3 ways brands are using cryptocurrency to build communities

As cryptocurrencies gain traction, we’ve started to see businesses and brands dipping their toes into the scene.

Here’re some interesting ways businesses are using cryptocurrencies, to build communities and better engage with their audiences.

1) Influencer Marketing & Partnerships

Difficulty: Low

Cryptocurrencies can be intimidating for the uninitiated. But the good news is you don’t have to understand it all to tap into existing communities.

Brands can tap into the audiences of influencers in the crypto space. This allows brands to tap into existing clout to attract their target audience. Brand managers can also work with partners who can execute the technical side of things in cryptocurrency or blockchain technology and provide the necessary proof of concept which C-suites tend to ask for.

Notable examples include:

  • United Talent Agency (UTA), a Hollywood agency has snagged representation deals on NFT projects like Larva Labs’ Cryptopunks while
  • Creative Artists Agency (CCA) signs with Jenkins the Valet which emerged from the Bored Ape Yacht Club, to explore a range of creative and broadcasting opportunities.
  • FTX‘s partnership with Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady (who has openly supported cryptocurrency on various occasions) and FTX. This partnership would elevate Brady’s personal brand in the crypto space while allowing FTX to reach a more general audience. #winwin

You might have also heard of Burger King‘s recent partnership with Robinhood for their cryptocurrency raffle/giveaway. In my opinion, although Robinhood may be popular with Gen Zs, it might have made more sense for Burger King to collaborate with a cryptocurrency exchange instead.

The upside of running partnerships is that non-crypto brands do not have to own cryptocurrencies nor understand the technical aspects of blockchain technology. That said, you should take note of the sub-culture in the crypto community and craft your content accordingly.

2) Building a community on the blockchain 

Difficulty: MidHigh

This to me is where most of the innovation is at the point of writing, and we’re only just beginning.

In the “traditional” digital marketing world, publishers and brands have to play by the rules of Web2.0 – we can own our web domain and our email list, but the interactions on these platforms tend to be less intimate. With the exception of paying customers, most of your community might be made up of lurkers who may not be as involved.

That is about to change.

There are many ways to build and engage with your community as a business, using cryptocurrency as a medium. However, do note that this might require a little more technical knowledge and resources to execute.

Here’re some real-world examples:

(2a) NFTs

Non fungible tokens (NFT) are unique, non-interchangable data stored on a blockchain. You probably have heard of the famous Cryptopunks by now.

NFTs can be used to represent ownership of an item or mechandise. Here’re some examples how brands used NFTs to engage with their community.

i. Treat NFTs like a merch

10 exclusive NFTs featuring the McRib were given away in a raffle, this campaign was mostly for PR.

Limited edition NFTs featuring original artwork were sold to raise funds for Taco Bell Foundation.

ii. Embed unique experiences into NFTs ownership

Fans can purchase an NFT of the album which comes with a digital download of the music and a limited edition vinyl. Top fans can bid for a limited number of ‘golden ticket’ NFTs that grants them VIP access to front roll seats to any KOL concert for life.

Designed like a membership, VeeFriends feature different NFT tiers which grants its owner unique access levels, resources and events. This is genius because it creates reasons for each member to own multiple NFTs within the series, and allows them to “build their own adventure” within the community.

Launching an NFT can be challenging if a brand needs to figure out the technicalities in house. However, there are proven NFT marketplaces like Dapper Labs (of Top Shot NFT fame) that brands can partner with today.

(2b) Social Tokens

Unlike NFTs, social tokens are fungible. They function like most cryptocurrency coins. However, instead of being used as a store of value or investment tool, social tokens allow brands to further customise their community experience.

It’s like having a loyalty point program that’s on a blockchain and with social tokens that could be cashed out.

Imagine a universe where members of your community are rewarded your branded tokens, simply for engaging and being part of the community. You could reward members for taking desirable actions like logging in daily, helping new members, spending a certain amount with your brand and so much more. The most active, engaged and/or loyal fans can unlock exclusive access levels as they accumulate more tokens. Members can trade their tokens for merch or specific services by the brand. And those who unfortunately decide to move on from the community can trade out their tokens as a ‘reward’ for their past involvement.

