How To Grow A Strong NFT Community
Interested in knowing the magic formula for success? Here's a list of things you should know before creating your own NFT project from scratch.
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The Moving Parts
Design for Organic Growth
What to Avoid
The Adventure So Far
To all the cosmic travellers out there,
Having spent a great deal of the last 2 months submerged in various Discord servers, I’ve built relationships and learnt a lot about how the NFT space is shifting and morphing. I want to focus on distilling some of the key aspects, from what I’ve observed so far, of what goes into making a great NFT project.
It’s not a science by any means, it’s an art. However, there are definitely winning patterns you can learn from and implement into your own project to increase the odds of making, and then catching, a wave.
I certainly agree with Zeneca’s statement here and I want to help others start peeling the lid back on what it is that’s going on; the where’s, the what’s, the why’s and the how’s. This is how projects in the NFT space are marketing their brand, finding their customers and selling their product. It’s laying the foundation for how web3 is going to develop, as it differentiates itself from the web2 ideology it is currently splitting from.
It seems the game right now is to learn as much as possible about how creators and communities are winning in web3, to understand the inner workings and the deeper reasoning as to why this is happening right now.
So this is a deep dive into the mechanics of NFT marketing.
The Moving Parts
It's been a thrilling journey up to now, and some projects that I've had the pleasure of falling into have demonstrated radically novel ways to engage with people as they land in their Discord. That is where I’m going to start my dissection of the inner workings of NFT projects.
Discord is a really interesting format for building and managing communities, and that is exactly what these projects are about at their core. After all, they are decentralised masses that fundamentally share nothing in common except items on a blockchain. What keeps the people who have staked time and funds into a project together is the sense of shared value.
Discord is the emotional pinball machine we can all play at the same time, to remain connected and committed to each other. It is where the sense of belonging we have between one another can be expressed openly. Each Discord server feels like a micro-tribe, suspended in mid-air amongst all the other small tribes of the NFT space. We build our collective energy inside each Discord; we share memes and moments that we can look back on and connect through, and we prepare for the poetic and passionate war outside the four walls of the server. I use the word war, but it’s always a loving war, and 99.9% of the time love conquers all in the NFT space.
When we zoom out, we must remind ourselves that the NFT ecosystem is a micro-tribe in itself. There are just over 560,000 Opensea wallets. This entire space is a tiny microcosm. We are a niche within a niche within a niche.
Some of the intricacies of Discord management, especially relating to community growth, I will touch on further. There are some really organic and creative ways to bring people into the projects’ story, and to reward members for the part they play in helping define the community before launch.
Discord is where you build your society and instil a sense of place in the community, governed by group dynamics and protected by rules of engagement all members commit to holding themselves accountable to upon entry, for each others good. At its best, it’s a beautiful thing to behold compared to the toxicity of social media platforms.
With the Discord servers being the public houses for each local community, you then have Twitter, which is probably best described as the public square. This is occupied by the church criers; the site of the public announcements. It’s where the internal dialogue of Discord is plugged into the larger, external NFT conversation. As opposed to Discord and its enclosed nature, where only those who want to be there are there, Twitter is the commons; the shared watering hole, and it's where to you go to make a public splash.
The website is the ad board. It’s where the facts and crucial content are displayed in a stylistic manner that best represents what the project is about aesthetically. As the minting contracts are somewhat uncomfortable to manoeuvre around from a UX perspective, the websites act as the simple place to interact with the contract. This becomes most critically important when it comes to minting, which is always a neck on the line moment even for the seasoned pros amongst us when it comes to Ethereum main-net drops.
Cost of each item
Date of launch (if known) or ETA
Information about the roadmap (if there is one)
No. of items available/remaining (before/during mint)
A brief introduction to the team behind the project
Maximum purchases per wallet
Links to socials
The all-important contract: ‘connect wallet’ + ‘mint’ buttons
Then there is OpenSea; the hustle and bustle of the open market. It's Billingsgate Fish Market at 5AM (above); it’s the thriving Venetian harbour of the 16th Century with ships coming and going, offloading cargo direct to merchants on the shore to be circulated in the market. It’s dynamic, it’s noisy, it’s thriving; 24/7.
