How to *really* get your crypto community on board :-)


Community as a hack

Looking at the importance of getting your crypto community on board seems to be a relatively easy ask for most blockchain startups. Using existing well known platforms like Telegram and Slack makes it seems a ‘no-brainer’. But could there be more to the value of community involvement suggested by the usual mix of airdrops and competitions? Or maybe as Michael K. Spencer argues in his skeptical piece “from Ethereum ICOs to ConsenSys the fallacy that community has value is a hack”:

The fallacy that community has value

“In the real world clients and users are important, in crypto fairyland they try to build ‘communities’. However, such communities are more prone to pump and dump and aren’t actually loyal followers. That is, crypto’s failure might be tied to the failure of crypto tribalism, false hype, and ridiculous valuations of that actual value of such communities.

“How is crypto hype of this kind not misinformation? How many failed ICOs, exit scams and shitcoins do we need to have endured to understand the Telegram-Bitcointalk-Reddit hoax — communities alone are not valuable. You actually need real-world products and real clients…Crypto saying that its community is its best resource, is like Facebook saying it’s valuable because it has over 2 Billion users,” Spender concludes.

On Yavin, the founder and CEO at Cointelligence, a leading company in data research and analysis for the crypto economy says the problem with ICOs continues with today’s exchanges. “We were surprised that a lot of the exchanges are not willing to disclose the details of the team members. We had 60 at least of the exchanges out there not willing to tell us who is behind the exchange!

“Some of them are giving really stupid answers. One exchange actually answered “Yes it is a great team” we we asked for the team details three times.”

The power of decentralization

To answer those understandable criticisms I would like to take a step back to the ideals of decentralization. Ideally, closely involving your community goes to the heart of what the vision of decentralization can deliver, sometimes referred to as “user empowerment” or in marketing jargon as “getting closer to the customer”. As Ajeet Khurana CEO of Zebpay explained in a recent Off the Chain Podcast: “What a lot of those (techno-led blockchain enthusiasts) people are missing out on, if you were to think of blockchain only as a computer scientist it is possible you would not be as impressed as if you think of it as a social phenomena.

Crypto community data proof
Way to prove with data, the importance of community to growing crypto business!

“So the social dimension to blockchain which is what you talk about in the form of community adoption and community behaviour; the human/community aspect of the blockchain is what makes it so special; people who miss out on this part and probably want to look at the technical specifications only, are probably never going to get it.”

Unleash the art of the possible

Thinking about how the new decentralized technologies engage with customers, and what this means in terms of how marketing and your community is organised, brings us back to how businesses are looking to use its potential in the first place. Dante Disparte, in his recent Forbes article on navigating the blockchain wars put it nicely:

“Perhaps the most important blockchain design principle is to unleash the art of the possible. If indeed blockchain is a foundational technology like its cousin the internet, then it would stand to reason that merely looking for back office efficiencies (especially with such computationally intense properties such as proof of work, stake or other complex algorithms) may be a fool’s errand.

“Rather, leaders would be wise in thinking about blockchain as an augmenting technology, one that can push the boundaries of a firm’s reach, derive and deliver value in entirely new ways, while creating a stakeholder lock-in based on trust, transparency and permanence – three things that are in perilously low supply in both private and public enterprises.” (Update 18 June: Dante is now Head of Policy and Communications at the Libra Association, set up by Facebook and partners to promote its new cryptocurrency).

In the Libra White Paper it says it is looking to the blockchain community for support:
“Our journey is just beginning, and we are asking the community to help. If you believe in what Libra could do for billions of people around the world, share your perspective and join in. Your feedback is needed to make financial inclusion a reality for people everywhere.”

Community means business

But there’s a real hard-headed business reason to look to community, says ‘Off The Chain Podcast’ host Anthony Pompliano – those who that control the audience, control the future: “As crypto networks become more popular and pervasive, I anticipate that this community/network building skill set will become more important. Teams will start to sink significant dollars into building repeatable, scalable models that produce these audiences.

“We started to see this with the ‘Telegram community building’ during the 2017 ICO boom (teams would race to get as many people into their Telegram messaging chats and then brag about it to investors as a sign of traction), but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Ship and iceberg image - click to article on controlling the audience!

Audience is a new currency. Those that have it, have incredible power. Those that don’t are starting at a disadvantage. Whether entrepreneurs are building crypto networks or for-profit companies, those who control the message, control the future,” Pompliano concludes.

