How Empire Avenue crushed my soul

 

crushing

By , {grow} Community Member

Social networks go to great lengths to keep people from gaming their systems. Well, all but one that is.

What would you think about a platform that rewards its members for gaming their blogs, Facebook pages, Yelp reviews, customer sites, and Twitter accounts? That’s what’s happening right now on Empire Avenue, and if you love social media, it’s absolutely soul crushing.

If you’re unfamiliar with Empire Avenue, it’s something of a social media stock exchange. You buy shares in people and they buy shares in you. Your worth is determined by your activity on the site and your frequent use of the social networks you connect to your profile. You earn ‘eaves’ (the fake currency on the site, which can also be purchased in bulk using real currency) which accumulate via different actions you take and then can be reinvested into your portfolio.

An economy of bribery

To those who love buying stocks or dabbling in social media, this sounds interesting, right? Sure! But it’s what else you can do with your eaves that is pretty sickening.

Users can create “missions” using their eaves. In these missions, you can engage in an economy of bribery to create fake social signals: 1,500 eaves to RT a tweet, 10,000 eaves to share a post on Google+, 25,000 eaves to ‘Like bomb’ a client Facebook page, etc. This is problematic for two reasons:

  1. The reason it crushed my soul is that much of the social media engagement drummed up by some very influential content marketers is a flat out lie. They’re not necessarily earning all those Likes and tweets because they have a raving fan base, or because their content really hits home as useful and helpful (though it may very well be). They’re getting it because they’re bribing other people to do so. They’re fakes. And that really hurts to realize that.
  2. Google HAS to be taking note of this, right? It’s as outright gaming of the system as you can get. Doesn’t this pyramid-scheme house of cards have to be doomed to collapse? It’s nearly equal to buying ‘Likes’ and followers, which so many people will adamantly advise you to steer clear from doing. This is worse, however, because it’s providing completely manufactured social signals to others, not to mention Google.

In their latest announcement, Empire Avenue claims that a stockpile of eaves will even get you “access to people.” Doesn’t that just creep you out a little?

Now, look. I know that we all want and need to build up those social signals, especially now that Facebook has admitted to dwindling visibility for page posts and Google+ is giving indications that social signals affect SEO.

The advocate view

Empire Avenue advocates say that it’s simply amping up the broadcast of the message, and there’s no harm in that — much like promoting a post or buying an ad. It must be awfully tempting to beef up your social media numbers without any real effort … but it seems to me completely insincere.

I asked people on Cinch (A new question and answer app introduced by Klout) if they really felt they were getting value out of Empire Avenue, and the answers landed in two camps. Some had obviously drank the Kool-Aid and swore by it. Others noted the great increase in social signals and visibility, but stated the quality and lack of qualified leads coming from it made it less a marketing tool and more of a reach tool. On a recent Facebook post initiated by Pam Moore, Attorney Glen Gilmore summed up the concerns of the second camp better than I can articulate:

“I joined Empire Avenue when it first launched and every member was given some virtual currency to “invest” in others. I invested wisely and others invested in me and my “stock,” over the time, rose to where I was a “multi-millionaire” – who could send an army of members to “like,” “retweet,” etc.”

“Yet, I have never sent anyone on a “mission.” Just this week, someone contacted me to “accept the mission” of tweeting about an environmental product for no other reason than to earn some sizable virtual cash. I declined. I then looked at the array of assignments posted on the site. It is a digital mercenary’s smorgasbord.

“Curious, I G+’d a cool picture of a castle and tweeted a helpful list of analytic tools. Neither action inspired any social interaction within the platform. Though EA has in its community guidelines a link to Advertising and Endorsement Guidelines, when you click the link, it gives an “Error” message. That point is rather telling. Empire Avenue seems to me to be a platform that not only fosters a lack of transparency and authenticity, but, violates both the spirit and letter of the FTC Advertising and Endorsement Guides.”

“Taking a fresh look at the platform has inspired me to throw away my millions in stockpiled virtual cash. I have deleted my Empire Avenue account and my millions in unspent virtual credits.”

More legal troubles

Empire Avenue features marketing at its worst — approaches that sound straight from the spam folder on your blog. “Hello. How are you. I invested in you. CLICK HERE TO FOLLOW ME ON X, ‘LIKE’ MY PAGES, CHECK OUT MY MISSIONS. DO ALL THESE THINGS FOR ME. ME. ME.”

Even if you are new on the site, you get bombarded with this stuff right from the onset, which almost made me leave Empire Avenue before digging in a bit more. I also had to advise someone of the dangers of offering 50,000 eaves to anybody who would write a 5-star review on his client’s Yelp page. (see image below). This is such a bad idea for so many reasons that I’m thankful he took my advice to remove the mission. His client could have paid dearly for it. Not only is this in direct violation of Yelp’s review guidelines, but it could have seriously damaged the client both financially and reputation-wise!

ea graphic yelp

Empire Avenue advertises itself as a platform that is rewarding people for what they’re already doing. That’s not quite true. People aren’t normally sharing some random person’s marketing messages, one who he or she has no personal connection with, just to earn points. People don’t already share things that don’t interest them. That’s not ethical marketing. That’s Black Hat Social Media.

Empire Avenue is powered by fakes, spammers, and desperate “gurus” I used to admire until I saw their true colors show on this platform. Here I am, thinking I’ve been failing at blogging because I’m not getting tons of engagement, when it turns out I’m apparently just not bribing people.

If you’re using EA, what is your experience? Is there any long-term value or problem I have overlooked? Please chime in on the comment section below.

rob zaleskiRob Zaleski is a Content Marketing Manager for a startup in Austin, TX. He also blogs independently at Robzie Social.

Illustration courtesy Inhabitat Art Studio

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  • Catriona

    I’ve never heard of this before but it seems like yet another way for people to ‘big themselves up’ while being a fake. Would you consider naming and shaming the ‘influential content marketers’ you mention? If they genuinely think that what they’re doing is ok, then surely it wouldn’t be a problem for them?

  • Hi Rob, although I’ve never paid any attention to Empire Avenue, it seems like just one more example of the fakery that’s escalating within the SM domain. When you hear people talking about the potential Social Media “Bubble”, this is what they are talking about. The valuations of companies is not just based on misguided “excitement” like it was during the “dotbomb” they are being substantiated by fictitious proof points that many currently believe in. Therefore, when the reality sets in, the resulting impact could be significant.

  • Agreed, Steve! When the rug is pulled out from under people who are constantly gaming the system, I have a feeling it won’t be a pleasant experience for them. Thanks for the comment!

  • Hi, Cationa! I’ve never been big on shaming people, or the “Fail” type posts we see a lot. Once they’ve been called on their shenanigans by Google, Facebook, or Twitter, the repercussions they see will be plentiful enough. That being said, you could always Google “Empire Avenue [insert name]” to see if any of your favorites are on there creating these types of missions. Mark and I signed up and are present on the site, but stopped using it once we discovered the nefarious ways it was used. Great to hear from you!

  • What I hope to do on this blog (and what Rob has nicely achieved) is to address the big marketing issues out there. As a community, we can attack these problems and questions without attacking people. That’s the professional environment I want to maintain on the blog community. Thanks Catriona.

  • I was on Empire Avenue back in the day. It was a waste of time that brought zero value (and yes, I gamed the system just fine). If there’s no ROI (be it engagement or money) then there’s no reason to spend time there. My clients aren’t there, so I’m not either.

  • Hi Rob. Where did you get Glen’s quote from? Appears you got it from my Facebook stream talking bout this this same dialog with no mention of source. Interesting way to hijack a conversation and take credit.

  • Craig Lindberg

    Interesting to see how counterfeiting currency takes on a new form in social media where authenticity is the coin of the realm. Left unchecked this form of piracy will erode the integrity of social media and along with it, the “full faith and backing” that goes with it just like currency. Flood a market with too much “funny money” and that currency that we trade in, loses value. Given EA’s dark hat persona reveal and craven profit motive perhaps an alternative title for this expose’ is The Empire Strikes Black. Many thanks Rob and Mark for spotlighting this slimey operation and manning the social media bunko squad.

  • useradvocate

    Thanks for this great article Rob. I’m going to consider it a *good thing* that I’ve never heard of Empire Avenue and that I must be living in my own ‘social media bubble’ where people I care about still believe in authenticity.

  • You can never go wrong with simply being authentic! Put your focus there, and people will always appreciate it. Thanks for the comment.

  • Well said, @craiglindberg:disqus! Also, Star Wars reference: +1. 🙂

  • Oops! Sorry about that @PamMktgNut:disqus! That was actually supposed to have been linked to. I think it was an amazing conversation, which is why I reached out to Glen to ask if he minded if I quoted him. I’ll get with Mark and see if we can make sure it’s properly attributed. You deserve the credit for starting that massive conversation, no doubt!

  • Good point, @tchochkes:disqus. When asking people about it, most only saw the social signals value, but weren’t really seeing any ROI or qualified leads coming from it. Interesting to hear that you fully tried it, and moved on!

  • Apology accepted but that was a big miss Rob. It’s common courtesy to give credit where credit was due. My post had 90+ comments on it so obviously some of your thinking came from there. Why not link the post to even better help your audience?

