We’ve all heard of the “growth mindset” as a powerful self-development tool, which is about always reaching for greater heights. This mindset can, and even must be applied for tech startups to succeed, especially those building social networks as part (or all) of the business.
“Social networks are essentially systems for distributing content among people who care about each other.”Plancast Post-mortem
Social networks are perhaps one of the hardest flavors of tech startups to get right, and you don’t need to look further than the countless failed social platforms, whether it’s Google Buzz, Google Wave, Google Plus, Friendster, Yik Yak, or MySpace. The reason isn’t all too complicated: Without growth, social networks stagnate, users don’t have sufficient incentive to stay engaged, and the platform dies off. One social platform post-mortem writes:
“Growth is the only thing that matters if you are building a social network. Period.”
Therefore, social platforms need some kind of killer advantage over their competitors to maintain growth, and give more and more users powerful reasons to stay engaged. When we’re talking about social networks (“distributing content between people”), the most important factor is trust. Do you trust the content you’re seeing? Do you trust the connections you have? Trust is the bedrock of all positive relationships.
As you might expect, this is the point where we turn to blockchain. The reason that many digital platforms can’t be trusted is that centralized, opaque intermediaries control things like the revenue model, which is usually paid ads for social networks. Companies like Facebook harvest user data at scale to allow advertisers to hyper-target users with Facebook Ads. But what if blockchain could be used to create a different revenue model, not based on paid ads, but on trust-based models like word-of-mouth?
According to CoinMarketCap, the current size of the crypto industry (and therefore much of the blockchain industry) is around $200 billion. “Blockchain” is such an umbrella term that this metric encompasses use-cases ranging from remittances to video game points to payment systems and more. While $200 billion in around a decade (since the birth of bitcoin) is quite an accomplishment, the potential is much, much greater.
A single blockchain “killer app” would help to propel the entire industry by truly disrupting a single market. One such potential “killer app” is the WOM Protocol and YEAY. The WOM (or word-of-mouth) Protocol connects content creators, authenticators, and social platforms (like YEAY) as an alternative to the broken paid ads industry. The digital advertising market is worth around $237 billion, so a superior solution here would truly make waves.
As a marketer, I appreciate the allure of paid ads more than anyone. They come with the promise of turning cents into clicks. However, paid ads have become less and less effective, as consumers are experiencing shorter attention spans and banner blindness, while platforms are becoming over-saturated with ads and flooded by bots and click-farms. As a result, good marketers are turning to alternatives like word-of-mouth.
WOM Protocol is more than a white paper, and this live product is being used by YEAY, a social app where users recommend products and services they love. YEAY has amassed around 800,000 downloads — by all means a feat in the hyper-competitive social networks space.
Competitors to WOM Protocol and YEAY include 2key and the ASQ protocol & Kin Ecosystem. 2key rewards referrals that lead to conversions, tracking WOM content and conversions with smart contracts, and if a referral occurs, the referrer receives a reward. Unlike WOM Protocol, 2key focuses strictly on conversions. ASQ Protocol provides a marketplace for content creators to upload content and sell it, whereby the content is only accessible once a consumer has paid for it.
Another interesting project in the space is Jet8, which rewards users for sharing their selfie–by incorporating brand ads into the picture. WOM Protocol is more broad, allowing for any kind of content, though this means that companies like Jet8 may be a better alternative for marketers looking at the ad-selfie space.
In the WOM Protocol, when a user recommends a product they love, they get WOM tokens, as do “authenticators,” or users that verify the authenticity of the recommendation. Of course, an honest product recommendation is worth its weight in gold to a brand, so they’re incentivized to “boost” the content, increasing its visibility, and increasing the value of the WOM token all around (including for the social platform).
This is why brands like Adidas have signed on-board, and social platforms like YEAY have achieved great success as early adopters of the protocol. WOM Protocol is seeking more up-and-coming social platforms to take advantage of the largely untapped digital word-of-mouth market.
Early adopters of successful technologies always receive massive rewards. Facebook was an innovator in digital ad technology, and now they’re leading the paid ads space. Early adopters of Facebook Ads were able to benefit massively from paid ads until over-saturation and waning attention diminished its value. In the same way, the early adopters of digital word-of-mouth will be hugely rewarded.
Ultimately, trust-based networks have the power of giving users a killer advantage: A better, more authentic user experience.