Remember when the internet was first starting to take off, and many people believed it was a passing fad that wouldn’t last? Myspace, then Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram all took off and revolutionized the way we connect with others and present our lives. The internet has had more eras than Madonna (or Taylor Swift, for the Gen Z’s). And here we are, on the verge of yet another massive shift.
The next era of the internet, known as ‘Web3’, is still in its early stages but the image of what it will look like is becoming clearer day by day. As Web3 evolves, how brands behave and consume products will certainly also change.
The Evolution of the Internet
If marketers aren’t considering where the internet is going and why, it’s only a matter of time until they will be. But this is new territory for most, so understanding where we've been is helpful to inform where we might go.
Web1 was the early days of the internet. There were lots of content consumers, but very few creators. Webpages were static and, interestingly, advertisements were banned. Digital marketing didn’t exist yet, so we were still relying on print, radio, TV, and other traditional mediums to get our messages out. During this time, community building still primarily happened in the real world. Early forms of social media existed, but not at the magnitude it does now. To this point, your community was primarily influenced by where you lived, studied and worked.
The main shift in this next chapter of the internet is squarely focused on decentralization and putting the power back in the hands of content creators. Our current perception calls to mind a handful of large tech brands that own media hosting mechanisms. Meta alone owns multiple major platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Google has long dominated the search engine market as the largest and most popular, and they also own the second largest and most popular: YouTube. So despite the sheer number of content creators we have today, when it comes down to it a handful of key players own the game. In Web3, there is a focus on community-governed activity that isn't controlled by a single individual or a board. This opens new opportunities with unique challenges we get to solve.
The ‘Metaverse’ is essentially the Louisiana Purchase of Web3- an entire area of untapped potential just waiting to be explored and settled. This has opened the doors for ownership of digital assets and thus created a variety of new markets. Brands in retail, real estate, and beyond are starting to use the Metaverse and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) to stake their claim in emerging Web 3.0 worlds in efforts to create innovative new experiences for their customers. Some are doing it well, while with others, it seems forced.
Essentially, we believe Web3 has triggered modern brands to rethink how content is created, consumed, and ultimately engaged with. This is a good thing.
What This Means for Marketing
The transition from Web1 to Web2 felt like a continuation down the already established path, whereas this next phase feels distinctly different. While some Web2 marketing best practices have crossover applications to Web3 projects, it’s safe to say no real framework has been established.
Web3 and cryptocurrency marketers are generally pioneers in a space which requires investment in overlooked or neglected digital strategies and channels. Web3 brands that rose to success quickly have realized how important community focused marketing is for growth and adoption. Moreover, there are tendencies for digital media channels to limit or reject the inclusion of web3 projects, which further causes web3 brands to empower their community members to be their champions.
One such company that has crossed the “Marketing Chasm” (so to speak) is Splinterlands, the #1 NFT trading card game operating on the Hive blockchain. Their Director of Growth, Liam Labistour, has seen and battled through skepticism as a whole around the web3 vertical. When asked about how he sees Web3 adoption amongst everyday internet users, we both agreed that the more legitimate projects that enter the space, the more we’ll see even more stability and infrastructure. As we dug deeper with Liam, one thing became obvious- the nature of blockchain is decentralization and community driven. For clarity on this point, the more high quality Web3 projects, the better. The value of building together while empowering the community that loves your brand is counter intuitive to hyper competitive environments typically associated with technology sectors.
To this point, adapting to a community marketing mindset may not be as complicated as it seems. It all goes back to the idea of community members being the value. This is done through allowing them to have a stake or ownership in the brand. Liam explains, “As a community, being able to share anecdotes and communicate gameplay is more valuable than almost anything else when it comes to educating and acquiring new users. Web3 is going to grow over the next decade through the means of giving back to community members who invest their time and interest in the actual web3 brand(s). It’s almost a pseudo marketing tool that acts as a way to say ‘thank you’ to the faithful community members for their involvement in helping you grow and evolve.”
To put it simply, this next phase of marketing will be less about selling or pushing your brand to the customer and more about allowing them to play an active role in determining what products, services, and experiences should look and feel like. Tapping into that will be a critical challenge but a game-changing opportunity for brands moving forward.