  • You’re absolutely right, Pam. I’ve already sent an email asking to have this corrected as soon as possible. That conversation will be highly educational to anyone that finds this post interesting. Sorry again for the misstep. In the interim, this is the link: https://www.facebook.com/PamMktgNut/posts/10152108879316206
    Hope to get this fixed ASAP.

  • This is my fault Pam and I accept responsibility. I believe Rob did have this link in the original post but in the transition from Word doc to WordPress it got lost in translation. I will add this to the post.

  • Barbara Goldberg

    I was one of the original users of Empire Avenue. In the beginning it was a great way to network. I actually connected with some great folks who I reached out to on other networks and have stayed connected with them. Things changed when they added Missions. The previous types of connections I was making was no longer available. I believe in authenticity not bribery. I left Empire Ave the early part of last year and haven’t been on since.

  • It’s okay Mark 😉 Mistakes are one thing (which appears this was) vs blatant dis-credit. Still surprised there was no actual mention nor full context of the conversation as it is clear it inspired this post to some degree?

  • AndreasWiedow

    @ If you’re using EA, what is your experience? Is there any long-term value or problem I have overlooked?

    Thanks for your view, Robert, and I appreciate your strong sentiments albeit I couldn’t fight the feeling that your personality is open to all that Black Hat SEO that you mentioned. So for that it’s good you took some time-out from EAV.

    Re. your question: Low level and low educated marketers you find everywhere and I would agree that EAV makes it easy for them to ‘Not Learn’.

    But if you change your focus and look more on the brighter side you find people such as me who’re using EAV to a great success, eg. re. LinkedIn. And a LinkedIn group stats certainly wouldn’t lie over time, would it ?

    Using EAV missions combined with LI-member posts, shared through twitter my group numbers increased overall exponentially. I refrain from posting a link here unless you ask me to.

    Another nice example are Dr. Dittrich’s nice tweets. The way he uses EAV is a prime example how it should be done. Very educational. Maybe you can get his views here too.

    Happy New Year.

  • socialmediamo

    Great article and I agree with it for the most part. Here is another article about EA on this blog that’s interesting also. https://www.businessesgrow.com/2011/05/04/six-ways-to-make-money-from-empire-avenue/

  • No, that is not correct. I met Rob for dinner in Austin several weeks ago (long before your FB post) and he was talking about his EA experience. I suggested that it might make a good blog post. This was in the works since early December and he simply added a quote from Glen to flesh it out. The timing was a coincidence.

  • AndreasWiedow

    I agree, this very post should mention the linked inspiration in the first line for credit.

  • AndreasWiedow

    Question, Mark: Would it harm your or Rob’s reputation in any way to add ALL sources of inspiration along the way . . . or . . . rather ADD to your reputation positively ?

    AND . . . on top of that since we’re talking BlackHat, unethical and all that . . . how does such . . . erm . . . ‘omission’ . . . add to the discussion ?

  • I’ll have to take a look at what Dr. Dittrich is doing, @AndreasWiedow:disqus. From the majority of what I saw while on EA, there wasn’t such great things happening. I don’t discount the possibility that people are using it in such a way as to warrant praise, though. Much of what I saw was simple social signal padding. I’d be happy to see what you’re doing as well. Thanks for chiming in!

  • That’s really interesting to hear from someone who’s personally seen the evolution of the platform, @barbaragoldberg:disqus! Having only come on late in 2013, I didn’t know how long the missions had been around. Thanks for sharing!

  • Very interesting, @socialmediamo:disqus. I wonder if this post falls into the same time frame @barbaragoldberg:disqus spoke of below, before they added the missions. Mark even points out that he thought it would be tough to game the system. Seems that aspect has changed a bit. 🙂

  • As I clearly explained, Pam’s post was not the source of inspiration for this post. The conversation I had with Rob was weeks before that. So the fact that you think this is “unethical” or black hat Andreas is bizarre at a minimum and really pisses me off at a maximum. You better bring some big guns along before you call me unethical.

  • Yes, this was written when the platform was a few months old. Long before missions were created.

  • AndreasWiedow

    Thanks Rob, appreciated.

    If you still have login to EAV you can see at least two ‘ColdCalling’ missions in my ticker (e)arow – by clicking through you’d see how and why it adds real substance.

    Once you’re on my LinkedIn group you could check stats hiding behind the italic ‘i’ (dunno whether that requires club membership or not)

    Thanks again.

  • Brilliant, thanks for putting together your thoughts on EA. I’ve had the same issues for a long time. I still continue to enjoy playing with EA- but to me it’s just a bit of fun- a game. What I really have never liked is the mission side of things and the way many users try and boost their score by posting rubbish on their networks and then running missions to get people to like/+1/share/comment on them. My ironic article on “20 Steps to become a Social Media Guru” was partly based on Empire Avenue use.

    Will I continue to use EA? Yes, but I will use it to invest in people that I respect and have a bit of fun.

    There will be some Empire Avenue users who will strongly disagree with you, but I wanted to thank you for an open and refreshing picture on the current state of Empire Avenue!

  • AndreasWiedow

    @ before you call me unethical.

    Did I ? Or you better read again ?

    And maybe it’s up to Rob to lay out the source(s) and inspiration(s) of ‘his’ post – he wrote it ?

    And just to quote Rob earlier in reply to Pam’s comment here . . .

    “I’ll get with Mark and see if we can make sure it’s properly attributed. You deserve the credit for starting that massive conversation, no doubt!”

    . . . This clearly seems to indicate that – at least – part of his inspiration (along the way) ALSO came from Pam’s fb post.

    So stay off your own writing and better calm down.

  • Barbara Goldberg

    Glad I could provide additional insight for you @Robzie81:disqus. One of the things I found very interesting when Missions were first introduced was who was supporting it. You could watch as some egos grew. That was a tell-tail sign for sure!

  • Thanks for your insight. I was on EA fairly early on, but only started using it around the same time Missions started. I’ve always thought missions were fairly unethical, but I thought I was alone. It’s great to read this article and know that others think the same. I’ll probably continue to use EA, but I just use it to invest in people I respect and to network. I’ll continue to avoid Missions like the plague.

  • dougwo

    While the statements here are true, they are misleading in that they assume that that is ALL Empire Avenue is good for. There are many other ways to ‘game’ the system besides EA. But it is unfair to assume that all EA members are there solely to hustle sales of affiliate products to gullible prospects.

  • socialmediamo

    Not sure when Missions were created but I joined in March and they were there.

    The article Mark wrote in May reminds me of how I felt about EA about the same time. I saw enormous possibilities but as the weeks went on it was clear that it wasn’t all that for me. The social fraud really makes me sick and I vowed to sign off and quit the game months ago but I met a few real good people and then a few more. It was then I realized there may be value for me. I have established several real relationships through EA and we don’t RT or share each others content (I would if any of them asked), but instead we laugh, entertain each other and share ideas.

    There’s a diamond in the rough IMO but I don’t recommend anyone join with out disclosing what I just shared plus a few more things 🙂

    Thanks Rob for the article, good insight.

  • I trust you Mark. Andreas I often think Mark & I share the same brain on some days so it does not surprise me he was thinking this. I had also been thinking along these lines for some time & finally put it out there on Facebook to get opinions from others.

    I trust Mark in that this was an oversight. I see they added the link now. I do agree it should have been at least mentioned to begin with as the quote was pulled from the post w/over 90 comments.

    However, I have to back Mark up on this one. He is far from unethical and I would trust him babysitting my kids and even my grand kids someday when I have them… that means a lot and I am not sure he would ever want to! 😉 ha ha

    Mark is one of the good guys and I feel always open to other opinion,being real etc. which is why I responded here with my thoughts on on inclusion as I know and hope he would do the same on my blog if the situation had happened there.

  • Many thanks Pam. I am always comfortable in connecting with you in a direct and business-like manner because we have a strong foundation of trust to build on. And by the way, I would love to babysit your grandkids some day.

  • socialmediamo

    To clarify I joined March of 2013. I do understand Mark wrote his post years ago.

  • Many thanks for the value you are adding to the dialogue sir.

  • You are hired Mark! So are you not wanting to take on the current kids 9 & 13? ha ha 😉

    I can fly them up for Spring Break in March!

  • socialmediamo

    I like that you guys (Rob & Mark) are actually responding and communicating on this post. That practice is unfortunately vanishing as the “Social Noise” increases these days. Thanks for this 🙂

  • Thanks for the article, Rob; it’ll probably make me reconsider some of my approaches to EAv. To me as a learner and beginner trying to find ways promoting my smallish, freelancish ways EAv offered quick access to a lot of information I wouldn’t easily get otherwise (yes, there are quite a few good websites out there but the amount of knowledge squeezed into one spot at EAv offers quite a bit of a learning curve.)

    Rigging the game is a huge issue whenever and wherever business is involved; I only started at the end of 2012 and saw some of those people trying to garner as much social signals as possible but this -imho- has died quite a bit over time (or maybe I am not looking hard enough for such missions – they are of no use to me.) I have done a few missions myself to garner such signals but quickly realised they aren’t really helping where authenticity and creativity are in high demand, along with some truly original thoughts. So the thing left to me in using Empire Avenue are some of the stats giving you a rough idea of where you’re at SoMe-wise, the knowledge base and discussion and a bit of gaming fun.

