First, take a deep breath. No matter where you are in your Web3 journey, the era itself is just beginning. Google tells us so.

Just do a Google Trends search between the popularity of “Twitter” and “NFT.” As you can see, (non-fungible token) NFTs, from a search percentage, are just a blip…not even registering against Twitter. To compare, NFTs are about where Twitter was in 2007 or 2008.

Source: Google Search Trends

Knowing that we are early is important. Right now is the time to learn, experiment, and understand that anything brands or individuals do in social tokens, NFTs, and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) is, at best, experimental.

The journey to Web3

If Web 1.0 is read-only, and Web 2.0 revolves around user-based creation on centralized platforms (Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn, and the others), then Web 3.0 (Web3) is about moving from centralized platforms to decentralized networks, powered by the token

Note: For the purposes of this article, token means data on the blockchain that stands for something else, as a poker chip stands for cash.

You could say that the internet’s unit of measure (in the near future) is the blockchain token. To have creator coins or social tokens, you of course need an accessible token on a blockchain. To develop an NFT (non-fungible token) project, you need the token. A DAO is governed based on issued tokens.

Tokens make decentralized creation possible and are transformational in two ways. First, the creator can build scarce assets. Whether those are tickets to an event, access to new experiences, or unique content drops, scarcity can make the experience more valuable to both the creator and the owner. Second, the token gives users property rights. For the first time in the history of building audiences, the subscriber, fan, or follower can actually own something.

Owning the token gives the user control and can’t be taken away.

Rethinking loyalty and rewards

I received an email recently from a hotel rewards program. It said I had over 1,000 rewards points, but if I don’t do something before a certain date, I would lose them.

Funny. “My” rewards? Nope. If the rewards can be taken away, they certainly aren’t my rewards. Now wouldn’t it be better if those rewards were tokenized and I owned those rewards forever? How much more loyal would I be to that hotel?

Look at Starbucks rewards. I get stars (whatever those are) when I purchase coffee or snacks at Starbucks and then can use those stars to get bonus coffee and snacks. What else can I do with them? Nothing. Can they be taken away by Starbucks? Absolutely.

What if instead of stars I received tokens? What if those tokens could be gifted to others, exchanged for other currency, or used to get exclusive Starbucks experiences? The token makes that possible. And if I collect enough tokens, I can financially profit from the rewards program as a customer (outside of just coffee), where I can resell or gift my rewards to others.

Let’s look at ticketing, where we are seeing the most innovation. I’m a Cleveland Browns season ticket holder (no smart remarks please). When they deliver my digital tickets every year, they say those are my tickets…but…the Browns can remove those at any time (if they wish). If they don’t like my behavior at a game, they can tell me I can’t use them. Plus, once the tickets are used, they are worthless.

What if the tickets kept building value, and the Browns delivered exclusive experiences to me even after the game was over (because I held the token)? What if I could sell or gift the tickets outside of Seat Geek or StubHub (that’s not possible today)?

And why would the Browns do this? Well, for one big reason, the Browns get little (if any) money from the resale of tickets. If they were tokenized, the Browns would get a set royalty (defined by the smart contract underlying the token) every time the tickets change hands. If the Browns go to the Playoffs, can you imagine the additional revenue the Browns would receive through resale? And, it happens automatically on the blockchain.

Focusing on the Superfan

Since forever, brands have delivered unique content experiences to customers in exchange for data. With Web3, now we can give our customers and prospects the ability to own and financially profit from owning this digital property.

At present, I don’t think these types of programs are for all your customers. Instead, think of building superfans. Previously we needed to build large audiences on social platforms to get any kind of traction at all. Now, because of the token, small numbers can make a big brand impact.

Take the music world. Portuguese musician RAC has over 3.5 million listeners on Spotify. By selling just five exclusive music NFTs, he made more money than he had from Spotify ever. All it took were five superfans.

NFTs that work today are more than just the art which, again, just represents what’s in the smart contract, it’s about access and utility. Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) worked because the owners get full intellectual property rights to use their image as they see fit (this person just launched a restaurant) and they get access to exclusive events. Gary Vaynerchuk’s VeeFriends NFT project worked because all NFT owners get access to an event, plus hundreds received special access to Gary or Gary’s team. Stoner Cats from Mila Kunis worked because NFT owners get exclusive access to watch the ongoing cartoon series.

So the question to answer is, what does your NFT do? Who is it for? Are you creating real value and will anyone really care?

But all this is possible because of the token. The token happens outside the big social networks (decentralized). It helps brands build scarce assets and gives audiences the ability to own things. The owner can resell at will and the creator gets paid every time it happens. All this makes a whole new superfan possible.

How do brands build superfans?

It’s not rocket science. Before you think of building any kind of tokenization project, you need to start and grow your superfan base by delivering valuable, relevant content. Think of an amazing newsletter, an industry-leading podcast, or a consistent YouTube show for your best prospects/customers. The key here is consistency and differentiation (what we call a content tilt).

Great Web3 success stories, like RAC, start with a trusting audience or community, so if you don’t have that yet, there is your place to start.

What to do?

What does this mean for you? Right now, probably nothing. But as a marketing professional or content creator you need to know that the loyalty programs coming are going to be unlike what we’ve ever seen before…because of the token. You need to be practicing…a lot. Get a digital wallet. Join some communities. Buy an NFT or two. Start understanding the process.

But in the meantime, focus on building an audience. The integration of your NFT or social token process always comes later.

Joe Pulizzi is the founder of Creator Economy Expo (CEX) – May 2-4, 2022 as well as The Tilt, a free newsletter about the business of content creation. Joe is also the author of the best-selling content marketing book, Content Inc. Find him on Twitter at @JoePulizzi.

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