A few weeks ago real estate agents began to flock to Empire Avenue (EA). There was a time where agents dominated the “Top Fresh Faces” leader board.

Today, many of those agents are nowhere to be seen on the site. I wonder why that is. My guess is people aren’t seeing the Return on Investment (ROI). That ROI that is so sought and desired and the pursuit of which seems to dominate so many agents lives.

What is Empire Avenue?

Here’s the skinny from their about page:

Empire Avenue is the Social Stock Market, where you can grow your Social Capital online. Here’s how it works, you get to discover valuable, interesting, cool, fun people online and then based scores or share price, invest virtual currency in their profiles by buying shares in our Social Stock Market. It’s boatloads of fun, and that simple act of buying shares in someone you think is worth your currency, you will create new connections and as people invest in you, grow your own social capital and get more value in and out of your networks!

There are social media “experts” out there that love Empire Avenue, and there are experts that loathe it.

It certainly isn’t for everyone.

It really can be “boatloads of fun”, as well as a big giant time suck if you aren’t careful.

Ostensibly EA is just a game. It’s brilliant in that it plays on people’s egos. Who doesn’t want to have the highest stock price, produce the most dividends, or become a virtual multi-millionaire? Everyone wants to be at the top of the list. (You don’t? Really? So you want to be at the bottom of the list? Don’t fool yourself. This is a very competitive industry we are in. Competitive people play games to win.)

While EA isn’t the first social site to employ gamification tactics, it may just take gamification to a new level. Other social sites like FourSquare with its badges and mayorships, Active Rain with their points and leader boards, Facebook with “Likes” and many other social sites use gamification to make their sites more engaging. It’s really nothing new.

What can you do on Empire Avenue?

EA can be “played” countless ways. Maybe you just want to accumulate “wealth”. Maybe you want a high stock price. Perhaps you like to collect “luxury items”. There are many ways to play the game purely for the sake of having a good time.

Or, perhaps you can use the platform to increase your web presence, build your social capital, reach out and engage with people thereby expanding your Social Sphere of Influence (SSOI).

SSOI. I just made that up, but like a real life Sphere of Influence, a Social SOI can potentially increase your business. Perhaps significantly.

So EA is a lead generation tool?

Oh heavens no. Please, don’t join EA (or any other social network for that matter) with the sole intent of generating leads. You’ll be wasting your time and wind up disappointed. Life is too short for all that. Social networks are horrible lead gen tools. People in the “social space” don’t want to be sold to. They don’t want to be “captured” and “dripped” and sent newsletters and emails that tout your prowess at real estate sales.

People participating in the social space are looking for engagement, to share, and to learn. The beautiful thing is, once you start sharing, and helping, and learning, you prove your value to people and then they may very well be interested in your services.

Just don’t push it.

So what’s in it for me?

I’ve been on EA for just under two months. What have I gained in that time that helps me personally and professionally?

More than most people probably think.

I’ve gained exposure to some people (and they have been exposed to me) that probably wouldn’t have happened had I not joined, and participated, in EA. Yeah yeah, all the people on EA are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and/or YouTube so they could be found through those venues; at least in theory.

But EA is sort of a one-stop-shop for getting to know people in a social media kind of way. You link up your various social accounts and blogs and as you peruse the site you are exposed to a dashboard like interface where you can “meet” someone and see all their social connections on one page. For me I’ve found this works better than trying to wade through endless Twitter streams and randomly stumbling across Facebook pages and profiles.

I like to meet people, and am always working on expanding my SSOI. Personally, I’ve found EA to be a brilliant tool for said expansion.

I’ve found new blogs to read – many FAR outside the real estate vertical.

So what? New blogs to read. This helps you how?

Learning. Life is a learning journey. The more you know, the more you can do. The more you can share. The more you can help. The more you can earn.

I’ve found new people to follow on Facebook and Twitter.

So what? See above. And really, if you think meeting new people either online or offline is a waste of time, then you might want to reevaluate your chosen profession. This job is all about meeting new people.

Heck, through EA I’ve even found new music to listen to, and new photographers to follow on Flickr.

Don’t even ask. No, listening to new artists and looking at photographs isn’t going to help me sell more real estate. But for heaven’s sake, life doesn’t revolve around real estate. Maybe music isn’t your thing. Maybe you’d rather flop in front of the TV than flip thorough photographs. That’s fine (hey, I love television). But you need to do something to appreciate and enjoy life outside of real estate.

And maybe, just maybe that something is as simple as playing a game.

Like Empire Avenue.

Why so many insist that everything we do needs to lead to a commission check or a prospect is beyond me. There’s more to life than checks and prospects.

And there is more to Empire Avenue than just a game

If that’s what you want.

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