    There should possibly be made a distinction between heavy-hitters on the one side who obviously don’t care where impressions come from and individuals and/or charities who are looking for solutions to their publicity problem – but maybe I should read more from Businessgrow in the future 😉

  • I completely agree that there are other ways to ‘game’ the system, but this post is solely about the ways people are doing it on EA. That being said, I recognize that some folks may not be using it to solely beef up their numbers, but that is by and far the majority of what I experienced on the platform. Perhaps a case of the rotten apples spoiling the rest?

  • I totally recognize that side of it @iagdotme:disqus. For those who love the stock market and playing the investment game, I can definitely see that EA would be a blast. I take all arguments with full interest, too. The best part of writing blog posts is to spark dialogue, even if people completely disagree with me. 🙂 Thanks for the great input! Looked up your ironic post. Reading it now.

  • You bet, @socialmediamo:disqus. I was really interested to see people’s reactions to the post and the practice. I welcome all sides of the argument!

  • my 0.02 eaves worth of kool-aid:

    I joined almost 3 years ago and I have connected with some awesome people because of EmpireAvenue. However, EmpireAvenue was nothing more than a catalyst and initial matchmaker, the actual networking happened (mostly) somewhere else (Facebook/Twitter and even G+).

    The downfall started with missions. I would like to believe they were created with good intentions, but it caused an influx of fake and spammy profiles.

    But, on the other hand, if we are to dismiss EmpireAvenue simply because of this, we should dismiss Twitter and Facebook because of all the fake accounts with their stock photo profile pictures. We need to dismiss Klout because of the incentivized social sharing, not that much difference between “retweet this and get some virtual currency” and “retweet this and get a free Big Mac”.

    EmpireAvenue is one of many social media tools. You can use it or abuse it.

    What you can’t do, or shouldn’t do, is to judge people because they are registered on a certain web service. Feel free to judge me for my actions, my lousy English or my choice of headgear but not because you see my name on a web site. Suggesting that people should google “EmpireAvenue [insert name]” and jump to conclusions based on the result is just silly.

  • I’d always recommend Mark’s blog. I’m thrilled to be a guest on it, @Marcel Aubron-Bülles:disqus. EA is neat in that it brings all your social presence together and gives you a rating. We all love to be scored, for some reason. From what I’ve seen over the last couple of months though, the gaming is alive and well in missions. That Yelp mission was from back in November, I believe. I’m a strong proponent for the little guys in business. Best of luck to you!

  • That would be great. They would have fun on boat and swimming in the lake (no alligators here!)

  • It’s truly unfortunate when spammy-types ruin a good thing, @fuffenz:disqus. You do make some excellent points. My comment was only to state that you could find out if someone is using it by looking it up. Not that you should immediately make judgement. If you’re using the platform in a noble way and have made excellent connections through it, I commend that! You’re right that EA users could use or abuse the platform. Unfortunately, I simply saw too much abuse. And for the record, I also consider “Retweet for a free Big Mac” as bribery. 😉

  • Rezwan Razani

    Maybe not so much “shaming” as an authenticity auditing service that drills down into the likes and determines what percent are genuine. Then you get a genuine-icity score. This makes me think of the Corruptions Perception Index. http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2013/ Supplement to your Klout score.

  • Kevin Green

    I am quite surprised to see this as a guest blog post to Mark’s blog. There is some merit to some of the points on how leaders could and should help clean up Empire Avenue.

    I started to respond, almost line by line with with a bit of truth and it got to be longer than this blog piece itself.

    This guest piece is actually an original blog post by Rob on December 5th only 2 days after joining EA on his personal blog that received no attention.

    Changing the title to link bait and using Mark’s blog and adding some information from Pam’s great FB post made it newsworthy? Controversy sells papers though so got to hand it to you.

    Welcome to the Bribery Economy

    http://robzie.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/welcome-to-the-bribery-economy/

    I do appreciate your insight Rob into what a new person on EA experiences and will hard with others for change.

  • HalGood

    I have been using Empire Avenue for several years. I have connected with some great folks with shared interests. I, like Mark, became appalled at the way “missions” were being utilized. That has died down a bit now, I think, but that is just my impression because I do not sponsor missions or participate in them. I sponsored one mission about a year ago and tried a few along the way from trusted friends. The opportunity for abuse is certainly there and unfortunately may be rewarded. I am a billionaire on EA and rank in the top 100 in several categories. That is proof one does not have to game the systems to get ahead on EA. I respect the opinions expressed here and understand the sincerity and concerns of those posting them. I am not abandoning EA as I enjoy playing and have some great friends there. However, I am also not about to sponsor missions or participate by “liking”causes I don’t believe in, or products I haven’t successfully used.

  • People collaborating to help each other`s content get a second degree spark. What is not to like? If the content is no good it will go no further. If it is good it will get third and fourth degree sharing and onwards. So you would ban Triberr and Scoop.it as well? I cannot see any difference in them sorry.Mark.

  • I think Rob was specifically talking about the issue of paying out virtual currency in return for them sharing content in missions. That is different to Triberr and Scoop.it where you share content primarily because you like the content – not because you are getting something in return.
    I like EA, but I could do without missions although I would guess you’d disagree with that, Michael.

  • @iagdotme:disqus hit it right on the head, @michaelqtodd:disqus. People have compared it to promoting a post on Facebook, but I look at it like this: when sponsoring or promoting a post, you’re paying the platform to put your content in front of people who may be interested in it. With the other model, you’re paying the person directly (through real or digital currency) to share it, ‘Like’ it, etc, whether they’re interested in the content or not. Lots of people just share for the eaves, and I think that’s pretty obvious on the platform. I actually haven’t used Triberr or Scoop.it, so I can’t make those comparisons. Definitely appreciate your input, Michael.

  • That sounds like you’re using it as it was likely originally intended, @HalGood:disqus. That’s fantastic. Unfortunately, I think you may be in the minority. Kudos to you for making great connections on the site and ranking so highly in categories that are important to you!

  • Hey @disqus_aQp5zm5Khh:disqus. Thanks for reading. You’re absolutely right that I did write about this shortly after my first experience starting out with EA. Shortly after writing that, I had dinner with Mark while he was in town, and we were discussing the topic. He thought it might make an interesting blog post to his audience, so he asked if I’d be interested in guest posting here. I wrote another post, including more insight from continued use and investigation on the platform, but also based on the same ideas I still held from my initial experience. I’m not sure I’d say we tried to make it newsworthy, as this has been happening for a while. We just decided after discussing it that we’d like to have a post about it here. Thanks for sharing your input. I certainly welcome it, as it sounds like you’re passionate about the platform.

  • Kevin Green

    Thanks Rob, yes I guess you would say I am lol.

    Having the largest 2 accounts on EA I have a vested interest in making it a better place. Many of the things you saw I don’t participate in, in fact I rarely run more than a mission every couple months.

    I still think in the right hands you could find value in it also. Today I visited your twitter, blog, IG, G+ FB all from your profile on EA.

  • Do you understand that you can do the missions without taking the eaves? Do you understand that there is zero compulsion to share stuff that you do not want to?
    It can only be seen as a good thing that people are waking up to how we are collaborating with each other and I truly believe that they will one day fully participate too.

  • Now that side of the platform, @disqus_aQp5zm5Khh:disqus, I can get behind. I mentioned in the article that I can totally see the fun of investing in others, and it’s nice to let others visit your profiles from one place (though there are a couple I wouldn’t connect on, Foursquare being one. Friends and people I know only). Unfortunately, the darker side is what caught more of my attention and spawned my reaction. That Yelp one was a doozy. Especially after a group of companies were fined $400k each for writing fake reviews for businesses.

  • I do fully understand that you’re not forcing anyone to take eaves, or do missions for that matter @michaelqtodd:disqus. Unfortunately, the result of people randomly sharing content they have no interest in just to get eaves is a content marketing nightmare.

  • This is where articles like this give a misleading interpretation of EAv and the marketers on them.

    @Catriona has never even heard of EAv, and now she’s prejudiced. Presumably as much about the people who use it as the platform itself.

    We are marketers. We would not risk sharing irrelevant crap with our followers for the sake of a few eaves.

    Discretion plays a huge part in the choices we make, both in the missions we choose to accept, the people we choose to invest in and the communities we join.

    It really is no different than any other Social feed, a place to not only network, but find content to curate that we otherwise wouldn’t that’s a good fit for our audience.

    Yes, there are missions that are not fit for our followers. So, we don’t share them. That is our choice as diligent marketers, promoting the content of like-minded peers to our followers who, in turn, get further engagement when they re-share, as @michaelqtodd:disqus alludes.

    There are mercenaries on EAv, I’m sure. But we can control who shares our content by stipulating certain criteria. This dissuades most mercenaries and ensures that our content is shared with consideration.

    Can we say the same about facebook, G+, Twitter? No, anyone can dive in, share our content and even take credit for it.

    We use the likes, re-tweets and plus ones as currency to extend our reach and make influencers notice we’re advocating their content. There’s really no difference.

    This article has been written with not enough understanding of the nuances of the platform – or at least how to get the best from it – so is badly slanted because of it, IMHO. It’s another social networking tool, that is all.

  • It is crushing my soul to hear you talking about something you know all but zero about like this. You have focused fairly and squarely on the 1% of Empire Avenue that is not great while choosing to ignore the 99% of it that is totally awesome

  • Lynn O’Connell

    To me, the big benefit of EA is the tracking scores for
    each platform. I find that data to be far more accurate, more detailed,
    and more useful than the Klout score. It’s why I joined actually — I
    discovered the community and content benefits after I got involved.

    Re community: I’ve met some great people on EA. And, what you did by telling the mission-runner to take the Yelp mission down is very common on EA. Some people don’t know what’s black hat and what’s not. A lot of people new to social media get educated through that kind of back and forth. Yes, there are some people on EA who are deliberately manipulating numbers, selling likes on fiverr, etc. and I think EA needs to address that. However, I find it is also a great place to meet and talk to people who are focused on social media. Plus, new sites, new articles, and new trends surface very quickly in this group.

    Regarding the ethics — I have a strong sense of what kind of content is appropriate for my social media channels and I’m not going to share something that isn’t a fit – I wouldn’t do it for a burger and I certainly won’t do it for eaves. (Something you might not realize as a newbie is that anyone who has been on for a while has no need for eaves from missions. You get plenty from stock investments, meaning that if you choose to do missions, you can easily pick and choose ones that share content that interests you.) I typically do missions for people I’ve met through EA who I know are good content curators for my niche. And, even then, I always click through to see what the specific post is before deciding whether or not I’ll share it. I do view it as very similar to Scoop.it and other content aggregation sites.

    Is EA perfect? No. But, as others have mentioned, all the social networks are being gamed by people buying fake followers and interaction. (Why people want big numbers of fans who have no interest in their product or service is baffling to me, but it obviously is happening.) This social media fan and like problem is much bigger than EA.

  • Lynn O’Connell

    I’d disagree that he is in the minority. Missions are one small part of EA — many have mentioned here that they joined before they even had missions and many players rarely do missions, while others do them only when it is something that they want to share. It’s certainly the most obvious part to a newbie and, within the EA community, there has been huge pressure on EA management to do something about the abuses. They are moving much slower than I’d like, but they have made significant changes over the past few months that have started to reign in the wild west atmosphere and to weed out the bad guys. And, in the meantime, many players are in communities that keep lists of the bad guys. Do they need to move faster and more decisively to get the black hats off the site? Yes. Is simply being on Empire Avenue proof that you buy followers or scam? No. That’s a huge over-generalization.

  • I can absolutely agree that the spam, scam, and buying followings/engagement is a problem much bigger than EA, @lynnoconnell:disqus. I also recognize that there are plenty of other ways to game the system. I don’t say that EA is the only way, or even the worst way, simply that I saw it happening on a regular basis and at a large scale. It’s really awesome to hear that you’ve made great connections on the platform, and that you (as well as a few others who’ve commented) do seem to be using it in an ethical and community building way. For that, I truly do commend you, and I wish many others on the site would follow that lead. I could even likely get behind the site if they did away with the Missions. That’s definitely where things go awry for many users.

  • Define “getting ahead” on EA. You have manufactured a huge presence on an obscure social media platform. How has that translated into tangible business benefits?

    I get the fun aspect of this and the challenge but see most of the benefits coming from missions.

  • Basil C. Puglisi

    Just awesome man! I really feel like you captured the problems with Social Media in general, especially marketing professionals.

    1) You totally point out the lack of ability to keep people from gaming any system, Google spends million upon billions finding ways to keep people from gaming their system and it still happens

    2) You completely made sure you kept this as one sided as you could, I mean while in some case people fudge numbers, you just went all out opinion with no research data or really any overall validity and kept your point to your own experience for your own benefit (or link bait).

    FTC Disclosure: I have profited from Empire Avenue, both in marketing and directly from Empire Avenue in partnerships and sponsorship. My data and experience shows that using Empire Avenue has produced tangible financial gain in product sales and in social reach and influence. This includes both one time engagements as well as long term relationships with others on Empire Avenue. I have and will continue to use their service and will continue to work with the team at Empire Avenue who have shown a commitment to trying to develop a best practices to govern what has indisputably been an amazing network and resource.

  • Ozzie Oi

    Excellent Points

  • Hercules Fisherman

    i have just joined EA recently, as part of my job in getting to know about such things, so far it has been interesting, insight such as yours are invaluable to me as a newbie.

  • Is not a “social media platform” is an app?

  • Marc Rogers

    Interesting and thought provoking piece. Here’s my 2c on some of this….

    I’m one of the early users of EA and many of the concerns you raise are concerns that i myself have wrestled with. In fact some of these concerns are the reason I went dormant on EA for a significant period of time.

    EA is a tool. As some others have stated tools can be used for good or bad. its also a disruptive technology and as such is like to cause issues with previously defined boundaries, often upsetting the status quo in areas where typically the usual boat-rockers are people looking purely to game the system.

    However its possible to use this tool and maintain an ethical position. Doing so right now requires a degree of thought, though hopefully in the future it will be possible through oversight, guidance and boundaries.

    for starters I completely agree with you – soliciting reviews from complete strangers is a big no no. It destabilizes the “review economy” and more seriously erodes trust in the review process itself.

    Likewise blind endorsement or propagation of content, thoughts or positions is also dangerous. Both from the angle that by blindly endorsing someone else’s propaganda you expose yourself and anyone connected to you to those beliefs but also because it exposes people that trust you to the actions of less scrupulous individuals who ay try to leverage your contacts trust in you as a mechanism to deceive them or their friends.

    However i also think that EA is an interesting experiment in content marketing that has a lot to offer. Treated right it gives you a controlled sandbox where you can run a blend of psychological and marketing exercises in a way you never could with a real marketing campaign – at least not without huge costs and risks.

    Furthermore EA provides a mechanism to connect and interact with specific individuals or groups of individuals.

    It’s also fun. 🙂

  • What fascinates me most about this article is that the system is gamified reciprocity which one of the five primary factors of Influence. (See Influence, Robert Cialdini’s book)

    Admittedly, there is a lot of rubbish that comes through the stream as missions… but have you seen the rubbish that goes through your twitter stream on a daily basis? No channel is pure anymore. You have to filter and ignore stuff.

    While a lot of crap takes place in missions, so too does a lot of GREAT GOOD – such as the community rally this week to spread the word about the abduction of the daughter of a member: https://www.empireavenue.com/missions/view?id=52553520&l=13

  • I definitely agree with you about the community @socialmediamo:disqus – for every person you’ve got to ignore there’s at least one there that is not only really cool but you probably don’t know yet.

    That was a big factor for me I must say – a community where I didn’t know 80% of the members was very useful to me in terms of networking.

  • Actually @RezwanRazani:disqus – a lot of the likes/shares produced by EA are “genuine”. The reason though, that the quality falls low, is that the payout incentive encourages oversharing (volume) and you wind up with a lot of people unfortunately not only producing no click-through for you – but more importantly flooding their own bewildered social channels at the same time. Imagine dumping buckets and buckets of tweets into an already busy twitter stream and you can rapidly see how the fan base would push back. There’s a lot of that because many people can’t handle the emotional pressure of turning down an incentive to protect their own audience.

  • I like the mission feature. If I like something I’ll do the mission. If I don’t like it, I won’t do it. I think it’s up to each user to determine what they’re willing to share. If they share simply to earn eaves, I can’t imagine them having a strong followership in social media (at least for very long) and the content won’t go far.

    I’m not a huge fan of “junk” on social media sites, but there are ways to filter it out and these sites generally do a good job of filtering out junk.

    That said, I’ve run into some cool stuff doing missions on EA… stuff I’m wiling to share. I’ve definitely seen my share of shady stuff as well and I avoid it.

    Like Michael said, if the content is not good, it won’t go much further.

  • I love the collaboration on EA. I have met some of the best marketers online via this platform. Check out my Google Plus and then tell me I have horrible engagement, Bwahaha!

  • Love the FTC disclosure Basil!

  • Rob, great article and view point. I would like to ask, do you feel paying for any kind of traffic to a website or social media post is appropriate at any time or any level? Just wondering if you feel that there is something inherently wrong with that or not?

  • Kita Champion

    If a website crushed your soul, I think you need to go to church and figure out what your soul has to do with a website. I joined EAV in May 2011. I joined because a friend invited me to play a game in which you networked and made friends with other players. I have not made 1 penny with EAV, but I didn’t join to make 1 cent. I joined to network and make friends. It is what each individual person makes of it. Just like twitter, facebook, and other social media sites are. The tools can be used for several things but the entire community can’t be judged by a few unsavory behaviors of some. The person you had to talk to about the yelp recommendations should have had his own internal ethical conscious that said to him what you did without him having to be told. That’s not Empire Avenue’s fault. Today I ran a mission to help find a missing woman. I’ve ran missions to help children with cancer. I’ve completed missions to help save dolphins, bees, and people in need. I’ve met some really good people. Yes just like with every social media program I have used I find problems. I find people trying to scam and spam on facebook and twitter. I don’t label the entire twitter and facebook population as corrupt and hurting my soul. If you soul is connected to making money on Empire Avenue then maybe it did get hurt. My soul is connected to God and EAV has nothing to do with it. I have made a lot of nice friends on EAV. You get out of it what you go in search of. If you don’t like the contents of a mission and your internal alarm goes off then you do not complete it. Just like you don’t tell people who call you on the phone and ask for personal information, your personal information.

