Brands can learn on Empire Avenue

Folks in the social media space want to know if brands should be on Empire Avenue. The site’s on fire, like it or not, and as it goes in this industry, flames attract attention. Some brands are already on EA, the vast majority of course are not. It’s a game, after all, and games smack of silly. But my suspicion is that even those brand and community managers who have decided against EA will not be able to turn their backs entirely.

Having only played for a short while, and having joined, like many others, just to see what all the commotion was about, I’m surprised by how much fun it is. I’m surprised also by the new and imaginative ways there are of participating.

All of which (and more) lead me to conclude that one of the game’s benefits, and this perhaps most of all for brands, is in the learning that comes with game play.

So many social media brand efforts remain me/self-centric in a “let’s regurgitate our PR”-kind-of-way, that simply spending time on EA can be downright illuminating. The game is so personally and socially immersive, that you can’t help but learn about what makes social media tick — and tick fast.

Some social media folks have joined and already tired of EA. That’s understandable — good people are busy people. But that’s been the case on twitter for a while now. Fact is if you think social media should be a reflection of your own status and klout, then EA probably isn’t for you.

Precisely for this, then, it could be something for social media brand managers. Because the game quickly transcends self-centricity. Players rise in price and value through engagement. And because on EA the game’s complexity embraces curiosity and rewards creativity (yes, and strategy and investment smarts), and does so extremely quickly, it offers social media types a fast and effective basket of social media insights. Insights learned not from webinars, or presentations “about” social media, but delivered directly through game play.

I really think that those of us interested in social games might be underestimating one of their most powerful attributes — that of the online social skills and competencies learned through participation. And any kind of direct learning like that is far more effective than the removed study of social media tools and sites. Learning by doing is always best. But what EA offers is a framework or experience in which that learning is fed back and reinforced much more quickly than most. Because game moves are social, are interactive, are communication, “aha” moments come fast and furious. And these insights and learnings translate well because they are precisely the skills involved in mastery of the medium.

I thought at first I would just play EA in order to figure it out. Play at playing, if you will. But it’s turned out to be more than that — as obviously it has for many others. That says a lot to me — not just about social interaction design, but about how competencies are best developed. Food for thought, certainly.


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  • Domino Oracle

    To me, the brands who “get it” versus those who don’t is a real eye opener in how quickly the field gets sorted. XBOX gets it and is totally winning. DELL and TOYOTA didn’t get it and were dumped (EAV) years ago. FORD, INTEL and ATT – early adopters who “got it” SMOKEYBEAR – learn quick, SMokey, your time is almost up….

  • David Sanger

     ”I really think that those of us interested in social games might be underestimating one of their most powerful attributes — that of the online social skills and competencies learned through participation.

    Quite an astute observation, Adrian. I find the motivational aspect of Empire Avenue quite telling. The game component serves to encourage, and reward, me for being more active, writing, producing, sharing, publishing. Sure it can be gamed, but merely generating thumbs-ups doesn’t cut it when you begin to really see the value of putting yourself out there.

    Even so it is the personalities that interest me on EA not the corporations.

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