The total volume of NFT sales surged to $10.7 billion in the third quarter of 2021, up more than eightfold from Q2, according to data from market tracker DappRadar.
Opensea itself has seen $9.24 billion in volume come through its door, and is undoubtedly wearing the crown as mother of NFTs right now. Competition is fast approaching though, and it’s got big backers. With the heavyweights of Coinbase, Binance and FTX all entering the arena, Opensea could soon turn into the Myspace of its market. With so many issues and UX barriers clogging intrigue from turning to adoption, there is a huge opportunity to make the process safer, easier and more inviting to the masses out there. Competition in this market will be a good thing for everyone, despite how fun it is right now in the wild west. The bugs and scams that are rife right now need to be ironed out by people who have the capital and weight to make decisions for the safety of all users, and it seems that Opensea has bitten off more than it can chew right now.
The speed of the market growth has been astronomical, and so it would have been impossible to make the transition smooth for a relatively new company. The stakes are too high now though, and the opportunity too enticing for big players not to enter the market.
The key part of any projects success is built on the spirit and the hard work of the team. They are the ones dedicating their time and effort to making it happen, to connecting the dots and for guiding the community from its first supporters to its 50,000 Discord member.
Key roles are as follows:
The magical brains behind the work. The success of a project is nearly always correlated to the quality of work that the artist is producing. Like all art, this is extremely subjective, and it also depends on who the artist is trying to appeal to. This could be small players or enthusiasts who just want to buy unusual work, all the way to grand launches aimed at getting a place in whales’ collections. Or they don’t care and they’re just making the art for whoever turns up. There is no right or wrong here, just making.
The juggler and the coordinator of all the facets of what gets an NFT project from start to finish. Steering the ship through past every obstacle in as slick and effective way as possible to build and maintain momentum in the run up to launch. I can’t begin to imagine the buzz that must be felt by a team as it gets close to launch, and the project manager will be the one pulling it all together as it is released into the public.
How do get people wanting a piece from the project. You’ve got a great artist. You’ve got a great developer. How do you let people know about this project ahead of all the others? Well that is all down to how you sell the project, how you pitch this is something people are not wanting to miss out on. You have the tools laid out in front of you (as I’ve mentioned above) and now it’s about how best you use them to create an organic intrigue in all the collectors out there. Some prefer to do it slow, some quick; there isn’t a right or wrong. The question: “Why this project?”
The people designing and maintaining the website, as well as creating and deploying the smart contract in all its web3 glory. The main tool for this as far as I’m aware is Solidity, but they’ll be using all their coding abilities to crack many different aspects of the project.
With the power of Discord and Twitter needing to be utilised and guided in all it’s chaotic coagulation, someone who is super organised, great at problem-solving and maintaining a spirit of positivity in the community is crucial. These are the main point of contact as far as issues being raised, and they are the final filter between the decisions from within the team, and the release of news and information to the community.
The community leader is normally always backed up by a group of Moderators, who are there to iron out the creases as the project grows. They are sometimes Early Supporters who have been there from Day One and want to play a part in bringing it to life. These people are fundamental to the smooth development of a project from start to minting and beyond, and it can’t be understated the difference a great moderator makes to the experience of new people in the project.
With anything crypto/NFT related, you are going to be repeatedly asking very, very similar questions as people arrive, don’t look around and expect to be assisted in understanding what’s going on and what they need to do. To have someone, or better yet a group of people, who are committed to spending time in a community to be that compassionate springboard; to help guide people; to instil a communal spirit and to foster a positive, collective energy is a blessing. I’m looking at 90u ::) and twoseven ::) here in the All Smillesss Discord!
It seems a really important factor for the strong growth of a project is to properly reward early supporters (OGs). These are people who manage to find the project early, and who support the art and the artist before most have even heard about them. This loyalty is really important as it’s these people who are going to carry the project out into the open and give it the air underneath its wings. If a talented artist creating really engaging art can garner a strong and loyal foundational base, then it seems like they can really shoot for the stars.
Design for Organic Growth
The projects that I have enjoyed being around most have been projects that have realised the power in letting the art, the fans and the plan breathe a little. I lose trust in a project that seems obsessed with making their members compete in invite contests. It seems inauthentic, and it makes me think that they are in it for the wrong reasons. Of course there are times when creating some healthy engagement in the community is the best thing to do, but when it’s too pushy and invite-heavy, I begin to lose faith in the team.