  • Red Boating

    I agree with Melanie. I ‘ve also actually been exposed to a lot of additional information through missions (Blog posts about using social media, tips, and additional news, etc) that helps me in my primary professional.

  • Alberto Alvarez

    From my POV EA helps on 3 fronts: 1) It’s a social media booster, that at the end depends on the content it self to help or not your brand/business, 2) it helps with the “social proof” to ignite a new brand or a new social network for an existing one (i.e is more likely for people to join a linkedin group with say 500 members than one with 10) and 3) It’s good for networking. So for me is one more tool to help in marketing a brand.

  • Maximiliano Meza Cruz

    I definitely agree with you about the community

  • Miriam Slozberg

    Great points as social noise is just noise, its irrelevant and gamification is a huge problem these days.

  • Kevin Green

    WELCOME TO {GROW}
    You’re in marketing for one reason: Grow. Grow your company, reputation, customers, impact, profits. Grow yourself. This is a community that will help. It will stretch your mind, connect you to fascinating people, and provide some fun along the way. I am so glad you’re here. -Mark Schaefer
    You could exchange {GROW} for Empire Avenue at it would be described perfectly

  • jimwirshing

    You’ve made a reasonable attempt at identifying both sides of the problem. Like virtually everything in this world, EA (and everything else) can be used for positive or negative purposes. Just because some people are killed by baseball bats and hammers, we don’t eliminate the game or take away the tools from the craftsmen. Like many other commenters have already said, let’s look to the reason behind why and how each person uses it before we cast judgement on whether it is good or not.

  • Scotty Barker

    Just like any tool or weapon, it is HOW it is used, but who are we to judge what is ethical or unethical?

  • JM

    A couple points:
    *With that logic, any incentive program (American Express points, Frequent Flyer miles, Viggle) would fall under your category of bribery. Even advertisers of network television are providing you something of value-free entertainment often costing millions of dollars per episode-in exchange for your time and (they hope) your attention.

    *The Wikipedia definition of bribery is to, “persuade (someone) to act in one’s favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducement.” It seems as though you might be looking for a different word than bribery to explain your thoughts.

    Thanks, as always, to everyone for the great conversation.

  • Its better than paying for traffic…..

  • Nikki Ng

    It is probably a bit better than Fiverr, which you get get tons of likes, etc..for only $5…because it is done by “real people”…Hopefully, you will get some real interaction through the viral spread by those 20% of the people (80/20 rule).

  • Lynn O’Connell

    EA is one of the tightest communities I belong to. When a local rescue group I support didn’t have the funds to rescue a Mom and 8 kittens from a high-kill shelter, EA members got the word out, and many donated, ultimately saving many many litters of cats.

  • The social interaction from EA mainly are not targeted. The key lies on what do you want to achieve from the missions.

    If you expect targeted traffic from there, you will be disappointed. Having tons of +1, shared, liked or RT, etc…simply does not mean anything apart from it looks good for those visitors that are truly engaged with you.

    The real benefit might be from the friends of those people did your mission (if they are truly interested, they will be checking out whatever you are sharing).

  • dan stepel

    Is there long term value to EA? YES. My network is my business life and EA has help that. I would be happy to speak with more drop me a line.

  • thisisspain

    Don’t sweat the small stuff. IT’S A GAME.

  • Dean

    There are very few things in the world that are judged by ability(sports?) . Everything else is influenced. When you place power in the hands of a few you will always get corruption including social media. That’s my 2 cents.

  • Your comment seems to be representative of a few others here so I thought I would step in and comment on your view as a representation of a general view. I did not write the article but this is my blog.

    There are three main points to Rob’s article:

    1) While other social networks actively work to eliminate gaming the system, it is a common feature of EA. Yes, corruption occurs everywhere but EA is like a city without a police force.

    2) Some of the gaming going on is not only unethical, it is illegal. Again, EA is not taking any steps to control or curb events that are against the law.

    3) The author expressed personal disappointment that social media stars he had held in esteem are, in fact, not building their image organically, but are fakes that are offering what amounts to bribes to boost their status.

    For the people who are even the most ardent supporters of EA, I don’t think these elements are in dispute. It is one perspective, and a perspective I might add that needs to be shared to create balance in the dialogue.

    If you lived in Syria, you could probably look around and enjoy the beautiful gardens and historical features of the place and say “Look, you should all come to Syria. There are lots of good things here. Don’t blame us for the bad people.” But this does not diminish the fact that Syria is a place with rampant corruption. That does not mean there are not great people in Syria or that people aren’t saving puppies in Syria, but an observer would be doing the world a disservice if the only thing that was reported about it was it was that it had a great club scene,

    Rob wrote this from the perspective of a newcomer, but I have been on EA three years and the reason I am inactive and the reason esteemed person like Glen Gilmore or Pam Moore are inactive, is because the place has become a cesspool.

    I am happy for those who have found legitimate value on the site. But you also need to face the fact that a lot of people like Rob are going to be turned off because when you step foot in the place you are accosted by a line of midway carnies trying to peddle snake oil.

    I think in the long-term the “social proof” value derived from missions on EA will be discredited and ignored by Google, if it hasn’t already because Google will not allow that corruption to sneak through. This already happened on Klout when it took swift action to penalize people who were participating in organized activities to game the platform, Twitter did the same thing in 2009.

    I appreciate your comment, and all the comments of others. But I also think it is smart for even the people who love EA to recognize the corruption that is turning many bright people like Rob away.

  • I would say that is one of the most bizarre comments I have had on this blog. : )

  • Ron Opryszek

    EA, hard to deal with

  • I guess I agree. At least from a cost perspective you could argue that bribing people for traffic is better than paying people for traffic.

    Is “traffic” really the right business goal? “Traffic” visitors flit through my website and never return. People in my community hang around, get to know me and eventually creates a business benefit. Something to think about?

  • I think that question is worthy of an entire blog post. Watch for it soon. Shawn. Thanks for the question.

  • Kevin Green

    Mark it was a compliment for the marketing statement for GROW

    The reasons you stated were exactly why I joined Empire Avenue and how I saw it back then.

    Your reply under Kita is what many of us fight for at EA daily. They have made many mistakes along the way, maybe it’s due to the time I have put in there but I keep wanting to fix them.

  • Rezwan Razani
  • Gary

    Rob (and Mark):

    Thanks for your insight on Empire Avenue. I am not surprised by your revelations, I have always been wary of EA. It is important to illuminate such practices and raise ethical issues of social media. The mores and behaviors of dark SEO clearly have no place in social media.

    Don’t be too concerned about negative responses.

    I will use this post in my class next semester. Great job.

    Gary

  • I’d actually have to disagree with you on your first point. Incentive programs typically reward you for using a product or service. If those incentive programs were used to get you to simply go out and tell others about the product, even if you hadn’t used it, then it would fall under the category of bribery much like what I’ve seen on EA. Same with advertising. Advertising says, “Look. I have this product and I think you should buy it,” not “Go tell everyone about this product and I’ll give you something in return.” See the difference? I truly do feel that much of the interactions I saw in missions were insincere, especially when one is bombarded by all that garbage upon signup. I see some examples in the comments here that show me there are some people using it for greater good, but I’d have to say they are vastly outnumbered.

  • Looking forward to seeing what you think on this! Subscribing now. 🙂

  • Gary Schirr

    Rob:

    For some reason I wasn’t able to sign in for my comment yesterday… (Was simply “Gary”).

    Once again: great comment. This post will be used in our SMM class when we discuss SM ethics.

    “Fake it till you make it” is sometimes urged in 12-step programs. I don’t see it working on social media.

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

    Gary

  • I’m not picking on you but would like to address much of the dissent in general.

    Rob’s post acknowledged the positive benefits and did not disparage anybody in particular. I find the defensiveness throughout this stream of blog comments (not just yours) peculiar.

    For example, I wrote the world’s best-selling book on Twitter so you could say that I have a strong stake in that platform. If Twitter had a chronic problem based on corruption that was keeping people away, I wouldn’t ignore it and say “yes, but we still love it and people just don’t understand.” I’d say, “We have a big problem. Let’s work to clean the damn thing up.”

    I think the points made in Rob’s post cannot be disputed by any person who has even tried EA in a casual manner. Even if you try to approach EA honestly (as I have tried for years), you are constantly accosted by spammers, or worse.

    There is a strong element of corruption on EA that is now a key economic engine for the platform. I doubt EA has any incentive to clean it up because it has attracted an energetic group of defenders who thrive on the opportunity to fake their way to stardom. The fact is, corruption is now institutionalized on EA and will become the go-to place for social media bottom feeders, if it isn’t already. That is not a place that is attractive to me.

    If you and the other dissenters on this post really love EA for the genuine networking opportunity and fun of the game, why not acknowledge the problem and work like hell to fix it instead of trying to convince people they are wrong? Click on Pam Moore’s link in this post and you will see an outpouring of disgust for EA from very respected professionals far exceeding the commentary on this blog post.

    I sincerely appreciate the passionate comments on this post from you and others but in five years of blogging, I have never seen such a group of people ignoring reality and arguing from a point of raw emotion instead of intellectual honesty.

  • Thanks Professor. It will make a vibrant class discussion!

