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Ah, the days of watching the convex monitor refresh downward as your modem finally made that persistent tone, letting you know that the connection to a bulletin board system (“BBS”) was successful . Although most are asynchronous, these communal BBS portals were the first online communities to evolve into local Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) before AOL’s mass-mailing CD-ROMs.
These are my memories of Web0 from the early 90s, and each year has been an incredible journey as technology continued to expand our capabilities. Ways to share and navigate the unified expanse of human output grow daily as technology evolves, creating smaller, smarter devices. The limitless ability to connect, search and discover on the digital highway created mental paralysis in the Web2 social media era, leading people to join in droves, choosing the hate as a commune.
Related: How to build a strong NFT community
Unsurprisingly, this Icarus race to build massive online “communities” centered around banter and impersonal connections fueled groupthink for political elections and world news as it flew toward its tipping point imminent
Today’s connected technology exponentially changes our boundaries for community. Madison Cansler, digital social strategist at Mad Connects LLC notes, “Web3 is establishing a decentralized digital highway for people to connect on their own terms to form communities that fit their needs and beliefs.”
Web2’s massive online groups have begun to trigger so many exodus to smaller communities. This trend seems to mimic the suburban sprawl of America in the 1950s and the online BBS we connected to via modem in the 1990s. Both events were enhanced through technology, based on advances in their respective “highways” and “vehicles”.
After World War II, the automobile experienced explosive growth due to the mass production assembly lines, devised by H. Ford, which expanded globally through many brands. In the US, the creation of the Federal Highway Act of 1956 continued suburban sprawl and established production facilities fueled the need for more automobiles. People may now move out of the city, but still use automobiles to get to and from jobs still located in downtown areas. Of course, technological improvements in vehicles, such as the ability to travel greater distances than ever before, were instrumental in suburban sprawl.
With today’s connected technology accelerating communications, we now see virtual communities forming around the decentralization of information. In essence, Web3 has established a decentralized digital highway for people to meet and connect with communities that suit their needs. This new digital age allows our world to reclaim localism as we see Web3 communities emerge.
Related: Why a Community Approach to Web Marketing Works Best3
From the 2020s onwards, we witnessed a shift towards smaller communities. This shift rings especially true in the early stages of Web3, where groups are formed based on real connections and complementary skill sets. The Web3 movement is remarkably similar to that of the 1990s, where the playing field was somewhat open to anyone with an idea and a computer.
Today, we see this barrier to entry reduced by a single cell phone or internet cafe. Artists and technologists have been able to take advantage of Web3’s utility and build a community culture around the core principles of the technology: transparency, accountability, and sustainability.
In a small but vocal corner of Web3 resides the emerging NFT market. The space has grown exponentially in recent years and has begun to make waves in mainstream media. Due to a handful of successful and notable NFT projects, such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club founded by Yuga Labs, the space has been migrating from innovators to early adopters. However, the speed at which projects are launched is unprecedented compared to any previous model, such as Web2 SaaS startups, and is critical to building and getting to know your community.
Related: Web3 is the future of the creator economy
Types of NFT Community Members
Communities are critical in the NFT space, as they are your startup’s customers, supporters, and funders, and some become good “brakes!” — Yes, startups are now called “projects” in the NFT space, as no one wants to overextend promises in this current reset of the tech playing field. It’s important to note that “community” is a general term in the NFT world and can be further segmented into Fans, Adopters, and Curators.
The Fan community is a group of people committed and loyal to your project, its vision and its future. Fans are often the most active and vocal supporters of your project, because their belief in your work influences their beliefs about the future of blockchain technology.
The adopter community includes those who join for early access to new features, customizations, unique IRL links, IP rights, and project utility. Many adopters in the BAYC community have launched restaurants and cannabis strains using a bored monkey as a mascot. These adopters have continued to raise awareness of NFT projects and their individual brands. At Apefest 2022, even Snoop Dogg and Eminem showed their support for BAYC for their latest music single and food trucks serving fans outside the festival gates.
Finally, there’s the Curation community, which focuses on driving content and storytelling to help foster your project’s growth. Curators may already be engaged with other communities and can bring more awareness to the brand.
As an example, prolific NFT evangelist and MMA fighter Keith Berry is a strong supporter of Web3 communities. Berry is a well-known voice in the NFT space and believes that digital ownership is the future. He openly promotes his vision on billboards and social media through his public art buying spaces in hopes of bringing emerging artists into Web3. His ethos is also echoed throughout the team building a community-based Web3 ecosystem to bring everyone into the new Internet. berry he tweeted, “I align with Royal Goats Club because I see longevity in the project and the team. I know my audience connects with vision and utility, so LFG!” Finding synergies leads to a strong bond between a curator and the project, allowing authenticity to prevail.
In conclusion, the most critical aspect of the NFT space is the community. NFT adoption will be driven by collaboration between fans, community members and ambassadors. You need to know your audience and how you want to help them achieve their goals, or you’ll be going around in circles without a compass! Without a strategic community plan and a built-in audience, your project will likely be dead on arrival.
*Disclosure: Aaron has met and spoken with numerous people and projects cited in this article. Aaron has advised the Royal Goats Club on long-term strategy and has numerous NFTs.