. I have been on EA for a few months now, but have focused my time more on interacting in the communities and not really getting involved in the “share game” that much. I think I had an initial surge of excitement when I first started using EA, but it dwindled as I wanted to see what value the brands on the site were giving. Within the past month or so, some global giants in the consumer world have joined EA, most soaring in share price because of their brand name, but soon die out as they are not participating in communities or engaging on EA. Many of these brands have a social media presence, but many rely on blog posts and automated tweets, (usually the reason many of them have high Klout scores) but in EA, it is soon apparent if you are engaging or not. And for me, most of the brands are not! I say most, as there are a few exceptions, Ford to name but one. Do you see Empire Avenue as having more value than Klout?Klout is a score, that has a general value, and tools like Radian 6 are more of a web-wide monitoring service that would be complementary to EA, but the EA dashboard will lead to surprises.  You’re on it all the time, versus Radian 6 and Klout, which you have no reason to be on, accidentally.” For me, although Klout are currently trying really hard with some good looking updates, (you can now rank people by influence subjects, the data seems a little more intuitive and the platform looks pretty) for me, it still is only a measure of volume. The data shown for whom you are meant to be an influencer of and who influences you always seems to be way out for me. This is why I prefer to use EA as a means to track both mine and my peer’s social activity. It is far more straightforward and because the way your EA profile is connected to all your other social profiles, it is very easy to navigate your way around these profiles and anything that has been shared etc. As EA’s popularity has seen a recent surge of interest, I thought it was relevant to ask, regarding platform development: Do you feel there are any ‘stumbling blocks’ in site for Empire Avenue?Sure.  The growth and direction of the platform is determined by who gets in. The changes in just the last month have been huge, and the feel of the site is different because we’ve had a lot of companies and a lot of young people on (and a lot of Brazilians).  It was a tight community when I started.  It’s now experiencing growth pains, primarily from people who bring a different attitude.  If they change the board to a pure stock market, growth will fizzle, and those folks will drop out.  It’s a race, like every system, between value and contagion.  So far, EA has done a great job of handling the attention and keeping the servers running.   They disabled negative feedback, and they’re hyper-reactive in working with good ideas (they’re very responsive, even to first time members).   There’s also investment, and where that takes it.” I am sure EA will have no trouble in obtaining investment, they even may not need it as they are generating revenues from members purchasing ‘eaves’, (the virtual currency on the platform). But I am sure there is still more that can be done and with the influx of these big brands, I am looking forward to the developments that will assist marketers taking on the challenge of using EA as another marketing platform. So far, I have seen some great uses of the shareholder mail, mostly by individuals, (Chris Pirillo and Robert Scoble are probably two of the best examples) but Ford definitely seem to be leading the way for the big brands. Posting links to a live webcast of their ‘actual’ investor days is pretty innovative, whilst also giving something back to their community, making them feel valued and part of “the business”. This is evident in both their share price and the number of likes, retweets etc that they amass and greatly helped out with their own interaction on the EA platform. But it is EA that makes it possible for you to compare your social activity to that of the big boys like Ford and it is this exact thing that makes me state that Empire Avenue has far more value than Klout. A big statement, sure, but one I will stand by! So, with my apparent love of Empire Avenue: Would you recommend to the majority of your clients to start using EA? Is it that versatile that all types of companies can get involved or is it more suited to a particular industry? “I wouldn’t say the majority. It’s right for some, and it’s right for some people.  They have to have a functioning social media ecosystem to do this, but they can create one using EA as a training tool.  For individuals, I’d say anyone interested in social media can get value from it.” This is the same for any social platform really, only join and create a profile if you have the time to dedicate to it to make your profile and content valuable to people so they would want to “follow” you. EA will certainly give you a good overview of how active you need to be to push your brand awareness to similar levels of your competitors. Jim really gave me some great insights here and I’m glad he took the time to respond. It’s these relationships and information that I’ve been lucky enough to gain from being part of EA that I hope adds some ‘weight’ to these blog posts. I thought it would be silly not to ask at least one more question, not related to EA, but as he is from ‘across the pond’ I thought this may be appropriate! Trying to keep up with the latest developments within the social world is tough as things change so quickly. Most of the success stories I read, or early adaptors of the latest platform are more than likely a US based company. Do you see the USA as being that more accepting of social media? Is it more ingrained in the USA public than the UK? Canada is pretty awesome.  So is Japan.  And Brazil is getting there.  The US has the advantage of spending a lot of money on marketing and PR, in addition to being a rich country that can afford its toys.  We also still draw a lot of people here, which means people from the UK and elsewhere come here and get involved in our social media, while our people going abroad tend to be salespeople, lawyers, and business executives, all in industries slower to adopt.” Now please don’t take that as me thinking the UK Social Media guys and girls aren’t up to par when it comes to our American cousins, far from it! I have seen some wonderfully creative and innovative uses of Social Media to boost brand awareness and increase revenues, but it’s more often than not, that the USA are usually the first to fully integrate a new social network or platform into their marketing mix. Take Foursquare for example, (another favourite of mine!). It was some time before big brands started using the platform to boost brand awareness just by simply promoting the fact they were on there, let alone get all creative with ways to check in etc. Yet, I had already read many stories of ‘mayorship’ battles run by local bars, ‘swarm’ check-ins at restaurants and more happening in not only the mainstream, but also the family run businesses in the good old US of A! But, it is with great excitement that I follow the progress of Social Media Marketing in the UK as we are bloody good at it and we are only getting better! There’s many viewpoints in here, so I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on these, so leave all your lovely, (or confrontational!) comments below.
About David Cable — I’m the Link Building and Social Communities Manager at iThinkMedia. Visit my LinkedIn Profile and of course you should follow me on twitter @TheDavecable and of course follow @Honcho_Search.
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