We asked Jeremy Barnett, CEO of Rad Intelligence (RAD AI) about the connection between community, “marketing authenticity” and adoption. Barnett says, “The world today has changed. Communities demand authenticity at every step of the adoption process.And once communities are confident that your product and mission is authentic, they will go to the ends of the earth to support the mission- assuming they also believe in the project. Barnett continues, “The adoption cycle is simple and elegant simultaneously. Communities adopt because they trust the and believe in the project. This trust comes from project authenticity and giving your community a seat at the table.” Barnett concludes, “The blockchain company’s we see thriving are leaning into this concept.”
The Case of Splinterlands
Let’s talk about Splinterlands, the #1 play-to-earn blockchain game. A game that its players love to play, because they actually love the game. Gaming has long been a collaborative community, with individuals coming together around the world to play and interact. In this ecosystem, we also have sub-communities of enthusiasts who create custom content and third party tools who continuously stream their gameplay for others to enjoy. These creators do it for the love of the game and the benefit of the community, and the brand benefits as a result.
In Web3, these types of activities are rewarded and are an essential part of marketers’ strategy for engagement. Liam explains how Splinterlands deployed this strategy and empowered their team's marketing efforts to further set themselves apart from other blockchain-based games. We find this roadmap repeatable only if the project is truly committed to create a game that players want to play and engage with. Yes, this means the crypto economy and speculative NFT trading takes a back seat to A+ game play. Novel concept.
Liam further explains, “The opportunity for users to be hands-on with the governance of the game is groundbreaking. I have played other games at a professional level, however, I have never had the opportunity to voice my opinion on how the game could potentially grow or evolve. With concepts such as a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), players can stake tokens to govern DAO funds and eventually updates and more. As time goes on, games like Splinterlands will become further decentralized. Another groundbreaking aspect is how players get rewarded for their play time. I’ve sunk thousands of hours, which equates to years of my life, into numerous games and when I’m done playing them, I don’t have much to show for it. With blockchain gaming, users get rewarded for playing and engaging with the game, adding an actual value to the time played and providing a deeper sense of ownership to the player.”
On this logic, a fair marketing question is how does Splinterlands measure player contributions and attribute value to them? We asked Liam this question and the response was fascinating. “Splinterlands’ metrics aren’t dissimilar to those marketers might examine today, '' says Liam. “Their core KPIs surround new player acquisition numbers and engagement figures such as number of games played per day, sessions per month, and duration. This information helps inform successful new feature roll outs, retention, and so on.” Liam continues, “What we strive to do is to use data to make informed decisions. For example, if we want to measure user retention, we’d rather look at the inputs of what is being done opposed to the outputs of what the result is when looking to improve growth. We could look to build cohorts of users based around the actions that they have taken at certain points in their journey with Splinterlands and correlate those events to higher retention rates, thereby informing what inputs we need to market heavily, while which others we should stay away from. You can even put time intervals into the conversation and it all becomes quite eye opening.”
Splinterlands didn't have a rulebook to follow for marketing in Web3. It’s no surprise though as we previously mentioned, most pioneers in this space find success by trying new concepts which sometimes mean building on top of Web2. As more brands begin exploring the space, they’ll also be looking for a reliable marketing structure and framework.
“It’s hard to say with certainty what a Web3 infrastructure will look like 5 years in the future because no one truly knows all there is to know in the blockchain space,” Liam shares. “My gut tells me the concept of decentralization will become table stakes for any big brand in the future. I think that there will be a heavy emphasis to start incorporating more blockchain concepts into the brands ethos as a means of higher customer retention and engagement. This is all going to be done through giving the community more ways to contribute and engage in the brand’s ecosystem.”
The Splinterlands team has done an excellent job of navigating uncharted territory. They’ve recently engaged Rad Intelligence (RAD AI) to help build their framework and infrastructure for future marketing success. Building communities takes time, trust, and engagement that you simply can’t fake. Liam continues, “The biggest core functionality of RAD AI in relation to Splinterlands will be in identifying new potential user demographics, interests, communication formats, and preferences. There are so many question marks in the Web3 space, and actionable user data is still being discovered. By obtaining real user data, driven by community based actions, we can now build better infrastructure for our entire marketing flywheel. This in turn helps us make better informed marketing decisions across our marketing efforts.”
A lot is still unknown about what the future of marketing will look like, but there will always be innovators leading the way and carving a new path - Stay tuned!
Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice