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Let’s face it, creator-fan relationships are fragmented. Since the emergence of Web2, fans have grown accustomed to a one-way transactional street of following and consuming, seldom feeling fulfilled by their interactions with high-profile creators. Celebrities have limited and segmented tools for engaging with top fans and managing their personal brand. However, the interpersonal potential of Web3 presents an alternative and solidifies the current dynamic as unidirectional and disengaging.
Social tokens, a type of blockchain token personalized and traded for a specific offering, allow creators to develop and nurture a local economy for their network of fans, transferring their service or skill into a social currency. In return for purchasing the social token, the fan unlocks a personalized experience such as an exclusive stem track from a music artist, a video shout-out from a notable influencer, or a gym session with a famous athlete. By enabling this process, social tokens deepen the convergence of physical and digital experiences and uncover new methods of interaction that are dynamic and multidirectional — through this framework, both creator and fan are rewarded.
New means for monetization, new relationships
Social tokens, also known as creator tokens, grant a level of personal sovereignty not achievable on legacy systems. As such, encoding functionality is only restricted by human talent and creativity. This direction presents a new opportunity for the full spectrum, from the nano influencer to the higher-profile celebrities with mammoth community followings. Most recently, we have seen the discourse surrounding Joe Rogan and his three-and-a-half-year exclusivity deal with the audio streaming service Spotify reported to be worth almost $200 million USD. With almost 200 million monthly downloads of Rogan’s podcast, it’s evident that he could catapult past Spotify’s offering should he choose to directly monetize his community and cut out the middleman. According to Patreon cofounder Sam Yam on The a16z Podcast, the average initial pledge amount has increased over time, growing 20% in the last few years, now exceeding $100 USD per month.
Although many A-list celebrities are embracing the benefits of Web3 technology — for example, Paris Hilton launching an NFT collection, and Reese Witherspoon advocating for digital identity — social tokens will prove much more valuable for independent creators. Once the big name stars have acquired their money, monetization and branding are largely outsourced. However, for the less established artist, ranging anywhere from an audience of fewer than 1000 people upward, receiving merely a single dollar from each of their fans would underpin major progression and success by way of decentralized crowdfunding.
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This creates a positive feedback loop in the creator-fan relationship. As the creator becomes more in tune with their community’s support, they can aptly generate engaging and fulfilling content. Thus the monetization potential of social tokens introduces beneficial autonomy into emerging creators’ careers. Instead of being constrained by structures of celebrity status, traditional and social media, the power now lies directly in the hands of the creators and their respective online communities. Celebrities can choose what and when they would like to share, and fans can choose what and when they would like to consume, fostering a symbiotic relationship between both parties. It is within this arena that you will find the creators most likely to put in the legwork, as relying on a social token requires a consistent and concerted effort. Accountability becomes measurable against the pressure from the community to produce. It then follows that the content produced is of higher quality, engagement is frequent and impactful, and overall fans receive more value from the celebrity relationship than ever before.
The higher the investment, the higher the reward
Empowering both parties, fans now enact a more important contribution to the relationship by participating in the success of a creator and investing in their future and ongoing performance. By choosing to showcase support through staking, the Web3 alternative to ‘following’, consumers are granted access to a whole host of exclusive and additional Web3 enabled features offered by the celebrity.
By “staking” your creator token, you may be granted access to an exclusive fan club. For those super fans that have accumulated a certain amount of interest, perhaps they can trade it in for a non-fungible token (NFT) that represents a season ticket or lifelong VIP access. As fans utilize and acquire intangible assets through Web3 activities, they become both physical and digital entities themselves. Digital functionality aids physical experience and vice-versa.
There is a higher risk involved with supporting a celebrity in the Metaverse, as the value can decrease the moment an athlete becomes injured or an unfortunate controversy erupts in the media. However, as the saying goes, the higher the risk the higher the reward! Creators acknowledge this volatility by showing appreciation for their followers’ investments through transparency, greater access, and a more intimate relationship. Fan engagement becomes the driving factor of celebrity and interactivity is now essential.
The future of the creator
While the introduction of social tokens into the realm of celebrity is exciting in its empowerment and medium for fostering meaningful exchanges, it also leaves many questions such as whether this system will encourage everything to become monetized, and if all access lies behind a paywall, where does this leave those of us who don’t pine after personalized experiences?
As a large portion of content that is freely available today may be blocked, users will be forced to be more selective in who receives their attention. This, however, should not be perceived as a negative, as it is a lesson in conscious consumption. Currently, following 100 people can be done without much consideration, but paying $100 is a much more impactful and careful decision. Refining our following choices transfers the power of curation back to where it belongs: in the hands of the people. In summary, these social tokens will revolutionize our relationship with creators and the media in a way that is advantageous to our daily consumption habits.
The current Web2 system is constricted, inefficient to both creator and fan, and has been strategically built to serve advertisers and the centralized platforms on which these relationships exist. Through a system redesign, creators now have the opportunity to earn significantly more revenue and offer a more authentic, engaged, and accessible experience to their communities. In the future, these relationships will be underpinned by closeness, loyalty and personalized content, and the freedom of choice will be unlocked. Fans will directly choose the products and services that celebrities will directly choose to offer. While new means of monetization allow both celebrities and followers to practice autonomy over their contribution to the relationship, these activities occur behind a paywall.
That is not to say that everything on the internet will migrate behind paywalls. There is an exclusivity barrier not as apparent within current celebrity dynamics but once surpassed, the possibilities of access are limitless!
Rusty Matveev is CSO at Calaxy
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