Why Web3, When Used for Good, Can Supercharge Authenticity
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From LeBron James highlight reels trading for nearly a quarter million dollars, to the birth of meme-coin millionaires, crypto’s latest bull run invariably inspired a generation of believers. There was a feeling of defiance that inspired what felt like a perpetual bull run, the pieces of which now provide ample cannon-fodder for the cynics.
The recent correction exposed the gaping regulatory and infrastructural holes that have served as breeding grounds for nefarious activity. Cryptocurrencies, and by extension Web3, are synonymous with scam culture. This is disappointing when considering that recent market turmoil was caused by the very same issues that plague our centralized financial system. In fact, decentralized finance (DeFi) held up pretty well.
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At inception, Web3 and its associated technologies were designed to involve community and dismantle the various inequities that exist within the legacy financial system — not exacerbate the problems. In reality, a number of contributing factors have detracted from this endeavor. Although there’s plenty of administrative work to be done for the budding asset class, a lot of damage has been done by individuals of influence, primarily athletes.
Notable influencers, including musicians and other celebrities, have been able to convert their likeness into hefty paydays, oftentimes at the expense of their supporters. From premeditated pump and dump scams, unscrupulous rug pulls and predatory social token campaigns, it’s undeniable that these facets have been to the detriment of the Web3 ecosystem. Ironically, the solution is in Web3 itself.
Understanding Inauthentic Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a relatively new phrase but represents a classic technique in product promotion. For as long as modern marketing has existed, the whole range of celebrities has been vehicles for advertising. Professional athletes have been endorsing brands since the early 1900s, and the first Black female athlete to endorse a consumer brand was gold medal Olympian, Alice Coachman, signed by Coca-Cola in 1952.
This advertising tool has since been exploited, not just in the context of Web3 either. Influencers are the most recognizable: While some are authentic, others have a tendency to make empty promises about escaping the “rat race.” This inauthentic marketing causes many more problems than it solves. In the pursuit to maximize and diversify income streams, an inauthentic influencer is encouraged by an incentive structure designed to take on as many deals as possible, creating a “moral hazard” that is increasingly damaging the trust of their audience.
How This Carries Over Into Web3
As a fundamental component of Web3, blockchain technology was designed to be the backbone of a new, open and fair financial system. From this, the idea of an interconnected, immutable world of collaboration grew, leaving those who bought into this ideology vulnerable to manipulation. Very quickly, pump and dump or Ponzi schemes became the weapons of choice, leading to egregious initial coin offering (ICO) scams.
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If you’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street, you already know what a traditional pump and dump looks like: Add in a technology revolutionizing finance and mix it in with poorly moderated social media platforms, and you get problems. No accountability and a lack of incentive for marketing authenticity also presented a path of least resistance for crooks and chancers.
What Web3 Stands For
Web3 lowers the barriers of entry for builders everywhere to create value through new avenues of collaboration. Open-source code and healthy grant programs from the world’s leading blockchain networks, such as Hedera or Solana, exemplify how welcoming Web3 is to builders. Ethical community building is now possible.
As such, NBA player Terance Mann and his business partner, Julian Aiken, demonstrate what it means to use Web3’s powers for the greater good, opting for a meaningful pursuit over a quick payday. The pair have advocated that Web3 provides athletes with the ability to truly own relationships with their fans and have more meaningful experiences that allow them to learn more about their lives away from sports. Aiken stated in a recent BoardroomTV interview that he’s interested in “getting more Black and Brown creators and just overall letting them share some of the profits that you typically see in emerging markets.”
The implications of influencer marketing are obvious. The wealth that has been accumulated by top influencers through advertising over their careers is eroding the trust that they once had with their audience. Web3 offers a chance to reinstate this trust and offers a means to explore alternative avenues for personal monetization. NFL first-round pick DeShone Kizer has devoted his career to Web3 and started building his own non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace, One of None, that focuses on bridging the gap between luxurious physical goods and high-end, scarce collectibles. Kizer’s mission, albeit now off-the-field, has been accelerated by Web3.
The commoditization of influencer dealmaking has changed the dynamics of company partnerships and endorsements, most notably Web3. Despite the market downturn and ill-representation, the ideology prevails that Web3 will undoubtedly birth the next generation of successful companies and personal brands.
Concerns about how we can prevent those who choose to misuse its powers for personal gain can be addressed. The virtues of blockchain and related technologies allow communities to take advantage of transparency, boosting idol authenticity. Individuals can escape the sticking points of the legacy platforms and self-moderate. Isn’t that the difference between audience and community? One is impersonal with success measured by quantity, and the other is meaningful and gauged on quality.
The path to a decentralized world is a long one and it appears as though we might be, unknowingly, entering the second quarter of what could very well be a multiple overtime game.
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