Building Communities in Web3
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Communities are growing and constantly being created in the web3 ecosystem and community building is becoming an important skill amongst web3 projects. Community engagement can be a determining factor in the success of a project.
During Alongside’s weekly Twitter Space, Amrith and Gauthier spoke with experienced community builders LDF & Isabella Arnao, the co-founders of Women in NFTs, to talk about their favorite topic – communities – which come in many different shapes and forms.
Isabella is a collector and creator and LDF is an avid web3 enthusiast. They met in 2015 and quickly went from work friends to lifelong friends – having worked together at basically every company since (most recently in web2 tech). LDF worked as an intern to Isabella in New York, and they followed each other since, with backgrounds in marketing, agency world, and advising in big tech.
When it came to their journey into the web3 space, LDF and Isabella had different experiences. For LDF, NFTs were what really piqued her interest. They conceptualized blockchain technology that wasn’t strictly financial and explored giving more power to individuals and growing communities both online and IRL. For Isabella, the concept of making friends on the internet was foreign, and she came from the generation where doing so wasn’t encouraged. The concept of coming onto Twitter to connect and meet people was daunting but once she started putting herself out there more she was open to the idea that communities could be formed like this. It’s all about teaching yourself to have the confidence that you actually can participate.
A tweet calling out the need for more women in NFTs and Isabella’s reply was where their community began. When searching “women in NFTs” they found no results, and Women in NFTs was created. Isabella immediately started a Discord and Twitter after getting a lot of replies to her response. Isabella, LDF, and their community all went on a learning journey, and they didn’t set any crazy goals, strategies, or vision around it, and now they’re in a place where they understand the ecosystem more and have seen a lot of organic growth.
The best communities follow this pipeline where they come from a place of trying to find a community to accidentally building a community to actually building a community. For Women in NFTs, they saw a need for this and as time went on the conversation looks different now, including many women who’ve been doing the work. There were always women in the crypto space, and now with their 20k following, they have a way to showcase this breadth of contributions women have in the web3 space.
Community creates a sense of belonging. For example, though Isabella first started out feeling alienated making friends on the internet, as soon as she started finding people on her same wavelength, she felt like she belonged. It’s all about finding a corner where you can add value and grow.
The definition of a community is quite literally a group of people living in the same place or having a certain characteristic in common. Previously community was seen manifesting organically by being in the same place at the same time as other people. Now, the boundaries of what this means are being pushed. Having characteristics in common becomes way more important than being in the same place as someone, and it means community starts to transform to take on a lot of different meanings in different spaces.
In NFTs, a community can be formed by owning the same asset. However, LDF is still challenging this, as it doesn’t feel like a qualification that should dictate what a community is. A community should be more tangible – other people speaking the same words as you, feeling like you can contribute, and feeling like your opinion is valued. There should be a more human element versus an asset element. These tend to have the most value.
Community is different from project to project. You get to define what it means to you. For Women in NFTs, that means having an open Discord, no NFT, a place to ask questions, share your work, and learn with other people. Communities and members are multifaceted. In Women in NFTs, it’s welcome for community members to go join other communities or start their own.
When looking to start your own community, the key differentiator community builders can do is focus on their “why”. Why do you want to start this and why would someone want to join it? The best thing people can do to differentiate a community is to be very clear on what they themselves are looking for that they haven’t found, and chances are there are other people with a similar need. It’s about finding a momentum that already exists and channeling it in a way that makes sense.
Starting an online community has low barriers to entry. The goal isn’t to become the one place for something, and communities don’t need to be mutually exhaustive or to live on forever. There’s no checklist that says how to create a web3 community. Whether you have a token, a Twitter, or a Discord is up to you.
Also, have a clear purpose. Don’t start something for the sake of starting something. Coming into something just to compete because others are doing it well will come off as inauthentic and people can see right through it. Therefore it’s important to define why you’re doing something.
The biggest playbook is putting in the work and growing organically. A retweet from a large account may help a little in the short term, but it’s not going to do what you’re hoping for. The Women in NFT's growth has been very organic and they’re still testing and iterating as much as anyone else in the space. They saw the best results and saw the most growth when they started pouring in time to the community back in December, by setting up spaces, showing up to other spaces, and DMing people.