  • I have built my business on an enormous amount of honest hard work and a genuine connection with real people.

    EA is a platform that boosts people’s self-worth by fake badges, fake money and “missions” to obtain fake social proof. It is a business that is now benefiting economically from a committed group of unethical (and illegal) activities.

    This comparison is about as offensive and inaccurate as you could muster sir.

  • Could you re-phrase the question coherently please?

  • JM

    Viggle, provides extra points for Tweeting out what you’re doing through them, which can be converted to prizes, gift cards, etc. Mpoints also does this. Even my local gas company, PGW offered a $100 per signup incentive to promote a new program of theirs to my audience (which, of course, I can choose to promote or pass on the offer). Doesn’t seem that different to me.

  • Not exactly journalism:

    “Some had obviously drank the Kool-Aid and swore by it.”

    So if actually likes it, they’re dismissable as a nut? Seems like an unfair approach.

  • Peele G

    It crushed your soul to find out not everybody who has all those likes on Facebook really has all those people liking them? Really? Bad news coming your way about Santa Clause, my friend. Also the Man of Steel box office numbers and the percentage of dentists that think you should chew gum.

    I

  • It’s less about general likes and more about the conversation. In content marketing, the ultimate goal is to be helpful, spark interesting conversation, and eventually convert some of that conversation into qualified leads. To know that some of the conversation you see, and unfortunately get judged against as a barometer, is paid and not necessarily from people who are genuinely interested is a bit disheartening. Thanks for the heads up about Santa Claus though. Man, I’d have never seen that one coming.

  • Chris Sandys

    Mark, you should be more careful with your repeated use of the “illegal” term. What is described here is a potential breach of contract between private counter parties. There is no illegal end (a contract law term). No – I’m not a lawyer, I just know these things.

    As far as ethics go, is it unethical to endorse something for compensation? When I see Mean Joe Green guzzle a Coke, I’m sophisticated enough to know that he did it for the money.

  • I’m not sure why expressing a minority opinion is an unfair approach. It is a view.

  • Being in an ad is different than not disclosing your commercial relationships on the social web.

    If you are publishing on the social web and are being compensated to do it, you must disclose this boldly (even in a tweet) according to FTC guidelines that came out in early 2011.

  • Chris Sandys

    That’s a good point. It’s best to fully disclose potential conflicts of interest. Just chuckling over the final product: “I love this condo management. They are attentive and professional. And a friend of theirs paid me 25,000 eaves to say so.”

  • It dismisses the minority viewpoint as crazy. I guess if you’re just looking for conflict, that’s fine.

  • Barry Gumm

    Over the 25 years I have been in business, I have seen over and over again Marketing people calling something getting done for free which is part of their job, calling foul. I use Empire avenue as a marketing tool. I do not advertise I only Use Empire avenue. I run High paying missions and some low paying missions. I have two accounts one to publicise my book and another to publicise my Christian Website specifically the salvation message page. I DO NOT Use any other advertising. The hits to my sites increase greatly and my bounce rates are no higher than the average. The real reason why your soul got crushed is that you do not earn not one real dollar out of it do you! or ?

    I see this time and time again by Lawyers and Marketing people calling foul and when you look deeper its because your not getting paid.

    I see this with direct marketing and the washing of lists the only reason that came into law was marketing people not getting paid as they fought they needed to.

    The only reason so many laws come into place is that the lawyers do not get paid. I recently was told that my Algorithm for being 99.++++% to 100% could be worth 100 million AUD but I would have to wait 2-5 years to get all the protection in place before I could share it with the public. Who was going to get paid – a heap of lawyers.

    It was going to cost upwards of $100,000 to put the protections in place. At the end of the day I was only going to be helping the lawyers for 5 years and everyone else would have to wait. When I look back at the financial services industry what good has all the laws done that the lawyers get paid for – they would argue because that is what they are taught. Do people still get ripped off yes do people still lose money YES but the lawyers still get paid.

    And that my friend is the pure and sole reason of this post to cry foul and lack of ethics so that you and other marketing people will gt paid in the end along with the lawyers that everyone will need to employ to ensure compliance.

  • I Have about a 80% + failure rate in creating a mission. Sure I do some missions. I do them to increase my networks on social media to increase my presence. I don’t do them unless I support at least 70% of their whole network. Some people I will do them just for the credits, most I don’t. I don’t have a business. I’m building a world wide network to help people. My grammar sucks at times, this is a big slow down on me building a professional network faster. Empire avenue has helped me some on building new friends and findng Xeeme.com/jessegarboden. Xeeme has helped my network grow faster than Empire Avenue.

    I personaly use the EA both as a game and a Networking tool. Not so much on growing my followers. If they like what I write or post about they will follow or do a mission here or there. I don’t write reviews on yelp or any other service That I have not used personally. I will re-post something If its cool or funny. If I can use it on other networks I will as well. Building reputation online is not easy. You must find the right people that connect with you and believe as you do. Most people don’t.

    I’m starting to get enough reputation I’m just growing just because. Or what It might be of the connections I have which is probably more the case. I don’t add any one to my circles on G+ anymore. Still trying to figure that one out yet.

    In he end ALL networks can be gamed if you want to.

  • This blog post IS the minority viewpoint.

  • You may have a legitimate point in there somewhere but I don’t think that is the main issue Rob was making. He sounded an alarm because some professionals are “gaming” the system and even creating illegal missions that do not seem to be regulated by Empire Avenue. I’m pleased that you have found Empire Avenue to be useful in spreading your content and I thank you for sharing your success story with the community.

  • Thanks for adding your opinion sir.

  • Pingback: When Is It Time to Quite Empire Avenue | Ultimate Social Blog()

  • Ryan

    But do you think that Google would pick up on that kind “traffic” and that it’s ingenuine? That the traffic coming from EA doesn’t matter because they’re not really looking for your business…?

  • traffic is traffic regardless of who it is. I don’t think it matters who retweets your post etc… I don’t think google separates it….

  • Chris Sandys

    Mark, I haven’t met you vis-a-vis, but I’ve met over a score of people here in NYC via Empire Avenue. The people I have met-up with and discussed business are from as near as 20 miles to as far as 1,400. We connected on that platform, as a social network, and now have personal and business relationships outside of the little computer-land. I am merely a minor, neophyte to Empire Avenue.

    We are of the understanding that social media is merely a bridge to real life interaction.

    Is that fake? Unethical? Illegal? Any of the above? No. Not it the least.

    How successful have you been bridging the gap between the blogosphere to reality via your enormous amount of hard work? (“Honest” work, the man, doth protest.) Are your connections really genuine, or are they relegated to “virtual” reality, i.e. non-reality. Until you really meet these “fans” of yours, and do something for each for other, they are just an artificial crutch for reality. You know that, right?

    I suspect there is a healthy amount of disingenuity in your self view.

  • I am sincerely happy you are finding value in the platform. Many do. But you also describe yourself as a neophyte, while I have been on it for three years so perhaps I have a different view, a deeper view.

    I am happy to have your diverse view but not very happy at your coarse character assassination, especially, as you again admit, that you don’t even know me. If you would take the time to know me for disparaging my character, you might find me a person who has made many important connections via the social web.

    You comment is not very professional and I was tempted to delete it because it is more of an attack than a comment, but I let it stand, hoping you will come back to this blog in a better frame of mind next time.

  • Michael Haley

    Some have definitely misused missions. But you can’t dismiss it just because it has been misused. I have seen some very creative legitimate uses. I often pay through missions using eaves to get an opinion about my website – what do you like vs. what should I change about the appearance, pageflow, shopping cart flow, etc. Lately, EA has really improved the missions by suggesting that you should not ask for engagement but rather suggest they checkout your new content.

  • Jakub

    You are absolutely right, on Facebook there are much more “fake” activities as like as an author says and nobody says “Facebook is full of fools” and should be revoked by search engines. It is PEOPLE who choose the styling of their missions.

    The true is that EAV should continue on improving of the mission viewer for these people who love to explore new content without need of completing mission.

    I also agree with you about the “bribe” missions which are being rated very bad nowadays and people are not willing to accomplish them.

    The article is 4 months old at this moment and many things changed – especially the atmosphere. I agree with author that the EAV has been about bribes for some people, but definitely not for all and not these days.

  • Michael Haley

    Speaking of Facebook… if you choose to advertise your page… based on your daily budget… they directly equate your monetary commitment to how many likes you should get per day, ex: $5.00 / day = 14 to 19 page likes; and people have a problem with the EAv missions? lol.

  • This is the exact reason we left EA.

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  • RogerHoyt

    Honestly, I’ve never really thought of Empire Avenue that way. I’ve always thought of it as a tool to meet people from different fields of work, to connect with people I might not have otherwise connected. I’ve been using Empire Avenue off and on for the past several years. You’re right, it’s nothing more than a gaming system. You can get likes, you can get shares, etc…but you can’t get quality comments, and you can’t get a relative audience that gets you more views, more engagement, etc. It’s no wonder that a year or two after they started, they basically stopped working on Empire Avenue and started Gamer Kred. lol

  • rictownsend

    Times have changed and a lot of effort has been put in to rectifying the situation you have described. It still isn’t perfect I guess, however from the level of complaints from the black hat operators (who I won’t name) an the numbers that have been banned or suspended, great strides forward have been made. Time for another look?

