As recruiters, it's our profession to identify talent in which a company would want to invest (aka: hire, train, develop.) In the search for sound investments, we at PepsiCo try to look at much more than what you'd normally expect to find on a resume or spelled out in cover letters. Skills, experience and references are certainly a major component of every hiring decision - but it's always been about connecting with the strongest candidates and digging past the bullet points and fancy fonts to successfully predict the impact each person might have on our business.

So it's no mystery why tools that tout being able to measure someone's influence within an industry get a fair amount of attention from recruiters everywhere. Of course when you deliver a popularity contest in the form of a game, which the creators of Empire Avenue have done, it jumps from ‘interesting' to ‘fascinating' in a heartbeat.

Empire Avenue is a network where people and brands can buy and sell virtual shares in each other in an effort to earn virtual currency called eave's (e). Anyone can connect a number of social channels like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to their profile and, combined with their activity on the network, increase their share value. In short, the more activity you have on each social channel along with your new or existing connections on Empire Avenue, the higher your share price.

The site provides an Index for over 200 different business and personal categories - each with their own organizational structure of influence ranging from CEO and President down to Employee and Shareholder with rankings based on activity scores. Does this mean that the CEO of a particular Index is an influencer in the industry? While that's yet to be seen across the board, I did find myself in agreement with some of the appointments I came across.

Is this the solution to measuring influence that others like Klout or LinkedIn are trying to achieve? I believe the jury is still out - especially when the gamification aspect of the platform seems to be overshadowing the networking that could take place.

As I experiment with Empire Avenue we ignore the "Buy Me!" requests and instead encourage dialogue and connections. One example is our recent "LinkedIn Monday" promotion where we matched investments 100% only if a LinkedIn account was connected to the shareholder's profile. The result was our purchase of thousands of shares in players around the world, several of which admitted openly to having only added a LinkedIn network to encourage our purchase and continue playing for influence.

Empire Avenue shows promise in regards to identifying and connecting with influencers. It's this potential combined with the startup's impressive team coming out of companies like BioWare ULC and MySQL while bringing project experience from work with Microsoft Game Studio and Atari (just to name a few), that has us keeping a close eye on the network. As the team at Empire Avenue works to achieve more accurate share prices via their smart use of achievements, weighting and contextual rankings, we'll keep having fun connecting our recruiters directly with talent wherever it lives online.

So while I don't think it's a prime-time recruiting or talent identification tool just yet, it's certainly fun to play and to have watched our PEPJOBS account ascend to Vice-President of the HR and Recruiting index in a matter of weeks. Oh, and did I mention that as I write this our virtual stock is available at the incredible value price of just 80.40e per share?

(So... What are you waiting for? Game on!)


**originally published on the Living The Promise blog (7/5/2011)

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