Empire Avenue, social capital and the value for brands

Homepage logo for Empire AvenueRecently quite a few of the FreshNetworks team have started buying and selling each other on the internet.

…It’s not as bad as it sounds!

What’s happened is that Empire Avenue, a gamified approach to measuring social influence, has sparked off some friendly rivalry as we work out just how much social capital we hold.

So how does Empire Avenue work? Basically, it measures your activity on certain social networks, and is not dissimilar from other influencer measuring tools such as Klout and Peer Index.

Where Empire Avenue differs is that your value can effectively be peer-reviewed by others buying and selling shares in your score, giving you an incentive to remain a valuable commodity and remain active on your social networks.

What’s the value for brands?

While it can be a fun (and distracting) way for individual users to interact, the value of Empire Avenue for brands is especially interesting.

Xbox is currently the most valuable branded stock, but other businesses in the top 20 include Nokia, Audi, Toyota and Ford.

The early adoption of automotive brands is interesting, as one of the features of Empire Avenue is the option to buy “luxury items” - like a fancy badge that displays a manifestation of your virtual wealth. At present these are generic items - cars, boats, houses etc. but I expect we’ll soon see branded versions being offered by companies as aspirational items, or even rewards for loyal fans.

Brands will also be able to communicate with their users as the Empire Avenue platform offers real time chat and status updates. It also offers users the chance to  purchase in-game adverts to encourage visits to their profiles and, hopefully, investment in their stock. The relationship works both ways and brands can also invest in their fans, which is certainly a new type of engagement that goes beyond what we have seen before.

If you or your company are already active on social media, now may well be the time to think about “investing” in Empire Avenue.

The basics of social media ROI

Blocks
Image by Hey Paul via Flickr

The last post of our guide to Getting Started in Social Media looked at measurements and how brands should be ruthless about ROI. This presentation from Oliver Blanchard is a great introduction to social media ROI and how you should conceive of it and then measure it. It’s also quite amusing in parts and so is Required Reading this week at FreshNetworks

For me the most insightful part of the presentation is the distinction between a non-financial ROI and a financial one. Blanchard’s model is that you get the non-financial ROI before you get measurable financial return. They are part of a continuum - your investment leads to something that will have a non-financial impact first and then a financial one. This is a model that really rings true in our experience of building online communities. Financial ROI can take time to achieve, but good planning and strategy should start to give you non-financial ROI relatively quickly. Brands often need to have this trajectory reinforced - just because you don’t have any hard financial return yet does not mean it isn’t just round the corner. It probably is if you persist with your efforts.

Olivier Blanchard Basics Of Social Media Roi
View more presentations from Olivier Blanchard.

The FreshNetworks guide to getting started in social media

Roads At Night: It's Picking Up
Image by Cayusa via Flickr

Over the last ten days we have shared our thoughts on four steps any brand should do when they are getting started in social media. The aim is to give any brand who is looking to use social media (or indeed to use it better) a framework to work through, some ideas and also a lot of questions and decisions that will need to be made. As I say in a recent article in the Independent: “The biggest mistakes companies make, are implementing a tool-based, as opposed to people-based, strategy”.

The four posts in the guide are below. Many of these posts raise as many questions as they offer answers and getting your use of social media right is not easy. But they should provide a useful framework for any brand looking to get started in social media. And if you need some help with this you can always give us a call!

The FreshNetworks Guide to Getting Started in Social Media

  • Part One:  Do you know what people are saying about you? Buzz tracking, social media monitoring, the power of understanding who is talking about you where and why, and some great free tools for any brand to use
  • Part Two: What do you want to achieve? Working out your brand’s aims and objectives (and making these measurable) is the single most important factor in a successful social media strategy. Do this before you think about technology.
  • Part Three: Have a go and experiment with social media Once you have clear objectives that are measurable it’s time to get going. Try things out and experiment, but make sure you do them where you know you will have the greatest chance of achieving these aims and engaging the people you want to engage.
  • Part Four: Track and evaluate the success you are having When you are using social media tools it is essential that you are measuring and tracking your performance against these aims. Measurement is critical and assessing the benefit you are having will help you to refine and improve your strategy overall.

Getting started 4: Track and evaluate the success you are having

Curly measuring tape
Image by Marco D via Flickr

For any brand getting started in social media, the most important thing is to be able to show the impact you are having. To be able to evaluate and assess what is working and what isn’t having the results that you might expect. To show the return on investment that your efforts are having and how this compares to other methods.

There is a lot of talk about social media measurement and it is true that in isolation it is difficult to know where to start. But for businesses with a clear social media strategy, it is actually much easier than many people think. We stressed earlier in this guide to Getting Started in Social Media the importance of thinking about the reasons you are using social media before you jump in to use any tools or to engage people. We talked though a process to define clear and measurable business objectives and aims for your use of social media. It is important that you make these both clear and measurable. Typical objectives that a brand might consider include - acquisition of new customers, retention of existing ones, number of new insights or ideas into the business, or number of customer problems solved. These are just some of the objectives that brands may have for using online communities and social media, and all of them are measurable. At the simplest level they either save money for a brand or they generate revenue.

In the online communities that we manage at FreshNetworks a lot of time is spent defining the objectives and then working out first what metrics should be measured against these, and then monitoring and reporting on these to make sure we understand how the community is performing. It is important to establish a set of metrics that you can measure to assess how you are performing against your aims. In many cases you will want to measure a mix of things for each aim, but overall you should be able to show and prove what impact you are having.

Example: If you want to use social media as an efficient way of resolving customer queries, for example, you probably want to measure the number of unique customer problems you have on the site, the number of problems that are solved by other members of the community. You can then put an equivalent cost that it would have taken to service these queries through other channels and measure the actual reduction in, for example, call centre costs that you witness over time. This is what Dell did, and this is how Dell managed to work out that one member of its customer support community saved them $1m a year in support costs. That’s real ROI.

So the final stage to getting started in social media is to make sure you are ruthless about measuring what you are doing. It’s the only way you will know what works (and what doesn’t) and prove the impact you are having with social media. To do this you need to have clear objectives and these need to be measurable. Then you can measure the actual impact you are having on business aims. The actual benefit your social media strategy is bringing to your brand.

You can read the full guide here: Getting Started in Social Media