The projects I respect most are the ones that are allowing members to find their way there through word-of-mouth, or by releasing teasers that drum up curioisty. This is authentic growth, and it makes for a much healthier and exciting community who are fans of the art and artist, and who want to play their part in letting the world know why the project is special. This is how you get people to do the marketing for you, once you have them on your side. Then, your project can really take off and the marketing will feel like much lighter work for all the right reasons.
Here are some of the ways a team can garner organic engagement in a community:
Twitter Giveaways - “RT/like and tag 2 friends in this post and we’ll select a winner in 24 hours who’ll receive X!!” It’s a simple way to start getting traction on Twitter, climbing the algorithm and getting those eyes on the work, and in your Discord.
Competitions - Some of the best competitions I’ve been a part of are caption contests, meme competitions, and even song competitions. Everyone loves a chance to get creative, and to in turn perhaps be rewarded if the community celebrate what you create. Prizes inside of Discord can be OG status, a place on the WL or even a free mint!
Invite Rewards - They have their place in a project, I just lose faith when it seems like all the mods are pushing are invite contests, because at some point the community should just be allowed to relax and enjoy the growth that they are generating in the project with the quality of the art and their ability to market it. There will always be some people who want an invite contest and will be able to bring in 200/300 new people and get a spot on the WL for it, but I hate the spam, and I won’t ever be the one to go firing invite requests into other servers.
Meme Competitions - It produces a wealth of assets that the community can then go on and use in Twitter, and it’s great fun for everyone to take part in who knows how to scratch a gag together in Photoshop.
Twitter Spaces/Clubhouse Rooms - Everyone loves to hear the voices of the team, the artist and to hear the philosophy of why they are doing what they are doing. It humanises the whole project, and it’s a chance for the community to ask them questions directly, and get to know them as people who they will hopefully be backing come launch. The story behind the pieces is arguably more important than the art itself, and so finding engaging ways to connect people to that story is a very powerful hook.
Discord Hangouts - I’ve had nights where I’ve dropped into a live techno session with 300 other Discord members, and shared an evening of live virtual music, and it’s great to hangout with people from all over the world in this style. People who have lasted till the end have even been handed WL spots sometimes so it pays to hangout too!
Partnerships - Connecting with other projects that could have a similar fanbase could be a very good way of broadening your community, and bringing people in who are more than likely going to stick around. I see this with the Visitors and Lurk Loves You; who seem to support each other’s communities with WL spots in each. I’ve also seen projects team up on Twitter giveaways, and I think it’s a really effective way to share your work and build your base.
The Attention of NFT Trailblazers - If you can get a nod from a whale with 100K followers, then you’ll feel like you’ve broken the fourth wall for a second. It isn’t easy because their attention, as a resource, is finite. But, if they find a project that rings with their values, is doing something innovative that captures their imagination, they may see reason in voicing a positive opinion to their own loyal and intently listening community.
Holders - If the artist has already put out work that has a collector base, then it’s a good idea to give back to them with WL places or special roles in the community. In the long-term, these people will have your back as they are in it for the art, not the flip.
Engagement Rewards (Discord Rankings) - I really like this form of reward, as it supports the community in getting to know each other naturally, and also requires attention and focus on the project even if it’s just to have something to talk about. It may be a short term focus, but it’s a good way to ensure people are spending time in the chat and creating a warm environment in a collaborative manner. It makes all the difference when you land in a new Discord and see recent activity, that is positive and clicks with your own values. It’s commonly when a user reaches a rank of level 5 on Discord, they receive OG status up until the point when a maximum number of roles have been gifted.
Exclusive Rooms - It’s nice to have exclusive rooms in Discord servers for members of a certain rank. As the community grows, the main chat can sometimes be a bit repetitive as new people ask the same questions, and so to have a room where those who have done their research can speculate and talk more in depth is a luxury.
Teasers - Who doesn’t like a little teaser to get the mouth salivating a little bit. This can happen across all platforms too, and if the artist is amazing, it’s naturally going to cause a stir and bring members on board.