A community of crypto customers?

Looking at the power of community from the ‘bottom up’ to drive the token economy, leading blockchain marketer Jeremy Epstein, explores “the potential for a group of distributed, incentivized, and aligned token holders to execute micro-marketing campaigns” in his downloadable paper, The Decentralized Marketing Organization.

Crypto Innovation + Crypto Marketing = Crypto-Customer

As Epstein explains, “the purpose of the Decentralized Marketing Organization is to partner with the decentralized technology organization (building the innovation) to create a ‘crypto-customer’.

“The concept of a crypto-customer in the context of a decentralized protocol is different than in a traditional organization. In a decentralized network, the overall value (i.e., market cap) of the protocol loosely trends to Metcalfe’s Law. That is, the most valuable customers are the people who engage most deeply with the protocol and bring in more nodes to the network.”

In operational terms “this means that an effective marketing strategy for a decentralized project will enable a series of multi-pronged demand pulls, which target the wide array of roles that play into protocol adoption (developers, designers, token buyers/investors, social media influencers, regular users, partner integrations, etc.). The pace of change combined with the diversity and distribution of the market requires the utmost agility. This is why it needs to be decentralized,” Epstein concludes.

Community management expert David Spinks made the point in a recent tweet – while community-driven business makes sense, the real challenge is finding the data:

Community-driven companies scale exponentially faster

Here’s the take on that challenge from co-founder and chief advisory officer of one of the leaders in crypto community building AmaZix, Luke Saunders:

“Communities have become a valuable asset to companies in many ways. From gaining traction via user acquisition to crowdfunding, having a community allows companies to scale, growing brand loyalty along the way. We’ve worked with projects who have been able to scale up quickly with the support of communities such as WePower, GoChain and GBX.

“Through our experience, we found communities are most powerful when integrated as part of a unified strategy across all departments. Our recent expansion reflects this by working with our clients across the entire process, including digital advisory, corporate finance, legal, and marketing. All of these have a community or investor component at some level.

Getting industry level data to prove the power of community, though, is challenging. A key difference maker we’ve seen from successful communities is their willingness to be transparent. It’s shown us that there is plenty of room for improvement in transparency on an industry level.  We believe it’s about transparency not just in blockchain itself, but in how companies operate. The space is maturing quickly, and we believe the rise of STOs are a step in the right direction. We’re extremely excited to usher in that new chapter in crypto.”

Smart Valor test platform
SMART VALOR launching their test platform is a great example of the use of community to drive business. “The goal of this preliminary launch is to receive feedback from the people that count the most, you – our users. “

Proving the ROI of community?

Online communities have been around for many years before crypto came on the scene with a bang in 2017. So what’s the view of Rachel Happe, co-founder of The Community Roundtable, helping community managers and businesses make the most of their community efforts since 2009?

A key finding of The Community Roundtable’s report for 2018 was that community programs “show an average ROI that exceeds 2,000%. They enable behavior changes that directly impact profitability and revenue generation, while also having an overwhelmingly positive impact on brand and cultural sentiment,” she says. The report’s recommendations to improve ROI have strong practical lessons for the crypto industry too:

Online community ROI
How to get the most with your crypto community? Click the infographic for a ROI calculator (c/o The Community Roundtable)

Your customers, your community

To me this sounds like a call to engage with your community/customers from the start, thinking of your customers needs alongside technology innovation. With that kind of vision, set in an increasingly decentralized business world with a community marketing approach to suit, clearly anything is possible!

Stuart G. Hall

Click the bottle image to access my guide to creating a high performing marketing team.

Click the bottle above – for my 2013 article on the scientific theory behind growing online communities drawing on the insights of Robert Kraut.

ICO marketing guide – updated


The ICO is a fundraising mechanism, where future cryptocurrency, is sold for current, liquid cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Waves and Ethereum. You receive bitcoins or another currency in exchange for your token. The project economics and integration of the token into the product should be described in detail on the website and in WhitePaper in advance.
(Waves Platform: How to run an ICO)

I recently took part in the successful $14.2m cryptocurrency fundraising campaign for augmented reality device Lampix, better known as an ICO or Initial Crowd Offering. In case you hadn’t noticed ICO’s have recently overtaken IPOs as the new way for startups to raise funds, avoiding the regulatory obstacles of an IPO, and tapping into a new pool of investors.

