Empire Avenue makes team social metrics fun

Screen shot of Empire Avenue home page

If you manage multiple social network accounts for clients, or if you a have a team of workers who are tasked with being socially active, you’ve probably surveyed various tools to monitor the performance those accounts.

Empire Avenue is not billed as a social metrics tool, but after playing it for a week I became more aware of what some of my friends were doing on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn. That’s exactly what I would need if I managed a team of customer service reps, reporters or social media account managers.

At its most basic level, Empire Ave is a stock market simulator in which you build virtual wealth by investing in social people. From Empire:

Every day, you’re on Twitter, talking to friends on Facebook, uploading videos or photos, and writing blog posts. Just for doing that stuff, you’ll earn Eaves – our virtual currency – and we’ll dish out some more virtual cash to your shareholders.

So you gain wealth when the people you invest in engage in social activities. There’s a whole lot more to the game, but the basics are enough to show how easy this game can be used to evaluate and manage your company’s social activity.

  1. Get your whole team to create an Empire account and connect their social accounts.
  2. Invest in those team members and no one else. At first, invest in each member equally.
  3. Check your portfolio every day. If you gain wealth then you know your team is being social.
  4. Sort your portfolio by “gainers” and reward those team members for a job well done.
  5. Sort your portfolio by “losers” and coach those colleagues to become more social.

The biggest challenge I see is that Empire Avenue might be too fun. Since beginning, I’ve divested in my friends (sorry) and transferred those funds into accounts with a higher return.

Oh yeah, another challenge is that your share price isn’t determined exclusively by your social activity. Your price also goes up if people buy more shares of you. So … go to http://empireavenue.com/?t=fvcx1nr0 and add (e)KSABLAN to your portfolio!

Here are a couple of links to get you started in the game:

Tweet counters: I can’t trust them

It’s nearly impossible to find out how many times a web page has been tweeted. At 11:45 Thursday night, I gathered these numbers to help explain what I mean.

Tweet button: 12

A Mashable blog post about Bit.ly was tweeted 12 times (as of 11:45 Thursday night). At least that’s what the official Twitter button widget said on the post itself.

Tweet button count for a Mashable post

Twitter search: 73

I clicked on that 12 button, which brought me to a Twitter search for tweets linking to that page … and I counted 73 tweets, not 12.

Bit.ly: 99

I randomly pulled up one of those tweets, and checked out the statistics provided by bit.ly. Scrolling down the page to “conversations” revealed 99 tweets, not 73 and certainly not 12.

BackType: 794

Armed with my BackType bookmarklet, I decided to go to a fairly unrelated source for some numbers. Oh no, the BackType page for that Mashable post, showed a whopping 794 tweets. That’s more than four times the tweets counted by Bit.ly, Twitter search, and the tweet button combined.

Tweetmeme: 898

When Twitter rolled out its own tweet button, they partnered with  Tweetmeme, creators of the old “retweet” button. I wanted to see what the veteran service had to say. The Tweetmeme search for that Mashable post found more tweets than any of the other methods: 898 tweets.

Trust

Yes, this is only one example, and a very non-scientific experiment. But I performed this little exercise because I see these discrepancies all the time, especially with popular posts/pages. Of course, one anecdote doesn’t prove that all counters are wrong, but with so many services disagreeing on one simple number, I simply can’t bring myself to trust any of them to be right.

t.co to the rescue?

One service might be able to provide the one tweet count to rule them all. Sometime this year, Twitter plans to wrap “all links shared on Twitter.com or third-party apps” within its own t.co URL. It will become part of the Twitter infrastructure. If Twitter can aggregate the many different URLs that are used to share a single web page, then it will be able to provide an accurate count of tweets linking to that page.

Twitter will also track clicks on those links. If I were in there shoes, I would consider charging for those t.co statistics.

t.co: Will Twitter charge for statistics?

Every link shared via Twitter will start with http://t.co by the end of this year. That was the gist of one part of an email from Twitter last night. The most important thing for businesses to note is that, with that change, Twitter will start tracking every time a tweeted link is clicked — no matter what shortener, web site, app or client is used to write or read the tweet. Twitter will finally have an accurate way to measure …

  • CLICKS: Using a traditional web analytics program to count the number of times Twitter.com sends traffic to a site, is a gross underestimate of Twitter referrals, because so many people click on tweeted links from applications and web sites other than the official Twitter site. Twitter will process and wrap every link — even links that have already been shortened — within it’s t.co shortener, so they can count every time a link is clicked.
  • IMPRESSIONS: All Twitter applications use the Twitter API, so Twitter knows every time a tweet (and the links within a tweet) is requested. They can’t verify that each request  ends up in the tweet being displayed, but this is the best estimation of impressions, the number of times a tweet is shown.
  • CTR! Since Twitter will have a the number of impressions and the number clicks, they can dived and deliver a fairly accurate clickthrough rate. CTR is used to measure the success of many online ad campaigns.

That kind of information can help shape and measure the return on investment for companies using social media to drive traffic. This is unique information that, if used wisely, can boost an organization’s bottom line. That sounds like the kind of online content for which the Wall Street Journal is able to charge.

What do you think?

Will Twitter start providing these numbers for free, or are they creating the foundation for a new stream of revenue?

Google helps Twitter in new emails

If you get an email from Twitter every time someone starts following you, congratulation! You’ve probably already joined campaign “twitter20080331162631.”

Last week, Twitter changed their email notifications to include a Twitterer’s avatar and number of friends, followers and updates.

New follower email

But another change wasn’t immediately visible to the naked eye. Each link is now tracked by Google Analytics.

What’s being tracked?

The link labeled “their profile” brings you to L.A. LIVE’s Twitter page and sends this information to Google:

  • You clicked because of a follow notification.
  • You received the notification via email.
  • The email was part of a campaign called twitter20080331162631.

Check out Justin Cutroni’s blog post to learn about campaigns and Google Analytics.

twitter20080331162631

I don’t know exactly what twitter20080331162631 is all about, but the numeric part resembles a date and time in ISO 8601 format. If that hunch is right, the campaign is tied to March 31, 2008 at 9:26:31 am (PDT). Digging through the Twitter blog archives didn’t reveal what happened in Twitter history on that date. If you’re an amateur Twistorian, please share your knowledge in the comments below.

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