Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Trading when we are broke?


A little over a month ago, Zero-credit joined the new social networking site, Empire Avenue. Some of you may even baulk at my calling it that, given the game of buying and selling shares in others’ social media activity. On the surface, it is somewhat superficial. Anyway, I started playing it as a game, enjoying the irony as our net worth rose and egging on potential investors with all our hard work, campaigning for borrowers’ rights. I was cheeky. I exploited the contrast of extreme debt and wealth. I had a laugh.

For the last fortnight, I have ceased simply to play the game because Empire Avenue is beginning to take on a whole new dimension, offering considerable potential and value to our cooperative. I am glad. Those of you who know me are aware that my gaming talents include spending the entirety of Boxing Day reverse-racing PS1 cars to the horror of my then six-year-old son. So it helps that Empire Avenue is more than just a game...

What have I learned?

The most cut-throat traders are other not-for-profits! We were doing so well, so quickly that several divested their shares in us rather promptly, in an attempt to move us down the leader boards - nice! But you know, it’s a pretty accurate reflection of the scrabble for third sector funding at the moment. We all want and believe that we need to keep going and not everyone is capable of that beautifully coined phrase “egoless collaboration” that came out of Community Links’ Chain Reaction event last February. 

Keeping an eye on your activity across all platforms is key. Our Facebook Page and Youtube Channel have been weak points in our mix for some time, as the focus on cooperative formation and business development have taken the lead. Looking at others’ channels and engagement has inspired me to take greater action as we gear up to move our website to a new platform in mid June. It will be two years since we came online and there is plenty to sing and shout about, so we want to take that to as wide an audience as possible.

Empty cans make the most noise. Well, I kind of knew that anyway. It is true that there is a gaming contingency on “the Avenue” (the lovely Dr Ron Capps always calls it that and it cracks me up!) and you need to be fully aware of people out to ride your bounce-back and move on. Generally, they blog, tweet and breathe SEO and affiliations, so are no different to the kinds of spam we’ve been avoiding since we started. It’s real connections we are after. People who go the extra mile and don’t take, but make the difference.

Empire Avenue offers potential to all sorts, from the social enterprise start-up, such as ours, to major multi-nationals, happy go lucky snappers and cottage industries - and for now, it's a level playing field. If you have any social networking presence at all, you’d be a fool not to explore it. Forget all the hoo-hah about how it could monetise in 12 months. Forget all the ooh, sparkly, shiny “this is the next big thing”. That’s greed-fodder and has been said too many times before.

Concentrate on the fact that you can search for people with like minds and similar interests through Communities and by clicking on the labels of any interests you record for yourself. And if, like us, your special interest community is not that developed yet, so what! You won’t be a millionaire or join the Century Club overnight, but you will learn a great deal about what you are doing well and who out there might help you to improve on that. I have been amazed at the number of local connections we could and should have made before, not to mention genuinely touched by the international support for what we are doing. 

What do I recommend? 

TEAM ZEN is an Empire Avenue Game community with a lot of big time investors. Its leader Frederic Denomme aka (e)ZEN is a thoroughly decent, fun loving bloke. There are one or two ride ‘em monkeys, as is to be expected in such a large community, but all in all, if you want to make a quick “Eave” (the virtual currency on the Avenue) this is the place to go. As soon as there is anything not quite right in the functionality of the Avenue's systems, you will find out about it here too. There's nothing so urgent as people about to make a loss ;-)

Even more useful for our purposes has been Empire Avenue Tips, Touts & Tutorials led by Dr Ron Capps aka (e)NICHEPROF. Here, we have found short cuts to how-to guides and undoubtedly the most time-saving information of all, an app called EAvTrader, designed to help you review your portfolio and shareholders on one simple-to-follow screen. What’s more, Dr Ron is a charmer! You feel welcomed and at home, able to dip in and out of the advice at your own pace, and confident in making the sorts of connections you value, through this community.

Enjoy the game! In the context of all the research we are doing into spending, saving and borrowing psychologies, I am finding the motivation of Achievements fascinating. Too often, people in financial difficulty are inundated with condescending advice and sanctions, where praise is what’s needed to motivate change. Life is too short for coulda, shoulda, woulda all the time - we need to lighten up! So, gamification it is then... I've sold my soul to a trade in others - bring it on!


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