By Francesca James

Empire Avenue is perhaps one of the most creative social networking platforms that I have come across to date.

I became curious about what it was after seeing tweets from @micksay and @thomaspower boasting purchases of other twitter users using a virtual currency - Eaves.

I have to admit I only signed up because I saw that a lot of people who's social media influence and opinions I respect and follow were getting involved and singing its praises.

So I thought, there's got to be something great about it, right?

However, upon signing up I still didn't really 'get' it and saw it as little more than a game that would take time that I just didn't seem to have but I was curious as to why these social media thought leaders who are no doubt just as busy if not busier than me managed to find the time to incorporate yet another network into their social media efforts.

Before we get into the whys, I'll shed some light on what Empire Avenue actually is for those who haven't come across it yet.

Here's the basics straight from the Empire Avenue headquarters:

'Empire Avenue is the Social Stock Market, where you can Grow your Social Capital on-line. You get to discover valuable, interesting, cool, fun people on-line and then based on scores or share price, invest virtual currency in their profiles by buying shares in the Social Stock Market. Empire Avenue say that their network is 'boatloads of fun', and by buying shares in someone that you think is worth your currency, you can create new connections and get more value in and out of your networks!

I caught up with self confessed Empire Avenue addict Mick Say of the Online Marketing Academy to see what he thought the 'game' could mean for small business owners.

I was glad to hear Mick say that 'in the greater scheme of things is not as important as say, Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook, Ecademy and of course your own website and blog.

He said that that his advice will always be to ensure that your own website/blog and main social networks are as good as they can be before you join Empire Avenue, 'after all Empire Avenue will measure your overall social media activity, depth and amplification in the process of calculating your share price, so these need to be adequate before you start.'

So, if its not as important as twitter, why should a time hungry business owner bother?

Mick thinks it is worth your effort because it 'measures your social media activity and relays that on your personal dashboard, it helps you to focus on your weaknesses and build upon your strengths and because Empire Avenue is a global "club" you get to meet a lot of very interesting people, advocates and possibly clients and vendors.'

'But best of all SME's can easily identify the best social media pundits in their country and globally and scrutinise who they are and what they are doing that makes them so successful.

Empire Avenue provides SME's with a very real and valuable list of case-studies on how to do social media right.'

'And finally it's great fun !'

I'm jut about to embark on my Empire Avenue journey and once I feel I've grasped it I'll post again with my own low-down and top tips for getting the most out of it.

In the mean time I'd love to hear from those who are a step ahead of me. Have you signed up for it yet? What are your experiences so far?