After the ten-day crowdsale had finished, and the dust has settled, I realised there’s not a great deal of easily accessible guidance on how to run a marketing campaign for such a lucrative fundraising method. I’m not approaching this as an expert in ICO marketing, rather as a marketer with experience in the last year of supporting a crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs for Welendus which raised £100K and marginally involved in the Crowdcube campaign for MBJ which raised over £700K.

Recorded by King Passive

Give yourself plenty of time
MBJ’s advice, written directly after their campaign in preparing in advance for your crowdfunding, equally applies to an ICO ‘crowdsale’: “Think carefully about the amount of time that you will be able to dedicate to your campaign, whilst ensuring that your business continues to run smoothly. The last thing that you want is some bad press in the middle of a raise. “Whilst we only gave ourselves three weeks, depending on the number of resources you can dedicate, we suggest that you allow yourself at least one month (preferably two or three) to adequately prepare for a successful raise.”

Deciding the length of your ICO campaign
Another time factor is the length of time for an ICO. For Lampix when this question came up in forums the answer from CEO George Popescu was simple as to why he’d chosen a campaign of ten days in length: “About why 10 days: because we believe that either people want to help this project or they do not. I don’t think it will change anything if we make it 1 year long.”

The only thing that matters in the typical ICO model is the first 24 hours and the final 24 hours. Because ICOs depend upon the ‘FOMO’ model to drive sales to crypto investors, it’s worth considering that those two periods are the only two those markets pay attention to, because there is always another ICO to watch, or some news catching attention. In between it’s worth reaching out to ppl who aren’t already ICO investors but are interested in your product or service due to their industry or technology connection.

Post in the right forums
More specifically when it comes to ICO marketing, the advice from the Waves Platform is simply to get your ICO information in front of relevant niche communities, for example Bitcointalk (with reportedly more than 1m users) which suggests creation of a thread  for your ICO on

“It is impossible to establish a qualitative relationship with a key audience for the project, blockbuster enthusiasts, traders, investors, etc. without this activity.

“Administration of a thread on BitcoinTalk provides direct interaction with the target audience, enables to answer questions, dispel doubts, and introduce the audience to the developers.

“The announcement of the campaign on Bitcointalk is a must-have part of the program. You will receive many reviews — not all of them will be positive, but they will help you to improve your project.”

Examples of popular and well-designed threads on Bitcointalk WAVES. Ultimate crypto-tokens blockchain platform  ZrCoin Commodity-backed blockchain Starta – Cross-Coin Venture capital on the blockchain

This advice to use Bitcointalk makes a lot of sense. It was certainly used to good effect by Lampix to announce their PIX token crowdsale on 25 July, well before the start of the crowdsale on 9 August. Their Bitcontalk post included detail on the following: (a) Main communication channels from Slack to Reddit (b) An explainer video about Lampix (c) About Lampix (d) The benefits of contributing to the Lampix data ecosystem (e) The device’s technical details (f) Members of the core team (g) The Lampix token, how it works (h) The token launch breakdown.

So now you have announced the intended ICO to early adopters via relevant forums, what about the wider world, from business journalists to investors in general? This list of ICO “marketing instruments” posted on Bitcointalk is a comprehensive starting point:

1. Classic PR – press releases, interviews, Q&A
2. Banner advertising – display ads for extensive reach
3. Influential marketing – connect with opinion leaders.
4. Social media – connect with audience & opinion leaders.
5. YouTube – statements from founders, project introduction.
6. Bounty campaigns – referrals ‘showtime’.
7. Placements in blogs – native advertising.
8. Viral media – videos or pictures.
9. Community marketing – you know, Bitcointalk.
10. Events – meetups, conferences etc.

Classic PR
The challenge here is often that fundraisers want to have instant press coverage but it can be difficult if you don’t have any relationship with journalists already in place. One way round this is to use a paid-for press release service such as Newswire, which Lampix used, which also has the benefit of showing you who picked up the release to read it. That said just remember with press releases you are trying to sell a story to a busy journalist, so it helps to create a compelling angle in the first paragraph. With the less important detail further down the release.

