Marketing the decentralized web poses unique challenges for marketers. Here are some strategies for building effective campaigns.

Hi there! My name is Becky Vazquez, and since September 1st I have been the person behind the blog at Fission. As Marketing Communications Producer, my job is to help increase the awareness of Fission as a decentralized applied research company and foster the adoption of its tech stack.

But I have to confess, this space is pretty new to me. My last role was as a marketing coordinator at a wellness resort. This is my first time working in tech, and my first time working for a startup. Between my last role and this one, I spent hours upon hours learning about Web3. My focus was mainly on blockchain technology, NFT communities, tokengated loyaty programs, and more. I even did a #100DaysofWeb3 challenge to document my learning journey.

My curiosity and desire to learn were what ultimately helped me land the job at Fission, but that meant I needed to hit the ground running from day one.

So I started to do some research on the decentralized web. Many values are aligned with blockchain believers' values, but I would say these values are pushed more to the forefront in the DWeb.

Proponents of the decentralized web believe in certain inalienable rights:

  • The Right to Privacy - Users should be able to decide who has access to what information at all times. Encrypted at rest is the standard, and users should have granular access control.
  • The Right to Own Your Own Data - Users should always own their own data. It should never be available to third parties without explicit consent, like if you're purchasing an item, for example. You should be able to remove your data from third party servers easily and at any time.
  • The Right to a Credible Exit - Data must be portable and interoperable so that users can easily move from one service or platform to another without needing to jump through a bunch of hoops.

So as a marketer entering the decentralized web space, it forces me to take a good hard look at what strategies and tactics will be most effective, and most appropriate, for my company. Today I'll share my approach to marketing for a decentralized web company, in the hopes that this might help developers who are working on launching their own Web3 products.

Ads and Algorithms

Before the Web, marketing looked very different. There were advertising campaigns in glossy magazines, catalogs, and bilboards, and commercials on the radio and TV.

The Nielsen ratings were the first concerted effort to measure and analyze audience demographics. Developed in the 1930s to measure radio audience size and composition, the rating system was later adapted for television. Interviews and focus groups were an important part of testing ads to make sure they connected with the target audiences.

Then the Web came on the scene, and advertising was mainly done through SERPs and display advertising on websites. This type of advertising was similar to traditional in that advertisers looked for where their audiences were likely to be and used keywords (in the case of search engines) and website subject matter (in the case of display advertising) to find their target audience.

Then in 2004 social media platforms started to come onto the scene, and everything changed. The platforms excelled at connecting companies to their customers by allowing both to create their own profiles on their sites. Then the platforms took all of that accumulated data that the users provided when filling out their profiles and offered access to it via a highly customizable advertising tool. Suddenly, individuals were being targeted rather than audiences. Whatsmore, algorithms determine what content each user sees first in their feed, meaning paid ads will always win over organic content.

When marketing in the decentralized web space, marketers would be wise to steer clear of social media advertising. Having a presence on social platforms is totally fine. In fact, Twitter is a popular place for developers to connect (and you always want to meet your audience where they are). But engaging in targeted advertising campaigns is not going to be received well by the decentralized web community. Furthermore, decentralized platforms in the Fediverse (like Mastodon) don't use algorithms and instead opt for chronological feeds, so everyone operates on an even playing field.

User-Owned Data Poses Interesting Challenges for Marketers

Because so many users are tired of platforms owning all of their data and keeping it locked in their walled gardens, more and more are starting to look for decentralized alternatives to their favorite tools.

As a marketer, your primary strategy for capturing the attention of these users will likely be content marketing. Setting up a blog and newsletter and sharing consistent updates, launching a podcast, publishing a PDF guide, or launching a YouTube channel are some popular tactics. Assessing your success on these platforms is easy - with email newsletters you can see the open rate, you can count how many visits there are to a guide's landing page, etc., but how can you see if these efforts converted into actual adoption of your product?

Our primary tech stack (and everything else we work on) is decentralized and open source. So other than gleaning some metadata from GitHub, or looking at the number of SDK downloads, there really is no way to know if my marketing efforts are leading to increased user adoption.

This is a tough challenge for a marketer. So what am I doing (and what can you do) instead?

1) Build Relationships + Share Stories - Connect with other decentralized web companies, both inside and outside of Protocol Labs Network, and promote what others in the ecosystem are working on. We are thrilled that several companies have adopted WNFS and UCAN, so in my content calendar I've included blog posts about how these companies have integrated Fission's tech stack into their products. This is a win-win for both sides, as we get to share actual products built with our tools, hopefully inspiring other developers with real-life use cases to try our stack. The companies in turn receive promotion across our blog, newsletter, and social media accounts.

2) Educate Developers on The Features + Benefits of our Tools - Now, I'm by no means a developer. I know some HTML, CSS, and SQL, and that's about it. I can't tell you how to deploy anything that we've made. But I can tell you at a high-level how our tech is structured and how that structure makes developers' lives much easier when building edge apps. Before each Fission stack blog post, I spend an hour with the engineer(s) behind the product and get a big-picture understanding of how it works. Then I communicate that to our developer audience in the content. I try to write for the developer who is just getting started building edge apps, telling them what they need to know to get up and running. Then I sprinkle in links to more advanced topics and point them to how to connect with our team. This strategy I believe is what makes Fission more approachable and increases adoption of our stack.

3) Develop A Go-To-Community Strategy - In Web3, building an engaged community is essential to the business' success. We've gone away from personal brands and have moved towards multiple identities across different communities. Influencer marketing has been replaced by the ownership economy, where content creators are now transitioning their audiences into communities and benefitting financially from a direct relationship with them rather than through brand sponsorships. So many companies focus on a go-to-market strategy, but these days there should also be a go-to-community strategy. The two work hand-in-hand, but have different tactics and desired outcomes. A go-to-community strategy helps drive awareness, adoption, and retention through efforts like content marketing, actively engaging with community members and answering their questions on Discord and Discourse, and creating and mainting an environment for members to engage with each other. Rewarding active contributors with GitPOAPs and other types of recongitionis also a great way to increase retention and foster a relationship.  

"In other words, healthy and active communities have gravity; a “high gravity” community is one that excels at attracting and retaining community members. The go-to-community strategy is what helps build and maintain this gravity while connecting the benefits to company objectives." - Patrick Woods

The Future of the Internet is Decentralized

While I have had to think creatively about my marketing plan and how I measure campaign success, the entire process has definitely made me a better marketer. The decentralized web is the future of the Internet, and not only do I have a plan to make that future more Fission-y, I am also poised to help other marketers as they transition into Web3. I'm excited to work with others and develop best pracitices and tools to help marketers succeed in this space, so our companies can succeed too.