Empire Avenue: A Ridiculous Waste Of Good Time
I get the idea behind Empire Avenue. The idea is, you play an “investment game” online that gives you a score based off of how active and interconnected you are in the social media world. The game provides opportunities for you to increase your impact on the blogosphere by doing “missions” for other people which also pay a sort of digital currency called “eaves.” The problem is, these “eaves” are so worthless that you basically have to turn yourself into an advertising prostitute on a daily basis in order to make as many eaves as you would make automatically by simply waiting a day and doing nothing at all. What makes this doubly frustrating is the fact that these eaves have only two uses-- making new missions for others (that are often only taken by spam bots and “eaves thieves”) and investing in others to increase (by a minimal margin) the amount of eaves that you receive on a daily basis for doing nothing.
When I first opened an account on Empire Avenue in July of 2012, I was impressed by what seemed to be the ultimate means of “gamifying” social media advertising. This sounded like a huge boon to me, as I am so painfully introverted that I don't really like talking to anyone, ever, for any reason at all-- a fact which makes social advertising almost painful for me to do organically. Being able to turn something painful (yet necessary) into a game, however, almost completely erases the anxiety and irritation associated with the activity, meaning you can do more with less mental stress. To me, Empire Avenue had the potential to motivate me to new, incredible heights-- on day one, I thought for certain that I was on the path to becoming an advertising king!
In the time since, however, I have come to find that Empire Avenue is instead, primarily, a platform for spammers to enlist the help of others in spreading their diet fad and “vacation here!” messages to potential customers on Facebook and Twitter. Most of the missions on EA are traps or scams-- want a few eaves? Retweet seven of my spammy tweets in a row or I'll give you negative feedback and you won't get your pretty green badge. And then there are the investment missions-- some of which promise free shares, but only if you spend double the eaves they're offering as a reward for the mission. Thankfully, recent changes in the way missions are displayed and completed have reduced the number of “FREE SHARES!!!!” missions that really only give you a discount for some lukewarm “stock,” but they're still out there, if not more common than the “click and forget” investment missions which are more honest and appropriate.
There are a few people (a very few people) on Empire Avenue who are interesting and who try to bring some life and joy to the game. Rarely, you may come across a “mission” to retweet a famous and inspirational quote or a video about helping kids overcome cancer, and these make the game almost playable, even if they are often lost in a sea of garbage advertising. In fact, most of the people you will interact with on Empire Avenue aren't even people-- they're bots, farming all day long for eaves and leaving messages on walls like “MAXED yr shares! Follow back at all these links thx bye!!” Try to talk to them, ask them about themselves, what their dreams are, what they do for a living, and you get nothing back, just a face on a wall begging you to connect so you can receive more of their robo-spam. The worst thing is, these bots are some of the highest rated players on EA. Try to keep up with them organically without spamming out your stream of friends, followers or fans, and you will fail-- horribly. It just isn't possible to keep up with a machine that can post ten new stories to FB, Twitter and Wordpress every single hour of every day. Who really wants to see that many stories from one person anyway? Well, someone must, because I doubt these spammers' outrageously high follower counts are entirely composed of purchased bot-followers.
And then there are the needy users. Most of them come from "developing" areas of the world, and when they're not stealing your eaves with a quick “Thanks! Follow me on twitter, FB, etc.!” they're using your information to track you down, beg you for money, ask you for a job or ask you for advice on how to immigrate and get a job in your country. I swear, if I had a dollar for every person with a name I can't pronounce who has asked me to help them practice their English, I'd be Donald Trump-- I might even be able to purchase my own droves of robo-followers! News flash, world-- not all Americans are rich. In fact, you probably are less impoverished in your nation than we (the majority) are in ours. I'll be glad when the “fat and rich American tourist” stereotype is finally dead (or deserved, that would be okay too. I could stand to gain a little weight in my midsection and wallet.)
All in all, my experience with Empire Avenue has been less sweet than bitter. There are days when I can interact professionally with people who are genuinely interested in swapping real advertising tweets or FB likes for products that aren't “FREE MONEY” scams. Most days, however, the only people I seem to be able to connect with are those cyberbeggers and spammers who seek me out after seeing a mission I've posted, banging on digital doors like door-to-door salesmen, desperate to sell me an overpriced package of bot-followers for Twitter or Facebook that I neither want nor need. If you're looking for a way to increase your social media influence by gamifying it, I recommend avoiding Empire Avenue, and instead using your mind (and paper, or excel) to create your own game in which you can attain high scores realistically and cut out all the bot and spammer interactions that are so common on EA. You'll get further, I promise, because if you're trying to build a fan base, you're only going to set yourself back by retweeting “OMG FREE MONEY WTF!” links for paltry handfuls of worthless cybercash.