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Empire Avenue: Suggested Reading Before You Jump In

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Empire Avenue, the Social Media Stock Exchange Network blew up over the last few days, driven buy engagement from several social media players and the involvement of brands like Intel and Ford. I joined back in August of 2010, but hadn’t done much with my account recently. Maybe you’ve seen the #EAve hashtag on Twitter, or tweets like this and weren’t sure what’s going on:

 

 

So, yeah, another Social Network for you to spend time on. But before you roll your eyes, let me say this: They’ve done a very nice job incorporating social rewards and other game mechanics into Empire Avenue. It really is worth your time, even if you’re just checking it out for fun. So, go ahead and jump in, but first, take a look at these posts:

 

1. Rober Scoble talks to Empire Avenue founder Duleepa “Dups” Wijayawardhana (with video!)

2. Scott Monty breaks it all down in this terrific post.

3. The Influencier (@DougUpdates) has a primer on Empire Avenue chat etiquette.

4. Empire Avenue beta-tester Adriel Hampton has worked out the kinks and shares his findings.

5. Jeremiah Owyang looks at the opportunities and challenges for brands on Empire Avenue.

6. Another great interview with Dups, this time talking Game Layer with Esteban Contreras.

7. Here’s a breakdown from General Zod, one of the serious EA players.

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Empire Avenue: The Latest Rush To Social Media Judgement

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Remember Emily’s Reasons Why Not? It starred Heather Graham and ran on ABC.  You probably don’t remember it because only one episode aired! In fact there’s a pretty big list of TV shows that were cancelled after just one episode made it to the screen. We live in a world where instant success is often demanded.  Where ultimate success is gauged very early in the process. I was reminded of this when I saw this Tweet from David Armano:

Quora: Will Empire Ave take off or is it a fad? Answer: http://qr.ae/qg3P
@armano
David Armano

 

Steve Woodruff had a funny response:

When @ asks (on Quora) if Empire Avenue is a fad, we have reached a Critical Craze Convergence Crossing (C4). Run!
@swoodruff
Steve Woodruff

Here’s the full question on Quora:

Empire Ave is a social network/game that acts like a virtual stock market allowing you to “buy” stock in both friends and brands. The tech elite have recently jumped on it. Is it the next rising star or crashing meteor?

Last month Color was the flavor of the month, before that it was Quora. Now the heat surrounds Empire Avenue and the immediate question is “What’s the potential for this site, will it be a major player?” The answer of course is, “Who the heck knows?” Was anybody certain Facebook would explode like it did? Is anybody certain it won’t fade out in three years?

I think Empire Avenue is fun, and has some interesting potential, but who knows what sort of staying power it has. Maybe they tie-in with LinkedIn, that could be interesting, or they get bought by Facebook. Perhaps it becomes the authority that people are trying to make Klout out to be (unless PeerIndex supplants them first).

But my point isn’t that we can’t know for sure what’s going to be a hit, it’s that we shouldn’t be trying. Trying to pick winners is a fool’s game.  Instead we should be judging value by how well the site or app or tool helps us achieve our goals. If Empire Avenue tops out a 10,000 users, but you can develop a thriving community around those people, well that’s all that matters. But there’s no way you’re going to know if that is possible today. You have to put in the time.

I’ve written about a Slow Social Movement in the past and this is another great example of the need to not rush to judgement. Giving up on Empire Avenue now may be premature, while loading up heavily on the platform is probably premature too. The best thing you can do right now is check it out and have some fun with it.  Don’t try to monetize it or leverage it to target key demos or other nonsense, just play with it. Is it fun? Do you like spending time on the site for no other reason than it makes you happy? If so, they may be on to something.

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Quora Revisted: What’s the real value of Quora?

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As Director of Digital Strategy at Coyne one of my tasks is to explore new Social Media tools and applications. Sometimes a quick review is all that is needed to see that a site will have limited value (see Jon Burg’s review of Cubeduel as an example). Other times first impressions may not be enough and after further review, value can be found. Quora may be an example of the latter.

Buzz around the site was fueled by this Fast Company article from earlier this month: “Q&A site Quora builds buzz with A-List Answerers.”

Initially, I was skeptical of Quora. It seemed to be a solution in search of a need. There are plenty of places to get answers to questions on the web, whether from official site FAQs, Wikipedia or via one’s social graph (Twitter, Facebook).  But ramp up on the site seemed strong, especially among those of us involved with Social Media. David Armano noticed the rapid adoption as well:

Have never seen such effective social graph siphon and ripple effect. Nearly 1k Quora followers in less than 2 days.
@armano
David Armano

I had a similar experience. The Quora team did an excellent job of integrating their product into my existing social networks so I quickly built up a group of people I was familiar with, making Quora seem like a familiar and comfortable place pretty quickly. And yet I still had my doubts.  Those doubts were fueled by posts like this one from Saneel Radia of BBH Labs: The Answer to this Quora? No.

Frank Eliason was more optimistic, but seems to be cautiously so, asking, “What’s with all the Quora hype?Chris Brogan has a similar response, seeing potential but not yet ready to commit. He offered some ideas on how Quora could get interesting.

But soon people started talking about a “thin end of the wedge” approach in respect to Quora. Here, digital media entrepreneur Semil Shah writes convincingly on Techcrunch about seven ways Quora may grow in relevance. Edward Boches commented on how Quora is demonstrating the Network Effect in its meteoric growth.

David Armano offered seven reasons why Quora will be bigger than Foursquare. Clearly he’s become a convert, a look at his Twitter feed shows his frequency of use and general enthusiasm for the platform:

Day one on Quora. Mega potent social hooks. Following built up in record time. It's all about establishing expertise an social currency
@armano
David Armano

Leslie Barry of Iphso also is a convert. Here he speaks of Quora’s ability to “create a database of intentions.”

For me the key “a ha” moment came when I stopped thinking of Quora as another place for Social Media practitioners to keep score (my answer is #1; look how many followers I have…), but rather an engagement tool for brands.

My colleague at Coyne, Derek Brown, pointed out several potential benefits for brands leveraging Quora from a PR perspective. Derek sagely notes, “Just as the goal of traditional PR was to make you a resource to journalists, the new model of social engagement requires you to be a resource to an evolving spectrum of influencers and stakeholders.”

Brian Solis also sees the potential for brands to benefit from Quora, noting “listening and monitoring are important within Quora if it is indeed where your community is asking and answering questions. Like Yahoo Answers and Mahalo Answers, answers to brand related questions are already populating the top of search results in Google.”

I think Quora has several challenges ahead. Will it be able to maintain momentum after the initial ‘shiny new thing’ effect wears off?  Will Google or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn catch up (or buy it)?  And of course, will they figure out a business model? But there are also many exciting possibilities. Could they partner with Foursquare or some other location-based service to offer local Q&A?  Could they integrate with corporate websites to create dynamic FAQ pages?  I think the next interesting period for Quora could be this year’s South by Southwest conference. Will Quora see increased activity around this event which attracts a core user base?  There are many questions, but Quora seems to be off to an exciting start.

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