What to Avoid:
Begging - its obvious when a team is trying too hard to build growth, and it comes across as flat and inauthentic. I love web3 because it is all about the community, and I’ve seen first hand that the communities see the truth eventually, and those house of cards will collapse.
Manipulative Actions - The MekaVerse team ruined there whole atmosphere when it was realised that they had exclusive access to the rarest pieces via metadata and so bought them pre-reveal. This is manipulative, and when your community sees they can’t trust you, generally the game is up, as is the case with MekaVerse.
Pushy Promotion - I’ve said this earlier with invite competitions. It doesn’t fly well and leaks an air of desperation to shift what you’re creating.
Toxic Gas Wars - There are times when a launch has so much hype around it that, when it inevitably leads to people missing out, or spending a tonne on gas for. nothing, the community in the Discord can very quickly turn toxic, and it’s up to the mods to try and reign control and bring a calm to the land once again. If they let chaos bloom, word can quickly spread across the NFTverse, which is just bad for business.
Prom1se5, proMisEs, Pr0mise5 - I love an interesting roadmap, and it gives you faith in the longevity of a project. You want the team and the artist to be working on the project long after launch, to create new ways that add value to the pieces, and give incentive to holders > sellers to keep price high and engagement rich. However, it’s easy to try and create a fake storm around a roadmap of large promises, that you never intend to follow through on. This is not going to work, and so I’ve realised transparency is key, even if that means changing the roadmap and being honest about what the plans are. I’d take great artwork and a less-formed but reliable roadmap over rushed artwork and huge roadmap promises of video games and Netflix series etc. that could easily just be smoke.
The Adventure So Far
I bought my first NFT in March; a Jon Burgerman piece on Nifty Gateway. That felt like a huge step into the unknown for me. It was not only my first NFT purchase, but the first time I’d bought any artwork. Of course the beauty of Nifty Gateway, and probably its appeal to most art collectors bridging into NFTs, is that you can purchase them simply using fiat currencies. You don’t need to worry about the hassle of understanding how to buy Ethereum, setup a wallet etc. As an experience, it is no different to buying an album on Bandcamp or a book on Waterstones. Click, click, ownership.
If you want to get a feel for what’s really taking place though you need to head further underground. So I donned my scuba gear and headed deep into the void.
People ask me where they should start learning about NFTs. The beauty of web3 is that it’s open-source by nature. There’s no better way than just diving in and starting to interact with the contracts, listening to the smart people on Twitter and just taking bold steps into the various unknowns.
As someone who makes art the next step for me was minting my own pieces on Rarible and Opensea. This taught me how to setup a Metamask wallet, load it with Ethereum, pay gas fees, enter the metadata and put it up for sale. More on this process in my original post here.
From that point on my curiosity was spiked and there was no going back. The number of communities I was engaging with expanded and with this, the amount of learning-by-doing grew too. I’ve minted via project websites; I’ve minted on side chains, which meant I had to bridge Ethereum over to the Polygon side-chain and get hold of some MATIC; I’ve minted direct from the smart contract, which demonstrated more of the inner workings of these technologies; safeky transferred pieces to other wallets; minted from whitelists in a pre-sale and taken part in reveals. I’ve even bought pieces on other blockchains now too, mainly Solana, which are secured on my Phantom wallet, and the WAX blockchain too.
Generally I’ve just tried to embrace any opportunity to work out the puzzle that is NFTs, and I’ve had an absolute blast along the way.
I’ve suprised myself by how much I’ve been able to dissect what I’ve observed and seen work (and not work) in NFT projects so far. It’s clear that it is an art, not a science. But with these techniques and tools that I have laid out above, there are so many interesting and effective ways to build a strong community around a project.
What cannot be understated though, is that if the artwork is incredible, the marketing is going to be a lot easier.
When you have incredible artwork + incredible marketing, then you’re onto a winner; some may even begin to whisper the sacred words… ‘blue chip project.’
Coopahtroopa 🔥ᴗ🔥 @CooopahtroopaCommunity is the most important metric.
The bottom line though? With real estate they say it’s all about ‘location, location, location.’ That is what defines the value of the property. With NFT projects, and web3 as a whole, the line is naturally becoming, ‘community, community, community!’
Thanks for reading once again. If you enjoyed this NFT dissection and want one of these a week in your inbox then make sure you subscribe below!