Empire Avenue (news, site) aims to free us all from what it calls "digital slavery" with a twist on social influence measurement. And while the approach has been seen by many as controversial, a recent injection of over one million big ones indicates it might not be that crazy after all.
"It's the question that drives us, Neo."
Empire Avenue is essentially a stock market that puts a price on the heads of people rather than companies. Virtual currency is used to buy and sell shares, with the worth of each “stock” (a.k.a. a user's personal influence score) determined in part by levels of engagement on popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Instagram.
Like any good social media measurement tool, there is also an option to create a business page. Here's a shot of ours:
CMSWire Profile Page on Empire Avenue
Shareholders can rate a user's Web-based interactions in order to raise or lower their value. If a shareholder's investment proves to be valuable among his or her peers, that shareholder is rewarded with more virtual currency. Further, users can turn the value of their digital contributions into revenue by utilizing an advertising platform used by the startup to deliver targeted ads.
While some see this method of attaching monetary value as demeaning, Empire Avenue’s CEO Duleepa Wijayawardhana said it is meant to be just the opposite. “I like to say we’re freeing people from digital slavery. A slave is someone who doesn’t know their value. If you are participating in social networking sites, those companies are making money off of you. You just don’t realize what those values actually are," he said in an interview earlier this year.
What is Your Digital Worth?
The company's recent financial injection indicates that a significant number of people are beginning to jump on board with the Alberta-based startup's unconventional approach to social influence. A whopping US$ 1.2 million in series A seed financing was landed this week, the round being led by San Francisco VC firm Crosslink Capital.
While word is the money will be used for growing the Empire Avenue team, the company would do well to add real money-making features. Until then, it will remain a fantasy stock market.
With social media influence measurement tools beginning to pop up more and more (Klout, PeerIndex, HubSpot, etc.) now's a good time to consider how deep we want to get into this game. Eric T. Peterson schooled me earlier this year in an article titled Can a Measure of “Social Influence” Online Be Taken Too Far?
Be sure to check that out before you get stock-happy, and perhaps find the time to squeeze in Empire Ave's instructional video, too (because it's fun).