Web3 is still in its early stages, but concepts such as metaverse, cryptocurrency, and blockchain are now key elements in the business world. Web3 rotates around the wider concept of decentralization, advocating systems in which no one has complete control. This means that no single person or organization controls the network – it is entirely open and transparent. The idea is to give power back to the users. Everyone should control their own data, content, money, and more.
This is where Web3 communities comes in. The concept of the Metaverse and Web3 has highlighted the importance of building meaningful and engaged communities. But how do these communities work and thrive, and why should brands invest in creating them?
The key element of a decentralized environment is to have a community that shares the core values and mission and comes together to support it. However, the concept of Web3 and community are still developing, so organizations are slowly approaching this system and interpreting it in different ways. Many of them are launching projects focusing on the community and its members' inclusion.
According to Accenture Song's annual human behavior trends report, brands will need to focus on engaging their consumer base, reshaping loyalty programs with a focus on "community-first, product-later models" that connect people to a brand. This could lead to increased adoption of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), AI-generated art, and even digital wallets.
In the future, we are likely to see a shift in the use of social media as we know it now. Platforms will have to focus more on interests and projects that connect people. Some already do, such as Discord, Reddit, Twitch, where "it's easy to find your tribe of people who actively listen and engage," according to the "Life Trends" report.
As Digiday also reported, the trend in social media is to focus on communities rather than people. Some online groups may even start from people collecting digital goods or reacting to sports or news events.
Let's see some examples of how brands are applying strategies to build a strong sense of belonging and engage more customers.
Nike has announced the launch of Swoosh, a blockchain-based platform where members can create and collect digital versions of jerseys, shoes and other apparel to wear in online games and other virtual spaces.
The company introduced Swoosh as a new community experience. Ron Faris, general manager of Nike Virtual Studios, said the new platform would allow consumers to play games and purchase sports goods. He also added, "We are shaping a marketplace of the future with an accessible platform for the web3-curious. In this new space, the .SWOOSH community and Nike can create, share, and benefit together."
Nike said it will debut its first digital collection "shaped by the platform community" in 2023. After the launch of the first digital collection, members will be able to join a community challenge to win the opportunity to co-create a virtual product with Nike. Winners will be able to earn a royalty on the virtual product they helped create.
Although the Swoosh site focuses on virtual items, the company points out that, in some cases, community members will be able to unlock access to physical products or events, including "intimate conversations with athletes or designers."
At the beginning of the month, Starbucks launched the beta version of its blockchain-based loyalty program and NFT community, Starbucks Odyssey. The new initiative, which includes coffee-themed NFTs that translate into real-world experiences, is an extension of Starbucks' existing loyalty program, Starbucks Rewards, but leverages Web3 technology, such as polygonal blockchain and NFTs.
"Starbucks Odyssey is an experience, surrounded by a digital community, where members can come together, interact, and share their love of coffee," the company said in a statement. "Starbucks is using meaningful elements of Web3 technology to reward members in innovative ways."
The idea, said Andy Sack, co-founder and co-CEO of Forum3, which helped bring the Odyssey project to life, sprang from a desire to "delight consumers with unique digital experiences."
Sack refers to the new program as a "next-generation loyalty platform" that aims to build a brand relationship between customers and Starbucks. He affirmed that other brands are beginning to integrate blockchain technologies, making Web3 experiences more accessible to a mainstream audience.
Another example is Animoca Brands, a company that promotes digital property rights for gaming and the open metaverse, and its affiliate TinyTap, the leading platform for a user-generated educational game. They announced that the first batch of six NFTs from publisher TinyTap was sold at auction for a total of 138.926 ETH (about $228,000 at time of sale) generating a total of 67.7 ETH (approximately US$111,000 at time of sale) for the six teachers who authored content linked to the publisher's NFTs.
TinyTap's code-free platform allows educators to create and share interactive educational content and earn a revenue share when that content is used by students. TinyTap's newly introduced NFT publishers leverage Web3 and community technologies to improve revenue opportunities for educators, create new revenue and promotion options for co-publishers, and enable the community to directly support learning growth.
Yogev Shelly, Chief Executive Officer of TinyTap said: "TinyTap's Publisher NFTs greatly strengthen our mission to build tools that enable communities to create, own, and share the education that is meaningful to them."
Also declared: "We are excited to welcome the Web3 community to our creator economy for educational games, and we are especially grateful to the early supporters who recognized that NFT Publishers introduce powerful new utilities for digital assets, creators, educators, and blockchain ecosystems."
Web3 has the potential to monetize and offer several benefits to organizations, much as social media did in the early 2010s. What changes with Web3 are that communities become the center and brands focus on offering new engaging experiences and inclusive participation to all users.
With the increasing adoption of Web3 in the global economy, the line between physical and digital experiences will continue to blur in the coming years. Brands can implement different strategies to create a sense of community and inclusion, and to engage consumers. They can leverage Web3 and metaverse platforms to release new products/services, create branded games by involving new and loyal customers, host live online events, and more.
NFTs, and especially digital ownership, are the perfect opportunity for brands to build a highly engaged community around their mission, their products and services.
Certainly, in the near future, user engagement will depend mainly on how well brands can leverage this emerging digital ecosystem and how creative they will be in applying strategies that put the community first.