This year I expanded further into Social Media and spent more time working on that than any other aspect of online marketing and web development. I developed branding pages for myself as a writer to test out new techniques and applications so I could better serve people who paid for my web development services and before long the successes I had with different platforms and techniques made my networks a relatively valuable asset themselves.
I have always thought that the basis for growing and succeeding online as well as the best ways to navigate the rest of the Internet is through online community involvement. You can read articles all day long, but unless you know exactly what you’re looking for it’s hard to find an earth shattering discovery that ends up changing the way you use the Internet. Communities however are two-way, and they leverage the wealth of knowledge of their members so you get the benefit of crowd sourced information, which usually lets the better techniques and resources surface and then gain approval by the majority of community members.
I’ve become a true master of web development by being part of an online fantasy wrestling community, a community for web designers, a community for video game enthusiasts, a technology based community, communities developed around online games, a writing community, a political forum and most recently a social media community. I’ve learned tricks that proved to be more useful than anything I had in my arsenal from kids playing MySpace mobsters, so it’s important to judge a community by its members and not a façade.
A friend from the writing community I’m a part of suggested that I join a social networking game called Empire Avenue toward the end of the year. I had been blogging about social media in addition to the tech articles I write, Empire Avenue was similar to the stock market which I invest heavily in and it was a game (I like games!). Needless to say Empire Avenue was a perfect fit for me. My stock did fairly well, I met a lot of new people and decided to launch a new blog (this one) because of common interests I had with those particular community members.
Empire Avenue is head and shoulders above other online communities, and I’ll tell you why. Being a community of social networkers, most of the members are familiar with how you should act online to increase response and create a welcome feeling. In the writing community I frequented prior to Empire Avenue the members were horribly ill mannered, opinionated, suffered from a lack of self-awareness. The community managers had proper attitudes and were extremely forgiving which exacerbated the discourse.
In addition to being more bearable to exchange ideas with, it improves communication immensely. If you would have told me 5 years ago that you knew of an online community that genuinely welcomes newcomers and was void of trolls and people who generally enjoy discourse, I would have told you to stop smoking drugs.
I like playing the game, and there is some benefit to be gained by missions as well as some of the analytical tools available within the application. The real value of Empire Avenue is the community it fostered which is basically social media enthusiasts that like to try new things and understand the value of tempering their online actions. Most of the players are actively growing their social networks so it has also become a network of users who will be popular pundits and authors in 5 years. Don’t be fooled by niceties, there is serious discussion and exchange of ideas that goes on within our community (Check out the #eAvchat on Twitter or one of the several Facebook groups if you’ve missed it), but when you avoid having an overtly offensive tone and passive aggressive responses it keeps the discussion constructive, and social media enthusiasts understand that better than any other niche on the Internet. It may be that social media draws users that are predisposed to playing nice and generating positive attitudes.
If you haven’t tried Empire Avenue yet I strongly suggest you do it now. I have made more long term friends and business contacts from this one network than any other network I’ve ever been a part of. If you need a more literal reason, the mission feature lets you generate engagement and drive traffic to any web address you choose in exchange for the currency you generate playing the game.
It isn’t a game for everybody, and not everybody needs more traffic, but if you haven’t tried it you don’t know what you’re missing. If you are already a member you should join one of the Facebook groups of Empire Avenue shareholders or attend one of the Twitter chats hosted by @mqtodd that draws many of the players and focuses on Empire Avenue, other online tools and lessons we have all learned throughout our time using web 2.0 applications. As I always say “Eaves are worthless, but the type of players that an application like Empire Avenue was made for are priceless.”