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Starting in 2010, social-media influencers demonstrated how entrepreneurs could be born overnight by leveraging the reach enabled by YouTube, Instagram, and other online platforms. In many ways, these social-media mavens brought about the first wave of the internet’s democratization. Gone are the days when household-name celebrities were the only people with a voice and a platform.
As users on Instagram and Facebook started chipping away at the pre-existing information monopoly of online news and content, we saw the growth of a whole new generation of millionaires being created who controlled their career trajectory entirely on their own terms. The social-media influencer as a profession, and as a new niche in journalism niche, had arrived. Now, anyone can be the next Anderson Cooper or Kim Kardashian. The spectrum of personalities and niche areas of expertise from which to find an audience is near-infinite.
This new-media landscape has a lot in common with the crypto industry. In essence this is the same story about people who take technology into their own hands to subvert the mainstream stranglehold that a group of few holds over the majority.
In the latest iteration of the attention economy, the cryptoverse is merging with the realm of social-media influencers. Fan tokens are taking the attention-based economy of social influencers to the next level because any movement that began as a way to circumvent and escape old media fits perfectly with a system that started out as a way to circumvent and escape old economic structures. Crypto has altered the global economy, and this new form of fan support and financing handled via blockchain solutions is ready to alter the new-media landscape in a big way.
The growth of the crypto influencer
One quick search across Twitter, TikTok, or YouTube will net you a nearly endless stream of crypto-specific influencers promising to demystify digital assets for the masses, and for the most part they have made good on that promise. These influencers are redefining how young audiences get their financial news and analysis (but not advice).
The crypto economy is a perfect fit for this new-media influencer model because it respects passionate, individualized commentary. Crypto enthusiasts are self-made, independent, and they want their news and entertainment to follow suit.
Some of the biggest names in crypto media, such as CryptoWendyO, BitBoy Crypto, and Sheldon Evans, are leading the charge in this new-media landscape on platforms where their down-to-earth personas are the coin of the realm.
Even in the face of some of the biggest names in the world – like Elon Musk, Tom Brady, and Mark Cuban – entering the space, these passionate early adopters dominate the narrative and often eclipse the worldwide celebrity status of these big names in their followers’ minds. To this end, CryptoWendyO has expressed that “TikTok is a great platform to get a large amount of information in a very short amount of time.”
It’s clear: people trust people they get to know without the facade of a million-dollar studio sheen between them. This trust engenders confidence and loyalty in a fanbase, and since this is the world of crypto, people got the idea to decentralize their fanbases.
The token fans want: fan tokens
How do you decentralize a fanbase? You create fan tokens, which are digital assets that allow followers to directly engage with their favorite creators in dynamic new ways. Like some digital assets, these tokens can be used to provide voting rights for upcoming projects, content, physical goods, merchandise, and can even provide access to real-world events. Fan tokens are the blockchain alternative to starting a Patreon, and they are poised to potentially take over as the dominant format of exchange for the burgeoning attention economy.
Sites like Rally.io have exploded in popularity, as they provide platforms for creators to easily launch their own bespoke fan tokens. Popular streamer Alliestrasza has minted a fan token that holds a value of over $26.00 at time of writing, while even indie band Portugal. The Man has jumped into the craze with their own token that enables fans to support their continued musical endeavors directly.
Fan tokens don’t have to be solely reserved for social-media influencers or artists. Chiliz has created a market in the fan token economy for international football clubs. Fan tokens in this sense are even more sought after as diehard footballers can support their favorite clubs directly and engage with them in ways that were never possible before.
This is also a clever way to authenticate the information one may receive from crowdsourcing. For instance, if Barcelona is considering a uniform change, the club could allow their community to vote on the decision, and they would be confident that the system hadn’t been gamed, as each individual vote could be verified as legitimate (and from legitimate fans) on the blockchain.
However, the fan token economy is not just relegated to crypto enthusiasts.
When some of the biggest social-media influencers in the world decide to suddenly become interested in crypto, it can come off as disingenuous at best and dangerous at worst. For people unfamiliar with the space, there is an increasing risk that they’ll be fooled by less than reputable protocols and useless tokens.
Take for instance Jake Paul, who has recently decided to enter the crypto space with the launch of a vanity token called Dink Doink. The project was immediately met with suspicion, as it was discovered that there was a lot of basic due diligence that had not been done on the project, and even more information on its inception and purpose had not been disclosed.
The future of fandom
Fan tokens are an incredibly smart and useful way for content creators to personalize the monetization of their content in a fully controllable and decentralized fashion, but we also must approach the idea with the same sort of diligence we would approach any traditional crypto project with. The sky’s the limit as we continue to empower the new-media creators to break us free from corporate news and entertainment, but personality should not eclipse good sense moving forward as our digital economies evolve.
We are currently being presented with another wild crypto-based innovation in a system that’s become standard in our daily digital lives. What began as an exercise in empowering individuals with their own voice and platform is now morphing into a new economy where attention can be monetized in a more genuine way, deepening the connection between influencers and their fans. This can be the next big leap for the influencer economy and can provide a connection between fans and creators that is stronger than what has ever been available before.
Michael Gord, managing director of the DigitalBits Foundation and founder of GDA Capital, has contributed to some of the world’s largest blockchain ecosystems, including TRX, LRC, and ONT. He also served as the first enterprise blockchain developer at TD Bank, one of Canada’s largest banks.
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