Let’s be real: Marketing in web3 absolutely sucks.
In an industry with no pre-defined growth playbook, marketing is one of the gray areas where you’ll see the widest variation of tactics deployed. Often, it’s difficult to know where to even start. Do I propose a giveaway? A NFT raffle? An airdrop?
In this article, I’ll be exploring some of the main methods of marketing that are commonly employed by web3 marketers, why you can do better, and some practical, scrappy tips for kickstarting a marketing campaign — especially if you’re resource-strapped and want to explore novel, yet crypto-native, ways of doing so. I'll also cover a few compelling web3 marketing campaigns that I really liked, and how you can learn from them to plan your next campaign!
Here’s what I won’t be covering: Airdrop tactics, Twitter sh*tposting, or how to go viral. While these tactics have become the norm, they are short-term boosts for a long-term strategy.
If you’re scratching your head wondering how to improve long-term user engagement and retention, you might find this article helpful!
Let’s first start by taking a look at the current web3 marketing landscape (virtually a desert wasteland right now, if you ask me).
If you’re new to web3 or web3 marketing, one of the first pieces of advice that I give is to completely avoid traditional paid acquisition tactics, such as influencer marketing, paid social media, and paid SEO marketing.
The reason I say this is simple: Scams, scams, and more scams. I also want to clarify that these channels are completely fine on their own and should be a part of any marketer’s long-term playbook, but I specifically refer to the paid social acquisition tactics for a reason.
Take a look at this nearly identical phishing site to ours, shown at the very top of Google Search, for example:
One click, and a user could conveniently sign away all their assets in just a single transaction, much like the $1.4m+ Kevin Rose hack, where even an experienced crypto founder was scammed.
This is unfortunately how many crypto ponzis and web3 scam “projects” currently approach new user acquisition, and because of this inherent association, users have already developed built-in habits to shy away from any paid marketing. It is far too difficult to filter out the noise, and a simple “Sponsored” post now becomes something awash in suspicion, rather than curiosity.
💫 For more on Crypto Safety, you can check out our tutorial series encouraging best security practices here!
So, while the additional views and top-of-funnel potential may seem tempting, this is actually one of the worst ways to acquire new users.
As a web3 company or any company just starting out in web3, your goal is to establish a sense of deep trust within users — because at the end of the day, if a user has to interact with smart contracts or sign a transaction on your site, that requires a far deeper trust than signing up to a platform with e-mail or a phone number.
The other principle that I like to stick with when strategizing community-facing marketing campaigns is the "positive feedback loop” that I mentioned in The Best Tools for Your Web3 Growth Stack. As a play on the original definition, having a positive feedback loop in web3 product means is to create a community that you can build a product alongside with, instead of a group of users you are building a product at.
The same applies for marketing: The more that you market WITH your community, the more it compounds.
💫 Marketing Tip: Building in public and involving your community in upcoming feature launches is one way to market with and not at your users.
Sadly, you don’t see this too often in crypto. When people run out of ideas, they tend to default to expensive giveaways, engagement farming, “Retweet and tag three people in this post”, or an NFT/token drop (Just take a look at Porsche, who fumbled a 0.911ETH NFT collection mint). None of these tactics are sustainable long-term, and favor speculative or tourist dynamics instead of organic ones.
So let’s assume for you that neither of those options are economically feasible, or the direction you want to be heading right now. If that’s the case, what are some ways to organically market a web3 product, if the whole industry is driven by speculation at the moment?
Instead of marketing campaigns, I like to approach my marketing strategy with what I like to call “Community Experiments.”
At an early-stage startup, it’s always difficult to allocate the resources to marketing, especially when your product hasn’t hasn’t found perfect product-market fit (PMF) just yet. You’re usually stuck in between the “Pre-Customers” and “Early Traction” stage of your startup positioning, which requires a significant amount of experimentation with product messaging and marketing.
So instead of spending all your time and resources gearing up for a massive campaign with complex design collateral, custom engineering, multiple stakeholders, and sleepless nights, here are a few mini-activations, or Community Experiments, that you can try almost immediately!
To celebrate the launch of Hashflow’s official HFT token, Hashflow launched a “gamified DAO” where users could stake their tokens and minting veHFT in order to create their own Hashverse in-game character. With Hashverse, Hashflow now has unlimited possibilities to create fun user journeys and generate excitement around their suite of DeFi products.
Why? While something like Hashverse will require weeks of planning and custom engineering, we like to use this as an example for how to incorporate storytelling in your campaign.
Big Picture: In 2023, users are demanding more from the products they love. Instead of being sold to, they want to be involved as a participant. Web3 makes these immersive digital experiences easier than ever.
What you can do: Involve more storytelling on a smaller scale. For your next activation or feature launch, think of how the community can immerse themselves into a story.
jokedao is a bottom-up, on-chain governance for communities to submit entries and vote on favorites. To promote usage of the protocol and encourage an organic community, jokedao holds a “jokerace” every week, where users can vote for their favorite joke or poll result using one-time voting tokens.
