Even if you're not a gambler, playing the social stock market can be fun. You realize your social media activity is all being tracked, right? So Duleepa Wijayawardhana, CEO of Empire Avenue, decided to find a way to capitalize on this by creating "social currency" that can be redeemed for cash and prizes. Well, maybe not cash, but definitely prizes.His goal is to take social media to the next step and find ways to reward heavy users.
We caught up with Wijayawardhana, while he was in NYC speaking at SMAC/NYXPO, to learn more about this new social media angle.
Faleris: What inspired this business?
Wijayawardhana: Empire Avenue came about from a conversation about the value we represent to so many companies and about the need for the consumer, that's you and me, being involved in the conversation about advertising.
Wouldn't it be cool if you were rewarded for what you already do online for spreading a message you loved to your network, your friends, your contacts. From the perspective of a small business, we try to involve the customer in our advertising methods all the time. We know that word of mouth marketing is ultimately the best way to get a new customer or a repeat customer. By moving that process online, we thought that every business could take advantage of the viral and expansive nature of social media.
Faleris: So it is a rewards program for companies who are using social media?
Wijayawardhana: Yes. Empire Avenue runs a social currency platform. The social currency, called Eaves, can be earned from doing something online, whether it is on our platform or on another, like Twitter. Once you have earned or collected our social currency you get to use them. Currently you can use that currency to access people or run your own tasks to incentivize people, but very soon you will be able to exchange that currency for Digital Entertainment products. It's about to get very exciting! As a business, you can purchase currency from us or do everything for free and earn it by helping others on our platform, we leave the choice up to you.
Faleris: How does it work?
Wijayawardhana: As a consumer, When you sign on, we ask you to connect up your social media accounts. You can connect everything from Facebook to Flickr. We score each of your networks for the engagement you receive, ie. how involved is each individual . We are a social currency and the more engaged people are with your content online (such how much they like your posts on Facebook), will earn you more currency. You can then do tasks that people have set up in our Missions area. Missions can run from visiting a web page to commenting on a new product. Completing a Mission gives you currency. As a business, you get to create Missions that can turn our audience into advocates for your brand and drive social visibility for your brand, business or message within their online networks. Big businesses such as Nokia use us, but we find that small businesses get a fantastic ROI on spreading their message.
Faleris: How does your company make money?
Wijayawardhana: We are primarily a virtual currency company. If you need more virtual currency to complete your goals, then we are the vendor. We also have Premium Services, these subscription services give daily currency to meet your goals as well as more analytics and access on the platform. It is modelled after the LinkedIn Premium service.
Faleris: What are the benefits for the user?
Wijayawardhana: For the consumer, the benefits are:
- Get a currency that you can convert to cool stuff for doing what you already do online
- Access people through Missions or our Social Stock Market game that you would normally not be able to
- If you have content that you want promoted, then there's no better place to drive real social interaction
For the business:
- Run a Mission to expose your content to not just the people on our platform but to the people in each of their social networks
- Access highly connected individuals through Missions or the Social Stock Market
Faleris: What is your projection of social media in the next 1-2 years?
Wijayawardhana: Advertising in Social Media is very broken. For those willing to spend money, thousands of dollars could drive a few page likes but little else. Click through rates are abysmal and consumers are getting tired of being thrown advertising willy-nilly at them. I believe that in the next 1-2 years, the conversation will shift. Advertising is important. Consumer endorsement of products is vital. However, I see a trend towards involving the consumer, making the voice of the customer a central piece in how we get messages out there as a business. Social Media is not a new phenomenon, though the scale with which perceive it is. The next 1-2 years will see a much bigger entrenchment in platforms like Facebook, but also completion of the move to mobile for all the platforms.
Faleris: Do you think mobile devices are helping or hurting social media campaigns?
Wijayawardhana: It is immaterial whether they are helping or hurting, in my honest opinion. The reality is that mobile is where we all are going and the consumer wants to go. The days of sitting in front of the computer is not necessary. It is up to us to devise new ways to think about how to run social media campaigns for mobile devices. In the old days I may see something about a business but it was on a computer and I might have forgotten by the time I actually visited. Now I could be in the store and seeing the campaign. There's real power there. There's real power being able to drive an individual to you repeatedly and have them be connected to you in every step of the way.
Faleris: What do you recommend for companies looking to increase their social media visibility?
Wijayawardhana: Well I certainly recommend Empire Avenue :) To increase social media visibility, you need to understand engagement with your social accounts. Ultimately it is not about putting up a million tweets, it's actually about getting each tweet interacted with. You won't immediately have an audience but the people you connect with on social media do have an audience and driving them to promote for you is essential. We give scores out of 100 for each of your networks. The higher the score the better the engagement. Tracking this over time can truly help you in your visibility. Oh and, we give all of these scores and tracking for free
Faleris: Please give any other information you feel would be helpful for our readers.
Wijayawardhana: Over the next two months there will be many cool announcements on Empire Avenue. Getting set up now would be really helpful any business looking to figure out what to do with Social Media and how to drive visibility. Of course the free analytics into your social networks and the fun you can have networking with people online from a business perspective and using our game mechanics definitely helps!
Sounds likely that a leading edge service has been developed in the already competitive area of social media. It's only a matter of time before Empire Avenue figuratively meets Boardwalk, as the parity services roll out. Good ideas rarely stand alone.