Notable examples of social tokens:

  • Twitch personalities like Alliestrasza ($ALLIE) and Nicholena Moon ($MOON) build a Pateron-like membership experience with their social tokens.
  • The TILT, a content marketing newsletter by Joe Pulizzi (founder of Content Marketing Institute) rewards marketers just for signing up to their newsletter, and offers different membership tiers based on the amount of TILT coin a member owns. Fun fact: it is the top valued token on the Rally platform, at the point of writing.
  • WHALE is an NFT vault that contains some of the most valuable NFTs in the space. Its social token, $WHALE gives owners access to a range of membership channels and ownership of the project through a DAO.

Like NFTs, launching your own social tokens independent would require more technical know-how. Fan and community crypto platforms like Rally.io (currently by invitation only) and Coinvise which provide creators with the tools to design and launch their own social coins. With these platforms, you don’t have to figure out the technicalities of launching your own tokens. Instead, you can focus on the more important stuff – building your community and business.

(3) Design your community’s experience from scratch

difficult: High

This builds on a combination of the above use cases and more.

If you’ve been reading the news, you would have heard of notable NFT projects which evolved into a strong community (eg. Bored Apes Yacht Club).  Likewise, brands can build a tight community using cryptocurrency as a tool. Operationally, this would be similar to running a full-fledged marketing and sales campaign, using blockchain technology as the enabler. On top of having a marketing team, you may need to hire developers and even artists to help you launch.

This allows you to invite your existing community into your new crypto based ‘universe’.

Some notable examples in the marketing and personal development space include Gary Vaynerchuk’s Veefriends NFTs as mentioned above. Fans can choose their membership tier and level of engagement with the GaryVee brand (from VeeCon access to direct calls with Gary himself) by purchasing NFTs based on their rarity. 

Another example is Impact Theory’s Founders Key NFT where members get to choose from 3 different membership tiers, with the highest tier offering a right to partner the brand and earn royalties on future projects.

In the music scene, 3LAU gave 50% of streaming revenue from his song “Worst Case” to 333 fans who owned a Worst Case NFT. He went on to launch NFTs representing his Ultraviolet album where the top fans will be given a chance to collaborate on a new single with 3LAU himself and gain access to unreleased music.

In the crypto space, Bankless a crypto education company runs a regular membership that anyone can subscribe with fiat cash. Once the members are in, they receive a “Bankless badge” NFT which serves as their access pass to a range of members only perks as well as the right to participate in their DAO (think of it as being a shareholder and having the right to vote on decisions).

Although many of the examples in this section rely on NFTs, I believe we’ll start seeing communities that maximise the use of both social tokens, NFTs and other elements of the blockchain to provide a better experience in the future.

Risks and things to note

1 – Regulatory risk

Crypto remains fairly new and regulatory bodies have yet to decide how they should be regulated.

This is a major risk for businesses as countries still have the power to block internet access to various websites and platforms. Technically, you would still have access to your crypt assets via the blockchain should you ever lose access to any platforms. However, this could spook your community which could lead to detrimental aftermaths.

Another unknown to think about is if your business would incur taxes by running your own NFT project or managing a social token.

2 – Adoption is still low

According to TheBlock, there are 29.7M active Bitcoin wallet addresses (in Oct 2021), while ycharts reported >1M daily transactions on the Ethereum blockchain in 2021. THese statistics suggest that there are active users in crypto who have the spending power, which is definitely an opportunity for commerce.

However, do keep in mind that despite its growth, most people are still do not own cryptocurrency. And many who already own cryptocurrencies could only be in for the investment returns, which means that they are less likely to spend their crypto on NFTs nor are they comfortable with transact using cryptocurrency.

You should understand your target audience before deciding if cryptocurrency should be part of your marketing funnel. Refer to the basics of marketing – make sure that your target audience is receptive to utilising the blockchain for purchases. It would be a major waste of time to move onto the blockchain if your target audience are not able nor willing to transact in crypto.

Alternatively, you could attempt to educate your community during the building process. In this case, VeeFriends’ launch was a good case study.

Before you go

Cryptocurrency is still relatively new and there’s so much more to explore especially when it comes to marketing use-cases.

That said, when attempting to create communities via social tokens or NFTs we have to keep in mind that most people are new to the cryptocurrency scene. As creators, we have to provide sufficient guidance and probably handhold some of the newer members, especially when it comes to the actual execution.

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