How To Really Build Community In Crypto
How to actually build community (hint: everyone’s doing it wrong)
Community. I have a love-hate relationship with the word at this point. It’s constantly thrown around by VCs, exchanges, founders, and retail investors, and touted as the one variable that can make or break your project. There’s some truth to that. In web2 the competitive advantage came down to product, sales, and marketing. But in web3 you can fork product, which means the competitive advantage has changed to branding and community. No one seems to understand either of these, but let’s focus on community for today.
The issue is that since very few actually understand what community really is, it also means they have no idea how to build one.
I was on call with a VC recently who explained to me how they “grow community”, and realized he was using the term interchangeably with the term “social media followers”. Community is not the same as social media followers. This also means that community is not the same as discord users.
Just because you have a bunch of people in the same place doesn’t mean they have anything in common other than the fact that they are in the same place. There’s no bond that will ensure the community endures over time, through good times and bad.
The second thing that community is confused with I became aware of when the Celsius CEO, who had just frozen withdrawals, came out and tweeted something to the effect of “We have to do this thank god we have such a loving supporting community, we’ll get through this together.” The problem: Celsius never had anything remotely close to a strong community. In this case, the word was being confused with “customers”. Customers and community are also not the same thing.
So if community does not equal social media followers, discord users, or customers, then what is it really?
An easy example to think of is the biker community. When two bikers pass each other on the road, they wave to each other. This phenomenon is a signal of a strong community. Bikers have vests with logos of their sub-community. Bikers have biker bars they hang out in.
But these are only surface level manifestations of a successful community.
What it really comes down to is identity. Carl Jung wrote about archetypes in the 1950s and they extrapolated 11 different archetypes based on his work. Each archetype has ONE main core desire. They have one thing they want in life, above all else, and all their decisions in life revolve around getting this one thing. Hollywood also caught onto this, and you’ll find these archetypes in movies and TV shows you love.
“The innocent” archetype just wants Happiness. He’s willing to put everything else secondary. Leo DiCaprio in The Beach comes to mind. He goes on a wild adventure to Thailand, puts himself in several risky situations, jumps off cliffs and so on. He’s seeking happiness above all else.
“The orphan” wants security and belonging. Think of Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in Superbad. All they wanted was to be part of the cool kids club. Join the parties, lose their virginity, and they went to extreme lengths to get what they wanted.
Michael Corleone wants nothing but wealth and power (The ruler), and will do anything to make sure that’s what he gets, including having his own brother killed.
Now, these are fictional, but this is actually how it works in the real world. Humans will go to very very extreme lengths in order to obtain their one core desire. They’ll devote entire lifetimes to one core desire. It’s not to be taken lightly. This is also why, if done right, community can have such a drastic impact on a project.
Here’s the full list of archetypes, their corresponding one core desire, and a movie example below.
If you have self awareness, you’ll notice that one stands out for you as most important at this point of your life (they can evolve), and chances are you are gravitating towards movies/characters revolving around your core desire.
The key here is you need to become aware of 1) your own core desire and 2) the core desire of the community you are building. Hopefully they are the same. Once you are clear on this, the task of building a strong community becomes a lot easier as it relates to what to call your community, what language to use, what events to put on, your logo, slogan, and so on and so forth. Everything that you do becomes about helping connect people on the same mission in life. That’s community.
The one project in crypto that actually did this right ended up being massively successful. In my opinion, their success had A LOT to do with the fact that their project was really built on an identity. I’m talking about Bored Ape Yacht Club. Regardless how you feel about the project, the numbers don’t lie.
The whole concept was built on apes (people who invest with little or no due diligence) who made a lot of money in crypto, and therefore did not need to grind a normal 9to5. Instead they end up bored, hanging out at a “yacht club”. The twist about the yacht club being a dive bar I thought was a nice touch also. The suit and tie vibe you’d expect from a proper yacht club would likely feel incongruent to the crypto degens they were targeting, so I believe it was a great spin on the whole thing. The prestige of a “yacht club” with the aesthetics of a dive bar, where degens would feel right at home.
At its core, they spoke to the one desire that gets most people into crypto: financial freedom. Who in crypto wouldn’t want to be bored, because of what it signifies? Being bored because you’re loaded and can do whatever you want? That’s their dream! From watching interviews of the founders, I don’t get the impression that this was all calculated, but they definitely put thought into it, and they absolutely nailed the cultural relevance, the timing, and the fact that it was all built upon a common shared desire. I salute you sers.
Now, what’s your community’s core desire?