To underline those points CNBC’s technology correspondent Arjun Karpul gave his advice at a Seedrs PR event on how to grab journalist’s attention earlier this year (and yes, that’s me tweeting away). In summary, Arjun said to keep it simple, tell the journalist why they should care about the story, and keep emails short (as they are time poor). But also to consider what it is that makes the founder’s ‘back story’ stand out, so don’t just focus on the power of the technology, think about the human story in attracting coverage!

Welendus founder Nadeem Siam – listening to Arjun’s PR advice AT SEEDRS with me

Wave Platform’s advice on timelines makes sense, that “the launch of the PR campaign should be scheduled at least 3 months before the launch of the ICO. In the context of tight deadlines for the ICO preparation (less than two months), it makes sense to cooperate with the mass media on commercial terms”.

But the timing also depends on a lot of factors from your budget for paid-for coverage, your relationship with journalists and top influencers (such as Robert Scoble for AR and VR innovation; check out his own excellent set of Twitter lists).to how much previous experience you have in gaining coverage. Startup founders understandably passionately believe that their startup is super exciting but from a journalist’s pov all they want a great story simply and clearly told, so try to give it to them ‘on a plate’.

Influencer marketing and using social media
There is a ton of literature on the value of influencer marketing so I won’t go into too much detail. Suffice to say it’s worth mentioning that your best influencers are advisors to your ICO and their network of contacts. Any attempts to reach out to industry ‘influencers’ are likely to be more successful if there is an existing relationship. A great example from Lampix’s ICO was the influencer video from Jeremy Epstein, who specialises in blockchain marketing:

In terms of using social media, it’s worth spending time figuring out from your own network of advisors and supporters who has the most impact in terms of reach and engagement and making sure they, therefore, get the word out. Of course one avenue available to use is paid-for placement of adverts, whether it’s expert-level sponsored content in LinkedIn targeted at high worth investors, or a mass market approach using Facebook for example. Both platforms allow you to A/B test your ads text and imagery too, so there are plenty of options to explore to maximise your ROI.

But a word to the wise, having myself set up Sony’s first comprehensive social marketing dashboard for product marketing around movie blockbuster ‘Skyfall’, you need to decide how best to measure your social media campaigns in advance. For example, if you have a popup for investors to use to agree to your ICO terms, then ensure that is set up as an event in Google Analytics before the ICO starts. And set up goals in GA so you can compare the success of organic traffic from LinkedIn, Reddit, and blog articles to paid-for advertising on Facebook. That way as the ICO campaign progresses you can double-down on what works for maximum effect on investor take up.

As well as straightforward explainer videos which show off what your ICO product does it’s worth making sure you consider the impact of video coverage. Just like articles in the likes of Forbes or NASDAQ carry greater authority than on your own blog, then videos created by third parties are valuable collateral. For example, there was a great video by Bloomberg’s Augmented Reality (AR) Fellowship about the use of Lampix which nicely underlined its market potential. And also reach out to industry influencers and commentators who use YouTube, such as Blockchain Investors Community iTuber Lina K. Moon.

The Bounty campaign
‘Bounty campaign’ is an ICO term for activating your user base with incentives and driving referrals. As the advice from Wave says specifically for ICOs “this activity allows to motivate the users of your product for various promotional activities for your project in exchange for a reward in tokens”. In simple terms the bounty can be rewards in tokens for adding a custom signature on Bitcointalk, to include “social bounty, bounty for email subscription, as well as bounty for blog posts and media”.

In the case of Lampix this bounty took the form of a signature and avatar campaign, backed up by a set of rules to ensure the quality of the bounty campaign contributors made at least 25 posts per week, for posts to be constructive and on topic, and containing 75 characters minimum.

Viral media?
The idea your ICO campaign will automatically go viral isn’t really the way to approach it. If you want to get a community of supporters to get excited and to share that you need to give them a reason to. In the case of Lampix they ran early on a competition on Facebook, which linked to a competition run on the Gleam growth platform to win a Lampix device. It gained over 10.5K entries, and did a great job to ignite interest in the ICO before the launch proper.

To run a follow-up post-ICO competition on Gleam for investors also has its merits especially in the period between purchase and distribution of tokens. The practical issue is identifying individual token purchases, however. For that reason, I particularly like the Civic ICO in which investors had to register using the Civic app. As Civic’s CEO Vinny Lingham explains in his introduction to token sales, it’s about “eating your own dogfood” thanks to the nature of the Civics app:

“The core of Civic’s technology is the ability to create unique digital ID’s using mobile devices. We employed this technology in our token sale and required every person in the crowdsale to download and register using the Civic app. This ensured that we did not have the same person making multiples purchases.