Why? Bottom-up governance is fancy term for allowing your community to make on-chain proposals and vote for them. While typical protocol governance concentrates power in the hands of powerful individuals and focuses on high-stakes governance decisions, bottom-up governance is more flexible way of trying out on-chain governance with your community.
Big Picture: Users feel more empowered when they feel like they have a say in the future of your product. You can make this process more transparent and engaging by hosting user feedback sessions as jokedao “Contests”.
What you can do: Create a contest on jokedao, airdrop your community some one-time voting tokens, and ask them what feature they’d like to see from you next!
Contests are simple primitivies—some poses a prompt, communities submit replies, and voters vote on their favorites—but because you can design who gets to submit and who gets to vote, there's a plethora of use cases. We've had protocols use us for grants and hackathons, creators use us for communities to determine their content, companies use us to survey user preferences, educators use us to run classes, DAOs use us for RFPs and acquiring members. What all of these have in common is making communities more *interactive*—whether that's for the purpose of social, reputational, or financial rewards. I'm particularly excited by the jokerace council, an NFT community of jokedao enthusiasts, who are going to be working with bigger-name creators to incubate games on our site that they can play with their audiences.
— David Phelps, Founder of jokedao
PoolTogether’s Pooly NFTs: “Swimsuits not lawsuits” was the rallying cry for PoolTogether’s Pooly NFTs, a collection created by PoolTogether to help raise its legal defense fund against a fradulent class-action lawsuit.
💫 Marketing Tip: Following the success of Pooly, Zapper allowlisted all Pooly holders for their “Friends of Zapper” collection. This is a simple way to capture the brand power and and reward mission-aligned users!
Big Picture: Although not explicitly a marketing campaign, Pooly is a genius example of how missionary-focused tactics fare better than purely extractive ones. When you can rally your community for a bigger cause, it will pay long-term dividends in both brand recognition and loyalty.
What you can do: Web3 makes crowdfunding easier than ever. In addition to the dozens of charities accepting crypto donations on The Giving Block, you can easily set up a donation multisig to build a donation campaign that furthers the long-term vision of your product (like saving DeFi, for example).
One of the most important principles of digital marketing is finding the right way to target and re-target users.
Just like how open-source protocols and on-chain data makes it easier for developers to build, they also make it easier for growth experts to analyze and segment their user base.
At Layer3, we’ve built a no-code solution that effectively targets the type of user you want to acquire for your product. Our no-code modular Quest* builder (currently still in private beta) enables Product teams in web3 to verify specific actions across all EVM-compatible chains, and reward users with the following for doing so:
💫 *Quests are interactive experiences that guide users through your product via a combination of on-chain and off-chain actions. For more on Quests, read here.
So, say you want to create a campaign targeting Ethereum mainnet users who are liquidity providers on Curve. You could easily configure these requirements in our no-code Quest Builder, then launch the Quest to the world on our Quest homepage.
You can also use the same strategy for new user acquisition — instead of setting up the Quest to verify all wallets that have interacted with Curve previously in the case of user segmentation, you can set up the Quest to verify only wallets that have taken the required action after the day you launch the Quest.
If you’re Curve, this action step takes users through your product in an easy onboarding format, and you can also verify whether they’ve actually taken the action on-chain.
The possibilities for actions also extend beyond an on-chain actions like liquidity providing. Since the Quest builder is modular, there are a wide variety of actions that can be verified within a Quest, with anything from RT’ing a tweet, to joining a Discord server, to holding an NFT.
You could theoretically airdrop an NFT to a user for being a member of your Discord server, or reward a Discord Role for swapping over $10,000 on your protocol. Pretty cool, huh?
To celebrate the launch of MagicEden’s new Polygon NFT marketplace:
Buy an NFT on ME Polygon
Take a poll on what chain you’d like to see next
To help users practice leveraged trading on MUX Testnet:
Acquire some testnet MATIC on Polygon Mumbai
Take an educational quiz on MUX protocol
Open a long or short position on MUX Testnet
To reward high-spend users on Slingshot’s DEX:
Swap in amounts of $100, $200, $300, and $500 on Slingshot’s DEX
Reward: Slingshot Elite achievement
To take users through products on Arbitrum:
RT Arbitrum’s latest announcement
Stake on PlutusDAO
Swap to UMAMI on SushiSwap
Deposit on UMAMI Finance
Reward: Exclusive NFT
These are only a few of the ways to use our Quest Builder for targeted new user acquisition, or to engage your existing community in new feature releases and more.
Layer3 is powering the next generation of web3 companies as the best place to learn, discover, and succeed in web3. We take users through your product via interactive on-chain experiences and educational Quests, and have helped over 40+ customers take 200k+ users through 10M+ on-chain actions.
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