Also, it’s all about quality vs quantity of community members. It’s better to have 20 engaged followers than a million followers or community members that aren’t really doing anything for you. Focus more on strategic and engaged growth versus growth for the sake of growth, and people will get aligned behind that. Community builders should focus on listening to their community and making adjustments to make them feel good.
With their backgrounds from their day jobs, LDF and Isabella are able to be very meticulous with every decision for Women in NFTs. They’re able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture with what they engage in and set precedents. With a smaller community, it’s easier to individually support members, like hopping into a space with an artist. As the community grows, focus shifts to how to best support the community and ecosystem at scale, and how to provide value to as many people. This keeps up the initial energy over time, by figuring out how to support the most amount of people rather than one on one.
The main roadblock that really stood out when building Women in NFTs was making it a voluntary effort for themselves. This has allowed them to pick and choose who they support but limits what they’re able to do individually. They hope to catapult women into innovation and deeper conversation.
Incentives differ from community to community and how you approach getting people to come in, contribute, and participate. The most organic participation Women in NFTs have seen is through Twitter, as it enables a natural flow of conversation. It’s important to incentivize people to keep going, asking questions, building, and connecting with others to learn.
When it comes to empowering more women within communities, it’s about giving women permission to ask questions, and incentivizing this. They’re already curious or interested in some shape or form on topics, and what was really missing was a place to have others to learn alongside.
Discord fatigue is common within the web3 ecosystem, as nearly every community inhabits there. Oftentimes Discords go unchecked, and announcements are missed. The idea of Discord equating community should be challenged, as community hubs need to be offering more than simply a place to talk to other people.
When looking back at what a community is and what it serves, there’s an opportunity communities themselves have to decide what kind of place they are going to create. Are community members here for the service being provided to them or the people they’re doing it with? For example, in cohort-based learning experiences, it matters less who people are individually and more so that there’s an easily accessible group to ask questions to.
One community that stood out for Isabella and LDF as innovative and thoughtful in their approach is Boys Club Crypto, which describes itself as a dinner series and a group chat. They use regular words and explanations to speak to their audience and are strategic in thinking about their growth.
Web3 may be focused on the Metaverse and the digital world, but IRL events still play a large role in communities. It’s still the primary way people continue to connect. There will hopefully be a meshing of the digital and physical worlds in the future. The Metaverse is broadening the spectrum of possibilities, and NFTs are a tool, but it doesn’t mean getting rid of everything we’ve known before.
Community is uniquely important in web3 versus web2 because of the ability to have shared ownership. In web2, communities are mobilized based on values that creators can see in their audiences. In web3 the focus is on treating it less like a transactional relationship where one side can accrue value but the other can’t, now there’s an addition of individual ownership. This is amplified as mutually beneficial relationships are built.
The other side of that double edge sword is that the only way we’ve been able to quantify value has been very financial in nature when looking at metrics of success or health in a community.
The head moderator of WallStreet Bets then joined the Spaces and participated in the discussion. He agreed that women are underrepresented in tech and finance and that’s something that’s been changing but increasing diversity is still slow in web2.
LDF and Isabella explained that in order to best onboard more women into the conversation and engage them in communities, is to make the conversation comfortable. It’s not that women are uninterested, but many women are brought up not talking about money or finances with friends, so there’s a lot of unlearning to be done. There’s a different on-boarding conversation to have with men and women.
Web3 on-boarding messaging almost lends itself to being like “look you’re not late”, you don’t have to do 10 years of research before you have the right to participate in these conversations.
Wallstreet Bets is a really good example where it’s this movement that happened digitally, people had a shared vision, and there was an action that they could take to be part of said community. Web3 is a lot the same where on-boarding is more about empowering other people to take this space within your community and this ecosystem at large.
Overall, to build a good community there’s an important focus to be had on the people participating in an ecosystem versus thinking of them as consumers or followers. Web3 should be supplementary to what’s already there in web2 and use these tools to foster communities, versus web3 replacing web2 communities altogether.
To listen to the full conversation – listen to the spaces recording here.