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  • Pierre Ferland

    I’ve been on EA since May 2011 and honestly, I don’t see any value coming out of it… NONE. It is a game and just a game. I’m still there just because after all this time, I understand it is not a toll and it won’t help me or my business whatsoever.

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  • chris

    Hate to say this but is seems like a lot of people are upset because they conduct business honestly and this site allows users to skip that step. Fact of the matter is i write quality content and people don’t pay it the time of day unless it has a strong following already.

    So if i can create a strong following wheter artifical or not i will just to get others to give it the time of day. If I’m realistic about what i’m doing on EA, i know it doesn’t generate return viewers, but it puts me in the position to have my content read in the first place and if people come back i know its because the content was worth it.

    A Billion blog a day are posted i just need a fighting chance.

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  • How you do anything is how you do everything — it’s taken years for the true impact of that statement to sink in. I believe I got that from T Harv Eker (The Millionaire Mind guy)

    There are great people in social media

    There might even be a few great people on Empire Avenue.

    Great people with great networks and something truly valuable to say will always be valuable in any medium under any conditions.

    EA allowed the early birds of social media to get big “numbers” fast. Numbers were “Everything” at one point. Not so much anymore. The value of being fast first has fleeted however and now only the people that truly do the work of connecting and engaging with others are the ones that grow actual business. With or without the firepower of EA.

    What is business?

    Wealth creation. And yes wreath can be measured by many yardsticks.

    I feel wealthier when someone has made my life better in some way shape or form.

    Great leaders make everyone they come in contact with feel better in some way shape or form. That is simply what they do.

    And no matter how many games are in town there never ever seems to be a real shortcut to “making it”.

    Someone once said that all gains made by force must be sustained by force. I think that was Dr David Hawkins in his landmark book Power versus Force actually.

    So if you need Empire Avenue to build your network your going to need Empire Avenue to sustain your network and eventually you won’t be able to afford the costs of maintenance.

    I’ll use EA from time to time — a great deal when I first got in merely because A) it was new, B) it was the first social activity I got so it was intoxicating and C) I thought wow so this is how the pros do it (when In Rome…)

    After MANY experiments however I concur with a lot of your sentiments 🙂

    XeeMe was a similar offering with their S3 Buzz — which i too have also used.

    I think they still have a place but first and foremost for frack’s sake have something valuable to say! Learn to say it well and study MARKETING before you contribute to the deafening noise that we all mistake for marketing and social media influence these days.

    If you think Google’s algorithm for rankings stopped at Website SEO think again.

    Social Media signals are being analysed for authenticity and engagement — that is a given. Maybe not all too well at first but just like “spam” for emails and SEO spam for website social media noise is going to be removed from the rankings and the “cost” of sustaining a tribe by brute force will simply be too much to bear.

    Those “big” numbers will start counting against the noisy ones by the time they figure out you need to say something that actually counts 🙂

    So be real, be hostess, be authentically yourself, be valuable to everyone you come in contact with and at the right time you’ll get your moment to shine.

  • Well said sir. But I don’t think Empire Avenue had ever been a place that has attracted “pros.” When I think of the top 20-30 smartest and most successful marketers I know, none can be found there. I would not necessarily look there for leadership if you dig down and actually look at accomplishments instead of the social proof of empty numbers.

  • its all there on twitter and instagram.. follow for follow like for like culture.. it would happen without empire avenue

  • While that is true, Twitter and Instagram don’t encourage those activities. At the time this post was written, those types of missions were actively encouraged on Empire Avenue. That’s where the problem was evident. There’s always going to be people doing things the wrong way, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to be ok with it. 🙂

  • Derek

    For the fun-factor I use Empire Avenue, but not to get things done. With that in mind, it become a nice and relatively harmless online game. Over the years I’ve gaines millions (in EA) and I’m now trying out missions to see if they really work.

  • EA strikes me as 80% entertainment and about 20% effectiveness. As a venue, it is probably not all that different from any other… somehow, it seems to go hand in hand that when “promises” (like increased interest in your social media) are made, a system will be gamed and abused.

    To some degree, I expect you can get out of EA what you put into it. If you stick to only connecting with and investing in those who largely overlap with your own game plan you’ll get better results than you will from the indiscriminate me-centric “follow, follow, follow!” approach which strikes me as little more than a latter day “MySpace popularity contest.”

    Personally, I don’t CARE if someone can get me “100,000 followers on twitter.” I’d rather have 1000 READERS… Wheras EA might be able to boost raw numbers, who cares if those people have no interest in my actual product/service, and no interest in ME aside from my ability to become part of an eternal circle jerk of reciprocal back scratching?

  • Michael Pachulski

    You made a lot of good points, but you didn’t really emphasize the fact that there just some things you can promote on EA and some things you can’t. If you make an account hoping to get new customers into a brick and mortar business, or get new sales leads, you’re gonna have a bad time. But if you make an account with the intention of growing your social presence with REAL people, rather than buying fakes on fiverr or some such, you’ll do just fine. You just have to go out of your way to avoid the phonies, but that’s no different from any other social media site, so I don’t really see what all the complaints are about.

  • Back when this was written, it was kind of a free for all. I saw all kinds of things being promoted in exchange for eaves. (Like the Yelp example, which is a clear violation of Yelp’s terms). I agree that you have to avoid the fakes and phonies anywhere you go, but when this post was written, that behavior was actively encouraged. Facebook, Twitter, et al do not encourage that type of gaming the system. The complaints are about the false nature of the social proof generated through these means, and social proof still being a very important aspect of content marketing, that’s very problematic.
    Also, nice South Park meme reference, if you meant it. haha

  • As much as I’d like to look at it as merely back-scratching, that’s not the case. This social proof makes content more visible across the web (Google+ features highly engaged content more prominently, Facebook and LinkedIn show posts popular in your network, and Instagram will show you popular photos when you browse the search function.) So the influence of this type of shady gaming shouldn’t be understated. Sure, maybe it IS good content that one is promoting, but it still leaves me with a bad taste.

  • I appreciate the response– and I’m following up because this IS an important discussion, although it probably extends well beyond EA.

    In principle, I agree with much of what you say, although I would submit that false social proof is an inherent part of ANY social site, and inherent within the very process of being human.

    Think about it. Pretty much EVERY social site has a “find your friends” feature, right? But your friends are really not your business market, at least not for most people. So you just bought yourself some “fake popularity.” Look at all the twitter profiles that say “I’ll follow you back!” and “team follow-back.” I get at least one or two direct tweets a week from some “social marketing guru” who claims they can get me 50,000 followers. They probably can… and shame on me for not recognizing that 50,000 “professional followers” won’t mean a damn thing to my bottom line.

    We can also label all that “black hat,” I suppose. But is that really a fair characterization?

    Let’s look at LIFE. Everything is a subtle popularity contest. You get 100 people to show up to your party, but are they there because you are genuinely popular, or because you lured them with free beer and pizza? To the casual eye, there’s no difference. All we know is that “Rob had 100 people at his party!” Or take politics– we don’t elect politicians because they are “best at the job,” but because they convey the message that gets votes, by hook or by crook. And it’s more often by crook.

    What’s my point? If we’re marketing/promoting something through the web, we have a set of tools at our disposal. These tools– twitter, Instagram, Facebook, tumblr, email and even EA don’t “do” anything other than what we MAKE them do. So we can use them with integrity, or we can use them for deception. Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. Metaphorically speaking, any idiot can set up shop on the corner and attract a crowd by offering “free hot dogs” but if they are the crappiest hot dogs on the planet, their claim of having “the world’s most popular hot dogs” is nothing but a short term lie because they will never actually SELL a hot dog to anyone. Does that leave me with a bad taste, too? Yes! But I accept that there are going to be “gamers” in all systems. That’s just life. But I’m a cynic… too many years spent on the “shady” end of marketing that “tells lies with facts.”

    In reading between the lines at EA, what it seems to have going for it– for many legitimate users– is that the “gamification” of social marketing helps people engage more effectively in the active social promotion of whatever it is they are doing. The effective results come not so much from dubious EA missions, as from having the scores from each social site “in their face” every day as a reminder to go add content. Their OWN content, not false signals. Which is also how I use it… and frankly, it’s more entertaining than just watching my Klout score fluctuate… as I have long told people “If social marketing was more like FarmVille, I’d be super successful!”

  • Michael Pachulski

    I certainly did haha, didn’t think anyone would catch that. Yeah, that’s very true. I’ve had several clients ask me what I can do about “all these bed yelp reviews” and I’m usually just like “you mean besides not giving people a reason to post bad yelp reviews?”

  • Oh, I understand that! I used to work for a startup that handled reviews for local businesses, so I’m very familiar with the terms. The best policy is to reply and try to offer the best customer service possible. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. But that reply can mean the world to a person, or the next possible customer reading that review.

