It’s important to recognize ways in which blockchain projects differ from typical firms in other sectors, including other tech firms, because those differences dictate the way blockchain projects organize, operate, market, and communicate. Now there are many examples of these differences, including demographics, some of which are a result of the technology itself, but for this post I want to focus on one:
Blockchain projects build themselves upon a philosophical foundation.
This cannot be said about most other types of organizations. In general, firms emerge from the realization that there is a gap in the market, and although this is a perfectly legitimate, honorable, and necessary justification to exist, it does not carry the same weight. Blockchain projects solve market needs as well, but philosophy is an added element that when summed with market need, a more potent molecule is created. Thus blockchain projects are movements, inspiring change on one level or another, and using the technology to do it.
Because I own a marketing firm, and because this post is about communication, I’m going to concentrate on why the combination of philosophy and market need governs our outreach efforts. I’ll leave the rest to someone else. If you’re looking for a more general overview of blockchain project marketing, please check out this article.
A movement needs participants
In a typical company, the organizational goal is to sell a product or service. And even though the switch from interruptive-based marketing strategies to inbound marketing has prioritized building a fanbase around one’s offerings, it’s not the same as creating an aligned community. Yes, we may find commonality around a favorite brand of jeans, or music platform, but it does not hold anywhere near the weight of bonds created through shared philosophy. There is great power and inertia that comes from combining a philosophical movement and a market need.
For example, Bitcoin was clearly created in part as a response to the financial shenanigans perpetrated by big banks in partnership with big government. Not only did Bitcoin solve a market need – the ability to store value locally, without custody, and instantly send any amount of value anywhere in the world – its attributes innately re-balance a power structure that heavily favored financial institutions. Bitcoin renders those institutions all but irrelevant.
And this, my friends, is the fuel propelling the large scale systemic shift we are currently in the middle of, cheered on by millions of community members all around the world. If crypto projects were only about solving a market problem, you would not see the same fervor.
A question: How many companies can you think of, outside of blockchain tech, have large communities supporting them before they have released their product, service, or platform?
I can’t think of any off hand, but be sure to let us know @msquared_is if you can. This is common in our sector! And it’s born from shared philosophy. People are excited by the ways in which blockchain technology changes the world for the better. They want to use our products, because they understand to do so empowers them and their communities.
Blockchain communities are necessary
A project and its people are an interdependent relationship. It’s not just a one way street in which community members wait patiently for the tech to arrive. That would be more like a fanbase. No, blockchain communities are participatory. Community members have often contributed financially, and donate their time, effort, and influence to propel the project forward.
Not only that, we’re going to need passionate people to use the tools we’re building. Blockchain communities are the early adopters. They are app testers, and feedback givers. They are the people willing to put up with bugs, clunky UX, installing from the command line, and bridging to testnet.
Let’s face it, blockchain user experience in general has a long way to go to compete with old world tech’s ease of use. But blockchain communities put up with it anyway, a testament to the philosophical bond that exists between projects and their community. We must continue to foster that bond so that blockchain adoption become a reality.
How to engage with your blockchain community
There are many small tips I could give you that are obvious: be honest, transparent, friendly, helpful, etc., but I trust anyone running a community already knows these things. Instead, I’d like to discuss three overarching guidelines I believe every community manager should consider if they want to inspire people to stay involved with their project.
1. Communicate the project’s core philosophy, and only share things that support that philosophy.
As I mentioned, shared philosophy turns your organization from a company into a movement. Because of that, your philosophy is one of your unique selling propositions. It’s what makes your project compelling in ways no one else can offer. Use it to attract your community and keep them. To do that, you must consider if what you are communicating is in line with your project’s philosophy.
The first thing to do is create your project’s manifesto. A manifesto is a public declaration of your intentions; your core philosophical principles extrapolated and explained. For example, the Swarm City manifesto is called Niks Moet, which describes their core belief that coercion is wrong, and how that relates to their project.
Write your manifesto with buy-in from your community. Use it as a touchstone with which you can evaluate not only the direction of your project, but how you are communicating, and how you expect your community to function. For Swarm City, operating in a voluntary way is the only way to stay consistent with their core philosophy. Niks Moet publicly acknowledges this as a way to inspire their community, and create a barometer for accountability.
2. Use many formats to get your ideas across
Everyone has their own preferences on how they like to consume content. The four main types are text, images, audio, and video. Use all of them to reach and connect with your community. Now this doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of resources creating different content per type. You will need to format appropriately, as each content type and platform from which you can share it has best practices. But for the most part, you can transpose between each type in creative ways.
For example, tweet out relevant phrases of your manifesto, or narrate it over a video slideshow presentation. Share that video through all your social media channels, and in you online community’s platform. Create tutorial videos to show how to use your product, and then use the transcript and screen shots to do so in written form.
Or, create illustrated examples of your user stories to showcase a functionality of your app, and then film the in-app interaction. Seek out podcasts to guest on, or create your own. Learn which types of content your community responds to, and do more of it. And if you want help brainstorming creative ways you can connect with your community, we’re here to help.
3. Above everything, be clear.
The whole point of communication is to understand and to be understood. No amount of fancy language or flashy website animations will cover up poorly crafted messaging. In fact, many times those types of things take away from the underlying message. Whenever you create content, seek first to be logical, succinct, and accessible. Then consider if it’s in line with your principles. Most often, you don’t even have to try to be persuasive. If you are honest, clear, and philosophically sound, and directing your content to the right audience there will be no need for sales speech.
Be precise, because if a person truly understands what you’re trying to say, they can decide if it’s something they’re interested in. There’s no need to sell it. Be clear so people have the information needed to make the best decision for themselves.
Community managers and content creators are akin to translators. But instead of from one language to another, they translate the conceptual to the tangible. They explain what the blockchain project will become over time, so their community can visualize it and take inspiration from it.
Project success is determined by how well you build community
A thriving community is essential to the success of any blockchain project, and therefore we must dedicate effort and resources towards making sure it exists. They are the early adopters, and their input will help battle test your product, smooth out UX wrinkles, and give it market traction. To attract your community, clearly define and share your project’s philosophical principles. If you want to keep your community, hold true to your principles, be clear with your messaging, and share content in a variety of forms.
PS: It wouldn't be a great blog post without an offer at the end 🙂
At MSquared we have a ton of experience marketing and communicating blockchain projects, (like Swarm City, EthKan) and we’ve developed an objective system for website design/build and inbound marketing using the exercises covered in this post – and much more. We would be thrilled to help you with your project.
In fact, we’d like to start giving you value for free right away. Schedule a 30 minute strategy session with us. Let’s find out together how we can better identify and engage your community. This one’s on the house.