“This model worked for us and others, like ZRX and now will be using Civic to ensure broader distribution of tokens.”

Community marketing

Community ROI Calculator

I know from my previous experience in online community consultancy including setting up a community from scratch for the international accountancy organisation the ICAEW, that the opportunity for community marketing depends on a few factors. One of the usual issues is whether your chosen community allows for commercial marketing. Contact the community manager to find that out before posting, otherwise you could find yourself banned! And it’s possible, as I’ve found with owners of AR related LinkedIn Groups, that they also run Facebook pages and have access to email lists which they are willing to share with you in return for payment.

If it’s relevant consider using the Product Hunt community as another neat channel to get the word out and connect with a community of influencers. Be careful again not to spam them with your posting though. For example, when I added Lampix to Product Hunt as a ‘Hunter’ Ben Tossell, the Community Lead for Product Hunt asked me in the comments section: “Not so sure why this is hosting an ICO? Why are tokens being sold for a product like this?”

Finally, for internal and investor communications Lampix used Slack to great effect. It’s especially good where your advocates and evangelists can answer newbie questions about your ICO. But also plan on how you are going to cover activity outside of office hours as it will be active 24/7. And make sure wherever possible questions about the structure of the ICO, and the post-campaign distribution are consistently answered, updating your FAQ if required to aid clarification.

The success of ICO marketing isn’t down to the campaign period, it’s also related to the slow process of getting the word out about your blockchain related product or service in the months leading up to it. Events are obviously a great way to do this but like all marketing is a balance between cost and return. One way to balance out where there is not an obvious commercial return is taking part in competitions where you gain visibility and gain credibility. As a great example see this video for Lampix at TechCrunch Disrupt 2016.

Finally, for a list of ICO monitoring platforms plus other key resources (republished with permission below) take a look at William Mougayar’s Ultimate List of ICO Resources.ordered alphabetically.

1. Ambisafe
With Ambisafe you can issue any type of asset on the blockchain in minutes, and add it to cryptocurrency exchanges worldwide.

2. Bitcoin Talk Forum
Alternate cryptocurrencies and altcoins forum discussion.

3. CoinFund Slack Channel
Diverse discussions about token sales.

4. CoinSchedule
The best projects and ICO crowdfundings. We only list the projects worth following and investing

5. CryptoCompare
CryptoCompare is an interactive platform where you can discuss the latest Crypto trends and monitor all markets streaming in real time

6. CryptoSmile
Blog that posts commentary on several new ICOs.

7. CyberFund
Listings of Crowdsales, Assets and Funds.

8. ICO Countdown
Gives spotlight to new crypto projects with a focus on crowdfunding methodology. Also conducts due diligence to ascertain viability of these projects.

9. ICO List
Lists a variety of token sales.

10. ICOO
Services for launching ICOs.

11. ICO Rating
ICOrating specializes in evaluating companies with a planned ICO. ICOrating’s analysis is thorough and objective, reviewing companies as potential investment objects.

12. ICO Timeline
Partial list of ICO projects.

13. ICO Tracker
Lists ICOcrowdsales according to 5 factors: Whitepaper, Roadmap. Team, Escrow, ICO conditions.

14. Newbium
Cryptocurrency news and information.

15. PrivateMarket
PrivateMarket Technologies enable a new generation of wealth managers to access, analyse and seamlessly execute primary and secondary market transactions online.

16. TokenMarket
TokenMarket is a marketplace for tokens, digital assets and blockchain based investing. Research and invest in tokenized assets. Launch a crowdsale for your project and give backers a tradeable digital asset.

17. Reddit on ICO Crypto
Active & upcoming ICO/Crowdales. Building a due diligence community.

18. Smith + Crown
Maintains a curated list of ongoing and upcoming cryptocurrency ICOs (initial coin offerings), token sales, and crowdsales. Every project is evaluated for listing along multiple criteria, but in general, they list ICOs that should raise the equivalent of $30,000 or are unique in some way. Provides summaries and commentary for select ICOs. Listing or research is not considered an endorsement.

Additional resources include Token InvestorGithub’s Ultimate ICO CalendarICO Bazaar and Week in Ethereum. Have I missed others that should be included? Please add what you have in the comments, or suggest it in the Google Sheet.