  • This is a very interesting response, but I would like to point out a couple minor differences in your analogies.
    For the party example, yes, some people may show up to a party because there are goodies there. And perhaps I’d benefit from that in the eyes of others, because so many people came. But I’d be providing those goodies to guests to make sure they enjoyed themselves, not to build up credibility in the eyes of others so that I could ultimately throw a HUGE party where I could charge guests and profit off them. Also, I’m not bribing those people with pizza and beer to go tell their friends that I throw the best parties, even if I don’t. And I wouldn’t be sending pizza and beer to their house so they’d blindly tell their friends I throw great parties, even though they didn’t attend. (There was a lot of blind sharing/liking/etc just for eaves happening) I wouldn’t say a good host is gaming the system of hosting a party, though it’s entirely possible *some* would be doing it completely for the social clout.
    And with the “I follow back” and “team followback”, I consider that garbage practice by people who find value in large numbers of followers no matter where they come from. And the platforms don’t encourage that behavior, which I think is an important aspect and difference between what I saw in EA (at the time of this article’s writing) and what I see in other social platforms.
    I also totally agree that there are people who will try to game each system. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it, and definitely doesn’t mean I can’t call them out for it. When I wrote this post, it was so rampantly part of the structure and culture of EA, that I was deflated to see it happening. So I took to the keyboard. And now we’re having this great discussion. 🙂

  • Steven W Johnson

    I’m in my 4th year on EA, and nearing my 40th anniversary as a marketer (I started young, plus I’m sort of a fossil). Permit me to make an observation about EA that I find almost identical to Twitter, and no doubt other social media / digital communities: the good stuff almost ALWAYS happens one, two, or more steps REMOVED from the asset or platform in question. As just one example, it has been my experience over the past 6 years that ORGANIC search results benefit greatly from carefully-researched keywords combined with appropriately-related links in tweets. And the benefit can remain viable for A YEAR OR MORE – however, when you try to explain or demonstrate this to the marketing world, they look at you funny. Similarly, with evangelizing a platform such as Empire Ave. When it comes to marketers, it is an incredibly myopic crowd that rarely sees more than the bark – forget the tree, the forest, or what’s on the other side of the mountain. I would make the argument that hugely-successful entrepreneurs from all sorts of markets and industries are highly likely to a. NOT be blogging consistently b. NOT be constructing and properly curating a permission-based email marketing list c. NOT be establishing a far-reaching twitter presence (except when they are so well-known they join the “beauty contest” on twitter – 8 million followers and 5 people they follow! lol) d. NOT bothering with silly game platforms such as EA, which, if studied, and deployed properly, can be a form of DIGITAL GLUE that makes many, many other digital assets 10 to 100x more powerful than they would be sans glue.

    One other unadvertised bennie of EA – as a human behavior experiment lab, (art imitating life v. life imitating art), just the sheer value of watching participants come / go / earn / not-earn / spend / save / invest is (at least for me) PRICELESS KNOWLEDGE that would be a nightmare to acquire elsewhere, if at all.

    Thanks for the post and resulting meme exchange !

  • EA has it’s pros and cons. I don’t regret joining it as I’ve met some really nice marketers who have helped me out in many ways. I’ve learned a lot from EA members and not all of them are the spammy type. Although some, like many of the admins, are bullies. In fact one of the admins wouldn’t even let me purshcase a leadership upgrade for one of my business accounts.

    I am in a world where I am paycheck to paycheck. Just happen to be unemployed. So that would be I live off of my art and jewelry sales. EA has help me boost those sales and my exposure to people who would buy.

  • Bonnie David

    Perfect timing. The course is offered at Udemy. So glad I read this article. Thanks very much for sharing your insights. I am staying away.

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  • Aurorasa Coaching

    I agree with a lot of the points made in this article and the comments.

    The reason for me to sign up on EA 2 weeks ago was that I started 2 months ago with social media. I started with 0 following and therefore 0 interaction or engagement.

    That can get really frustrating.

    I am with you (the author) that it is about real engagement, real readers and most importantly conversions (to subscribers, sales or whatever one is after). And there are probably other, potentially better ways of doing things. Upgrading your skill set for example.

    I ran into the issue that the social media sites (besides maybe twitter) are censoring feeds. Without any likes my post would not even be visible for someone who could potentially find it interesting.

    I understand that one possibility is to keep producing quality content and just wait for things to happen. The other possibility is to invest into marketing specialists.

    EA to me is a low budget (or no budget) marketing solution. Where is the difference to Geico training a pig to look nice and create buzz or Nestlé paying a few people to play a happy family? Isn´t marketing fake per se in a way (or let us say about building visions and illusions, creating buzz and demand.)?

    Large corporations pay for likes and social engagement every single day. That they do it in fancy, expensive way does not change the nature of the matter.

    More traffic does not mean more conversions. Lower quality traffic just brings down the average time someone spends on your site. For google that is negative.

    Large cooperations who give out samples or free products for “likes” have huge IT and marketing departments. They know about google and how to work it. Those marketing initiatives will end up on some freebie our coupon site. Creating thousands and thousands of fake likes from the same referrer.

    So why do they do that? Probably because it also attracts more real likes and potential buyers.

    One thing is for sure: No traffic means no conversions. No visibility means no readers.

    My goal with EA is to find a few people/companies that fit into what I am doing and that I can interact with in a real, honest way. Maybe even cooperate. People I would have otherwise not met (remember….my posts are basically invisible on social media – no matter where I rank on google).

    And to raise the chance of people who like what I am about finding me.

    Will I achieve that? I do not know that yet. If not I will move on.

    So far what EA did for me is that the 10 “fake” likes resulted in a few real ones. I get more “friend requests”. I did not create “like” missions though. I even received a few likes and reshares from people who were already following me but obviously did not see my unliked posts before.

    A few people have retweeted posts of mine that probably would not have done so without EA (again: without a “twitter mission”). Bringing them in front of a larger, potentially “real” audience. Hey, maybe they even liked the ones they picked.

    We are living in a world where a lot of people on twitter are using software that auto likes, retweets and follows. And unfollows if you do not follow back. And sends an automated message if you do. What does “real” even mean when it comes to social media?

    Now I am saying this as a single Entrepreneur who is starting out in a foreign country at 0 (in case my grammar did not give me away – I am from Germany.). If I were an established company I would definitely not use or recommend EA.

    I think it is a good tool for social media newbies to get out of the “dead zone” (the feed censoring). How many valuable connections you can create depends on your actions and interaction.

    Maybe as with most things in life it is a matter of doing things in moderation.

  • Lorraine Ferns

    Hi just wanted to put my two cents worth here! I joined EA less than a month ago and I have done some of the missions. I started joining social media sites because I wanted to promote a small business and my hubpage where I write short stories/flash fiction. I have not asked anyone to check out my stuff – I don’t really want to – because I am not putting in the hard work by writing enough and participating like others do and I don’t feel it’s right to ask someone to check my site this way.
    I have just been having a bit of fun – I seriously don’t get out much! I spend too much time alone. Anyway I will not do a mission I am not comfortable with – for instance giving a good review – I agree that is not okay! I will check a persons stuff out and decide for myself if I like or not. It is very hard to get people to see your stuff whether it’s to buy your jewelry, read your writing or check your blog – I see the eaves as buying publicity which businesses do! I do not take the ‘game’ seriously as wanting to be at the top – I like helping people and promoting them if I can because I know how hard it is to do that.
    People get a lot of twitter followers by buying them. Some people have lots of friends on facebook – I don’t have that many friends so trying to get a social presence is not easy.
    I am disappointed though because I thought that on Empire Avenue you might be able to purchase an amazon card or something with your eaves. But no! I will probably get tired after a while but I have got a few twitter followers without being bought to do that.
    But I agree that people shouldn’t expect you to like their page etc. or write a review, that I don’t agree with and I will not like any page even if I was paid real money. So far no bullying from anyone and I really wouldn’t like that!

    It is hard to get traffic to your blog – but you seemed to be doing well – keep up the good work! And good luck!

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  • zxoiesrus

    When I actually spent the time, over two years and thousands of hours of hard work on empire avenue aka empire-kred, they suspended my account indefinitely, saying I am using a “manager” and I need to send them a list of all my “managers” with a copy of their ID and social security card to prove they are all real.

    But they are not real because no other people exist! I can’t provide this to unlock my account because I am the ONLY one who is using my account! So in other words this site is a total scam and anyone who tries to use it for free will be eventually locked out of their account permanently.

    And if you pay, that is also fraud because their system is not secure, your account can and will get hacked, and then you will have to deal with multiple charges adding up to thousands of dollars. You have been warned!

    If you decide to make the mistake of using empire-kred, then you will either lose lots of time (with nothing to show for it once your account is suspended, which I guarantee it will be), or lose lots money (when you account gets hacked which it will be).

    Is it worth it? I don’t know, do you have the time and money to risk throwing away? I know I don’t! I’m a struggling blog writer, and I spent thousands of hours on empire-kred which is now all lost. If I had spent that time writing blog posts, those posts would still be on my blog and my blog would have been getting a lot more traffic.

    Using empire-kred is the worst business decision I ever made.

  • Whoa.

  • zxoiesrus

    Whoa is right. That site is terrible and should be avoided.

  • Biz-find

    For me, I share a lot of good content and it takes ages to fulfill a mission and there is , to me an awkward step up to the paid option which does not yet seem worth it. I am, however finding the dynamic from free to paid, an excellent example for my own website, and what makes it worth the leap of faith. I have millions of eaves, ad receive investments every day and am one of the leaders in Thailand, but still struggle to see the benefit. Lesson being; you need real people and trust to sell anything at all, we are still humans and need another human to tell us it’s OK and it will be worth it.

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